The Yakult Swallows realized one bat can’t save a team.
The Chunichi Dragons found out two arms can and, of course, with a little bit of luck.
The Central League’s fifth-placed team completed a three-game series sweep on Thursday night at Jingu Stadium with the help of relief pitchers Shinichiro Koyama and Masataka Endo to escape Yakult slugger Roberto Petagine’s one-man show with a 6-5 win in front of a sparse 14,000 crowd. “Above all, I got a great opportunity to show everyone what I had,” said Koyama, who relieved starter Takashi Ogasawara in the third inning.
Koyama (1-2) picked up his first win of the season after allowing no hits and fanning four in three innings. Endo was just as stellar, following Koyama for two innings with two hits and four strikeouts.
The two combined to hold the Swallows hitless from the second inning to the eighth, when Yakult pinch hitter Mitsuru Manaka blooped a base hit into right field to lead off the inning. Endo left with runners on first and third with one out and a 6-2 lead.
But southpaw Hitoki Iwase allowed a 140-meter three-run dinger to Petagine to shrink Chunichi’s lead to 6-5.
The Venezuelan slugger, who now has a league-leading 22 homers, also hit one into the stands in the first inning to put Yakult on the board first. He blasted a 130-meter shot into left-center field to give his team a 2-0 lead.
“I did my best to help the team,” said Petagine, who went 2-for-4. “That’s all I can say.”
For Chunichi, Motonobu Tanishige’s bat made the difference. The all-star catcher, who went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, drove in the game-winning run with his 13th dinger in the top of the eighth.
Tanishige hit into a double play in his previous at-bat, which was enough motivation for him to hit one into the right-field stands.
“I’ve been pulling the team’s leg too much,” said Tanishige, who came into the game batting .197. “I hit it pretty well and knew it’d breakthrough for a double, but not a home run.”
Swallows starter Kevin Hodges (11-3) was aiming for his ninth consecutive win something no Yakult pitcher has accomplished since Masaichi Kaneda did it in 1959. The team had not lost in the last 12 games he had started before the day.
Hodges started out well, completing the first two innings in 19 pitches. But a number of “unlucky” base hits cost him the game.
With one out in the third and the runners at the corners, Hodges held Chunichi leadoff man Hirokazu Ibata to a high ground ball to third. But the speedster beat the throw, allowing Tanishige to score from third.
The next batter, Takayuki Onishi, hit a low, weak grounder straight back to the mound. But the ball bounced off the mound in between the gap to score another run to tie the game 2-2.
“I had nothing on that ball,” Onishi said. “I was just hoping it’d go through.” Hodges (11-3), who went 6 1/3 innings for six hits on four strikeouts and two bean balls, one which hit Onishi in the back, didn’t feel like a loser.
“A couple of ground balls were chopped, they were choppers,” he said. “The same pitches on a different day may have been a ground ball to somebody. They were lucky. I was unlucky. That’s all there is to it.”
Giants 8, BayStars 4
Kazuhiro Kiyohara hit a game-tying homer and Tomohiro Nioka followed with a two-run single in the sixth inning as Central League-leading Yomiuri beat Yokohama at the Tokyo Dome.
Kiyohara connected for a lead-off shot to the right-field stands off Daisuke Miura (4-10) before Nioka’s two-out, bases-loaded hit off reliever Masao Morinaka put Yomiuri up 5-3.
Shinnosuke Abe’s two-run homer in a three-run seventh padded the Giants’ lead and helped make a winner of Yusaku Iriki (4-1), who allowed three runs and four hits with 10 strikeouts and no walks in six innings.
Carp 6, Tigers 1
At Koshien Stadium, Tomoaki Kanemoto went 4-for-4 with a homer and a triple, and Takaya Kawauchi pitched three-hit ball over 6 1/3 innings in his first start of the season, lifting Hiroshima over Hanshin.
Kanemoto, who came within a double of hitting for the cycle, broke a scoreless tie with a solo drive off Tetsuro Kawajiri (0-2) in the third and Koichi Ogata stretched the lead to 3-0 with a two-run single in the sixth.
Kawauchi (1-0) was charged with one run while striking out six and walking one, helping Hiroshima move up to second place in the CL standings, 6.5 games behind Yomiuri. Hanshin dropped to fourth.
Buffaloes 4, BlueWave 2
Jeremy Powell (10-5) struck out 10 in eight strong innings and Masahiro Abe homered to ignite a rally as Kintetsu beat Orix at the Osaka Dome.
Powell became the first 10-game winner in the PL, allowing one run and five hits with three walks, as he outpitched Ed Yarnall (4-9) who was lifted after giving up three runs in six innings.
Light-hitting Abe hit a solo shot to tie the game 1-1 in the fourth before consecutive hits by Yuji Yoshioka, Hirotoshi Kitagawa and Fumitoshi Takano added two runs in the sixth. Abe then had his second hit of the game — an RBI double that made it 4-1 in the eighth.
Orix’s Scott Sheldon homered for the fourth consecutive game with a pair of solo blasts on a 4-for-4 evening.
Hawks 5, Marines 3
Pedro Valdes hit a home run in the back-to-back at-bats to pace Daiei over Lotte at Chiba Marine Stadium.
Valdes hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning and had another two-run shot in the seventh that turned out to be the decisive home run.
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