NAGANO – Toshiya Sugiuchi pitched five innings of two-run ball, Hayato Sakamoto hit a three-run homer and the Yomiuri Giants routed the Hiroshima Carp 9-4 to get off to a flying start in the series opener on Tuesday night.
The Central League leaders, who are 8-9 with one tie against the second-place Carp this season, moved two games clear of their rivals in the standings. Yusuke Nomura (6-6) was chased after allowing six runs in 4-2/3 innings of the loss.
Sugiuchi (8-5) scattered eight hits, struck out four and walked two en route to earning his first win since July 12. Despite Hiroshima’s defeat, Rainel Rosario got a big ovation from a crowd of 24,786 at Nagano Olympic Stadium after hitting for the cycle.
Rosario became the first Carp in seven games to hit a homer when he led off the game with a blast off Sugiuchi to straight away center to give his team a 1-0 lead.
But the Giants answered right back in the bottom half at the hitter-friendly ballpark.
Hisayoshi Chono and Itaru Hashimoto had back-to-back singles to lead off the inning and Sakamoto went deep against the wind to left-center to give Yomiuri a 3-1 lead.
“Our No. 1 and 2 batters got on base, so I just wanted to do my job and get a hit. I was able to come through in a tight situation and tomorrow I’d like to give my all again,” said Sakamoto.
Rosario was back for a second helping in the second. Yoshiyuki Ishihara hit a one-out single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, setting the stage for a Rosario RBI triple that barely stayed inside the park as it bounced off the top of the left-field wall.
Chono, who was 3-for-4 on the night, had an RBI single that made it 4-2 in the home half of the inning.
Yoshiyuki Kamei led off the bottom of the fourth with a homer to right and Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe added a two-out RBI single in the fifth that sent Nomura to an early shower. Reliever Takaya Toda escaped a two-on jam to avoid further damage in the inning.
Rosario got his third hit, a double to right, with one out in a two-run sixth and later beat out an infield single to third in the eighth to complete the cycle — making him the 63rd player in Japanese ball to accomplish the feat.
The Giants put the game out of reach when they added three runs in their last two innings.
The Carp, who saw their winning streak snapped at three games, are without veteran catcher Tsubasa Aizawa, who pulled his right hamstring while running the bases in a game against Chunichi on Sunday. He is expected to be sidelined from one to two weeks.
Tigers 4, BayStars 3
At Koshien Stadium, Ryota Imanari hit a two-run, walk-off single in the ninth inning as third-place Hanshin came from one run down to beat Yokohama and moved within a half game of Hiroshima.
Yasutomo Kubo pitched two-run ball over eight strong innings but closer Tomoya Mikami (0-2) blew the save.
Dragons 3, Swallows 2
At Jingu Stadium, Atsushi Fujii had a game-tying single in the eighth inning and pinch hitter Michihiro Ogasawara delivered a go-ahead double in the ninth to lift Chunichi past Tokyo Yakult.
Katsuki Matayoshi (9-1) threw a scoreless eighth for the win.
Marines 4, Lions 3
At Seibu Dome, Alfredo Despaigne homered for the second straight game, hitting a tiebreaking two-run shot off Kazuhisa Makita (6-9) in the eighth inning as Chiba Lotte edged Seibu. Naoya Masuda (6-2) got the win after pitching 1-1/3 scoreless innings in relief.
Eagles 7, Fighters 4
At Sapporo Dome, Hiroaki Shimauchi had a tying sacrifice fly and catcher Motohiro Shima hit a two-out RBI double to lift Tohoku Rakuten over Hokkaido Nippon Ham in the eighth inning and extend its winning streak to three games.
Hiroyuki Fukuyama (3-2) won in relief and Brian Falkenborg picked up his 15th save.
Buffaloes 4, Hawks 4 (12)
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Orix’s Keiichi Hirano forced extra innings with his game-tying RBI double in the ninth inning and PL leader Fukuoka Softbank failed to finish it after two runners reached in the bottom of the 12th as the game ended in a tie.