Japanese baseball’s interleague interlude gave Central League pitchers a brief respite from having their ERAs ruined by Tetsuto Yamada. But on a somewhat wet Friday night at Jingu Stadium, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows star declared school was back in session.
Yamada drove in two runs with a homer in his first at-bat and two more with a double his next time up to help starter Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa end a long winless streak in the Swallows’ 5-1 victory over the Chunichi Dragons.
Yamada has picked up right where he left off last season, when he won the CL MVP Award for the first time. His home run on Friday was his 24th of the year, which leads all NPB players.
“I knew he (Dragons starter Shunta Wakamatsu) could either throw a fastball or a change-up, and really I just didn’t want to strike out,” Yamada said of his blast in the first. “We had a runner on and I wanted to at least do something to move him ahead.”
Yamada finished 2-for-2 at the plate. He reached base four times, walking in his third at-bat and being hit with a pitch in his fourth. His batting average improved to .330, leaving him second in the CL behind the Yomiuri Giants’ Hayato Sakamoto, who is hitting .332. Yamada currently leads the CL with 59 RBIs.
Yamada’s home run was his first opposite field shot of the season. It was also, one reporter noted, the first time he homered into the Swallows’ cheering section at Jingu this year. Not that Yamada was particularly impressed.
“I didn’t think about that at all,” he said. “A home run is a home run.”
Akihisa Nishida drove in Yakult’s other run with a solo home run to left in the second inning. The Swallows only managed five hits, with doubles by Keiji Obiki and Shingo Kawabata the only others.
Ogawa (4-3) threw seven scoreless innings to pick up his first win since April 30. He allowed seven hits, struck out seven and finished his outing without allowing a walk.
“It’s been awhile,” Ogawa said. “I’m just going to keep doing my best and take it one game at a time.”
Ricardo Nanita drove in the Dragons’ lone run with a double in the eighth. Chunichi’s lineup produced eight hits, but seven were singles.
Dragons starter Wakamatsu (5-6) lasted just four innings, allowing five runs on five hits. He struck out five and walked two batters.
It didn’t take long for Wakamatsu’s outing to head south.
Obiki began the bottom of the first with a double, and was driven in by Yamada’s shot to right to make the score 2-0. Nishida tacked on another run in the second with his solo homer.
Tomotaka Sakaguchi drew a walk to begin the Swallows’ half of the third, and Kawabata followed with a double to left. Yamada then doubled to left to bring in both runners.
Kyohei Kamezawa drew a walk for the Dragons in the eighth and scored on Nanita’s double later in the inning.
The teams will meet in the second contest of their three-game set on Saturday afternoon. Kyle Davies will get the start for the Swallows against Chunichi’s Jordan Norberto.
BayStars pummel Sugano
Yokohama — Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano was pounded for career-worst nine runs in just 2-1/3 innings as the Yokohama BayStars cruised to a 12-6 win on Friday in the Central League.
Yokohama snapping its six-game skid as regular league action resumed.
Sugano (5-4), lacking control as well as velocity, allowed 11 hits, issued a walk and struck out three in 52 pitches. The right-hander gave up his first run in the first inning on Takayuki Kajitani’s one-out RBI single after allowing a leadoff single to Masashi Kuwahara at Yokohama Stadium.
The BayStars’ Shoichi Ino (5-6) issued three straight walks in the top of the second with one out but came through unhurt, and Yokohama opened the home half with three straight singles before Kuwahara singled in two with one out.
Sugano issued a walk before Kajitani drive in another run with bases-loaded grounder, and his night was over in the third. He allowed four straight singles, the last when Yasutaka Tobashira drove in the fifth run, before Kuwahara slammed a pitch way over the left-field wall off a first-pitch fastball with one out.
“I knew it went over as soon as I hit it,” Kuwahara said of his first-ever grand slam. “I went to hit it from the first pitch, just focusing on getting a runner back. I think it (six RBIs) is the most I’ve ever had.
“(Batting first) I just wanted to give my team the momentum.”
Yomiuri’s lethargic defense gave up another run in the fifth as second baseman Yasuhiro Yamamoto and third baseman Shuichi Murata both committed errors, failing to make catches.
Itaru Hashimoto got a run back for Yomiuri with a solo shot and Murata hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly for another in the sixth, but Giants catcher Ryoji Aikawa let the ball pass him this time with a runner on second in the bottom half of the inning to give the BayStars their 11th run.
Ino gave up two runs on five hits without a walk, fanning five over six innings in a 107-pitch outing.
Takehiro Ishikawa hit a solo shot in the seventh for the hosts. Garrett Jones’ solo shot and Taishi Ota’s three-run homer in the ninth accounted for the final runs.
Carp 4, Tigers 2
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima won its seventh straight for the first time in three years after Takahiro Arai hit a tie-breaking two-run triple in the eighth off Hanshin closer Kyuji Fujikawa (3-5).
The game was called in the top of the ninth due to rain.
Hawks 6, Eagles 3
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Fukuoka SoftBank’s Tsuyoshi Wada (9-2) allowed three runs on three hits in seven innings, striking out 10 against Tohoku Rakuten en route to a PL-leading ninth win of the season.
Kenta Imamiya and Shinya Tsuruoka batted in two runs apiece.
Marines 7, Lions 6
At Maebashi’s Jomo Shikishima Stadium, Seibu’s Kona Takahashi (3-3) gave up four hits and two walks in the sixth, which led to three runs, before Chiba Lotte’s Yamaico Navarro hit a go-ahead, two-run single with the bases loaded off reliever Shota Takekuma to overturn a 5-1 deficit.
Fighters at Buffaloes — ppd.