Carp guaranteed first non-losing season since 2001


Staff Writer

Deunte Heath says the Hiroshima Carp have the best fans in Japan. On Tuesday, he took a big step toward giving them a chance to watch their team play postseason baseball at home for a change.

Heath threw seven scoreless innings, Eishin Soyogi, Raniel Rosario and Brad Eldred each homered and the Carp buried the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in a 7-2 win at Jingu Stadium.

“It’s not about the win for me as long as the team does well,” Heath said.

The victory was crucial for the Carp, who are trying to fend off the Hanshin Tigers for second place in the Central League. The team that finishes second in the standings hosts the entirety of the first stage of the Climax Series.

The Carp held a slim lead over Hanshin to start the day. Shortly before wrapping up the win over Yakult, Hiroshima got a gift from Yokohama BayStars slugger Tony Blanco, who overturned a one-run deficit with a sayonara two-run home run against the Tigers. Once the Carp nailed down their own win, they were 2 1/2 games ahead of Hanshin. The win also keeps Hiroshima’s faint pennant hopes on life support. Hiroshima began the day six back of the Yomiuri Giants, who had a magic number of five and were scheduled to face the Chunichi Dragons later Tuesday.

The result means the Carp will end the year with a winning percentage of at least .500 for the first time since 2001.

“That’s great,” Heath said. “Anytime you win is always good. Being over .500 with that win makes it even bigger.”

Heath (3-0) pitched off his fastball, controlling the game against both left- and right-handed batters almost equally. Heath struck out seven and walked three while allowing two hits.”I’ll just try to build off this outing,” Heath said. “Keep it going and prepare for the playoffs.”

Soyogi’s three-run blast was his seventh homer of the season. Rosario’s solo shot in the fifth was his 12th of the season. Shota Dobayashi and Tetsuya Kokubo also drove in runs for Hiroshima.

Eldred put the icing on the cake for the Carp in the ninth with his 36th home run of the year. The Swallows are just playing out the string at this point in the season.

Yakult (56-75-3) has the worst record in Japan and looks destined for a second consecutive last-place finish in the CL. Manager Junji Ogawa announced his resignation on Monday and will step down at the conclusion of the season.

It’s been a dismal year at Jingu and it was more of the same on Tuesday, when it looked like at least half of the 31,511 in attendance were clad in Carp red.

Swallows starter Chris Narveson (4-11) was touched up for four runs — three earned — on seven hits in three innings. He struck out two and walked two.

Yakult’s lineup lacked any discernible firepower, though the Birds managed to push across runs on RBI singles by Shingo Kawabata and Yuichi Matsumoto, in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

Blanco lifts BayStars

Yokohama KYODO

An error and a two-run Tony Blanco home run off closer Oh Seung-hwan (1-4) lifted the Yokohama BayStars to a 2-1 walk-off win over the Hanshin Tigers on Tuesday in the Central League.

The victory lifted the BayStars to within 5-1/2 games of the CL’s final playoff spot.

Giants 15, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Yomiuri scored in double digits for the first time in three months to crush Chunichi as Taishi Ota’s two-run homer opened the gates on a 10-run seventh inning in which 16 men came to the plate.

The win lowered the Giants’ magic number to four to clinch their third straight CL pennant.

Eagles 3, Hawks 2

At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Yuki Matsui stepped it up on Tuesday afternoon, working eight innings for Tohoku Rakuten in a win over Pacific League-leading Fukuoka Softbank.

The 18-year-old Matsui, whom five teams wanted as their first-round draft choice last October after he struck out a record 22 batters in one game as a high school pitcher, allowed two runs — one earned — to improve his record to 4-7. The lefty surrendered six hits and two walks, while striking out seven before an announced crowd of 36,267.

“This is the first time I’ve pitched into the eighth inning, so it gave me a sense of how hard it is to throw a complete game,” Matsui said. “I threw too many balls in that inning, so I wasn’t able to finish.

“My pitches weren’t all that great today, but (catcher Motohiro) Shima got me through, and I am grateful to him for that.”

Matsui, who really struggled with walks for the first half of the season, was making his first start since fiery Eagles manager Senichi Hoshino announced he would step down at the end of the season.

“He’s pretty much always angry with me,” Matsui said. “I’d like to show him something good while I can.”

The Eagles opened the scoring against tough Hawks lefty Kenji Otonari (3-1) in the first on an RBI single by Takero Okajima, but Softbank knotted the score in the third on Nobuhiro Matsuda’s 18th home run.

The Hawks, however, gave away two runs with walks in the third, when the Eagles went up 3-1 on a two-run double by utility man Tatsuro Iwasaki.

Andruw Jones led off by drawing his league-leading 108th walk of the season. With two outs and Jones at second, the Hawks elected to pitch around Kazuo Matsui, who walked on four pitches so they could go after Iwasaki, a light-hitting utility infielder.

Iwasaki, who entered the game with a .184 career batting average, lined a belt-high 1-1 slider from Otonari down the third-base line for an opposite-field double that plated both runners.

Softbank shaved a run off the visitors’ lead in the eighth on a Kenta Imamiya sacrifice fly. They were primed to score more, but Matsui ended the inning when Yuki Yanagita struck out on a pitch well out of the zone for the final out.

Eagles closer Brian Falkenborg, who was cast off by the Hawks last winter, got two easy flyouts and a strikeout in recording his 19th save.

The win moved the fourth-place Eagles to within 6-1/2 games of the third-place Nippon Ham Fighters, who occupy the PL’s final playoff spot. Rakuten has 12 games remaining, while the Fighters have 10.

Marines 8, Fighters 4

At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Daichi Suzuki and Alfredo Despaigne hit back-to-back RBI singles as Chiba Lotte came from behind in a three-run second inning to take the lead for good against Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Despaigne also doubled and hit a two-run home run.

Lions 2, Buffaloes 0

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Seibu ace Takayuki Kishi (13-4) threw a five-hit shutout and captain Takumi Kuriyama hit a solo homer in a triumph over Orix right-hander Yuki Nishi (12-10).