Baseball / Japanese Baseball

BayStars' Leach loses season debut to Giants

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Yokohama BayStars pitcher Brent Leach’s belated debut was almost like something out of a dream.

Well, at least until the Yomiuri Giants helped knock him back into reality.

Alex Ramirez hit a game-tying two-run single and two more runs scored on a wild pitch, all in a disastrous fifth inning for Leach as the Giants rallied to a 9-2 win on Thursday at Tokyo Dome.

The Giants topped their four-run fifth with a five-run eighth and amassed their highest run total since scoring 10 against the Seibu Lions on June 19. The Kyojin also connected for 12 hits.

“We need to give our pitchers better support with more games like this,” Giants outfielder Hisayoshi Chono said.

Ramirez’s single was his first hit since returning from a foot injury and his first after being moved from cleanup to third in the order. He finished 1-for-4.

Yomiuri’s current No. 4 hitter Chono went 4-for-5 and drove in two runs with a double in the eighth.

“There is pressure hitting fourth, but tonight I was able to relax and I felt confident as the cleanup hitter,” Chono said.

Shigeyuki Furuki also finished with a pair of RBIs, both coming on a bases-loaded pinch-hit single in the eighth. Yoshinobu Takahashi also got in on the action in the inning, driving in a run with a single.

Carlos Torres (1-1) earned the win despite allowing a pair of runs on six hits over five innings. He was also charged with two balks.

“His style, pitching at a fast tempo, means there will be balks once in a while,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “Overall, his pitching was not bad. He gave us a chance to win and it worked out.”

Leach (0-1) was making his first start for the BayStars a few months later than expected. The left-hander went through spring training with the team but left in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, citing family reasons.

He was eventually placed on the restricted list, becoming Japan’s first seigen senshu (restricted player) but returned earlier this month. The BayStars accepted him back, and NPB commissioner Ryozo Kato reinstated him on July 8.
“I was thankful to be able to come back and pitch on a mound here,” Leach said. “I’ve never pitched in front of a crowd that was so passionate for baseball.”

He held the Giants scoreless for three innings before putting runners on first and second to begin the fourth. He escaped that jam with called third strikes to the next three batters.

Yomiuri put runners on first and second with one away in the fifth, and they advanced on a balk by Leach. Ramirez drove in both runners with his single to left.

Takahashi drew a two-out walk later in the inning to put Giants at first and second. The runners advanced on a wild pitch. Leach struck out the next batter, Josh Fields, but the ball squirted away from catcher Shinji Niinuma, allowing both runs to score.

“We were lucky to go ahead on Yokohama’s wild pitch,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “But we’ll take it.”

Leach allowed four runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings. He threw 83 pitches and admitted to feeling a little fatigued toward the end of his outing.

“I could tell,” he said. “I wasn’t getting underneath the baseball the way I should’ve been.”

Tatsuya Shimozono put the BayStars out front in the third inning with a solo homer. He appeared to strike out in the fifth with a runner on first, but was given new life when Torres was charged with a balk. Shimozono sent the next pitch into left for an RBI double. He finished 2-for-4.

Dragons top Tigers


Masahiro Araki broke a scoreless deadlock with a two-out RBI single in the sixth inning and Kazuhiro Wada’s sac fly in the ninth made it stand against the Hanshin Tigers as the Chunichi snapped a four-game losing streak, winning 2-0 on Thursday.

Enyelbert Soto (2-0) pitched six scoreless frames and Hitoki Iwase worked the ninth for his 14th save. Minoru Iwata (5-8) threw one-run ball over seven innings of the loss.

Carp 6, Swallows 5

At Toyo’s Jingu Stadium, CL-leader Yakult squandered a five-run sixth inning when Hiroshima rallied with two outs in the seventh, featuring Kenta Kurihara’s go-ahead three-run homer.

Kazuhiro Hatakeyama hit a grand slam and Shinya Miyamoto added a solo blast for the Swallows in the sixth, but the bullpen failed to protect a 5-2 lead.


Hawks 2, Eagles 0

At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Hiroki Kokubo drove in a pair of runs on a sac fly and RBI single in support of Sho Iwasaki, who pitched his career first shutout against Tohoku Rakuten to lift Softbank back into sole possession of first place.

Iwasaki (4-1), in his fourth year as a pro, allowed eight hits and walked two in an 111-pitch outing. Kokubo added the only offense needed against Takashi Kawai (1-4).

Marines 1, Lions 0

At Seibu Dome, Hiroki Ueno threw eight shutout innings, getting in and out of jams along the way and Jose Castillo hit a decisive homer with two outs in the ninth as Chiba Lotte edged Seibu to snap a three-game losing skid.

Ueno (2-0) scattered nine hits, struck out two and walked four batters. Yasuhiko Yabuta picked up his 19th save. Masamitsu Hirano (1-5) took the loss for the Lions, who saw their winning streak end at three games.