/

Fighters ace Otani sets new NPB speed record

Kyodo

Slugging ace Shohei Otani hit a record 163 kph on his fastball, extended his hitting streak to 15 games and went the distance for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in a 6-2 interleague win over the Yomiuri Giants on Sunday.

In front of a Tokyo Dome crowd of 46,239, Otani (4-4) allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits and two walks, while striking out 10. Despite having passed 100 pitches and leading comfortably, Otani was allowed to pitch the ninth, when he surrendered his second run on a double, a walk and an error.

“I had a better feel for the ball in the later innings,” said Otani, who gave away the Giants’ final run when he neglected to cover first base and shortstop Takuya Nakashima was charged with a throwing error.

The win allowed the Fighters to avoid being swept in three games, while snapping the Giants’ six-game winning streak.

Otani, who won his third straight start, surrendered the game’s first run when Taishi Ota took him deep to lead off the bottom of the first before the Fighters took a three-run lead in the third off Hayato Takagi (4-5).

The Fighters loaded the bases with no outs on two walks and a single, before No. 3 hitter Kensuke Tanaka singled in two. A walk to cleanup hitter Sho Nakata reloaded them for Otani, who just missed a fat 2-0 fastball that stayed in the park for a sacrifice fly.

“I haven’t hit with runners in scoring position, so it was good to be able to get a sacrifice fly there,” he said.

Otani retired nine straight after Ota’s home run, but a pair of fourth-inning infield singles and a smoked line-drive single off the bat of Shinnosuke Abe loaded the bases with one out.

Former big leaguer Luis Cruz fouled off a 1-2 fastball in the heart of the zone that registered 163 kph before hitting a little liner to third that was dropped but still turned into an inning-ending double play by third baseman Brandon Laird. Otani’s fastest pitch broke the record of 162 that he shared with former Giants reliever Marc Kroon.

“Laird’s great play was a huge help,” Otani said. “A swing and miss on the pitch (to Cruz) would have been better. It was a mistake, going right down the middle. Because he fouled it off, I don’t have much to say about it.”

Otani, who bats as the Fighters’ designated hitter a few games a week, singled to lead off the sixth inning. He has not gone hitless in a game since going 0-for-2 with a walk on April 26.

The Fighters padded their lead in the eighth, when Takagi, who had already passed 100 pitches, walked Tanaka to open the inning and served up Nakata’s 12th home run. After Otani grounded out, Yang Dai-kang hit his fifth homer of the year.

Takagi surrendered six runs on eight hits, four walks and a hit batsman, while striking out seven.

BayStars 11, Marines 0

At Yokohama Stadium, Shun Yamaguchi (4-2) struck out 10 en route to a three-hitter as Yokohama completed a three-game sweep of Chiba Lotte. Marines starter Yuki Karakawa (1-2) allowed six runs on 10 hits and four walks over five innings.

Buffaloes 14, Swallows 9

At Jingu Stadium, Orix’s Takahiro Okada homered twice and went 4-for-5 with five RBIs, and pitcher Brandon Dickson (5-4) doubled and singled to drive in three runs in a win over Tokyo Yakult that saw both teams combine for 34 hits.

Dragons 2, Eagles 0

At Nagoya Dome, Kazuki Yoshimi (3-1) allowed four hits over 7⅔ innings, and Chunichi scored its runs on a sixth-inning, bases-loaded groundout and a throwing error to avoid being swept at home by Tohoku Rakuten.

Carp 2, Hawks 1 (12)

At Mazda Stadium, Yoshihiro Maru singled in the winning run in the 12th inning to lift Hiroshima past Pacific League-leading Fukuoka SoftBank and into the Central League lead.

Lions 3, Tigers 2 (12)

At Koshien Stadium, Seibu captain Takumi Kuriyama delivered the tie-breaking hit with two outs in the 12th. After Hanshin opted to walk slugger Takeya Nakamura intentionally, Kuriyama hit his third hit of the game, and funky left-handed side-armer Hirotaka Koishi worked a 1-2-3 12th inning to earn his first career save.