Iihara, Swallows rally for victory in Game 2


Masanori Ishikawa pitched seven shutout innings in a duel with fellow lefty Chen Wei-yin, pinch hitter Yasushi Iihara broke a scoreless deadlock with a solo homer in the eighth and the Yakult Swallows beat the Chunichi Dragons 3-1 to take Game 2 of the Central League Climax Series final stage on Thursday.

The CL champion Dragons, who had an automatic one-game lead as the pennant winner, lead the series against the second-place Swallows two games to one after their victory in Game 1 on Wednesday.

“We didn’t have that many good chances but Iihara really came through for us in the clutch,” said Yakult manager Junji Ogawa.

Ishikawa, who gave up two runs in 4⅔ innings in a loss in Game 2 in the first stage of the playoffs against the Yomiuri Giants, had his game face on this time as he yielded only one hit while walking two with two strikeouts at Nagoya Dome.

“I just believed that I had what it took to bring the team a victory tonight and I was off and running from the first inning,” said Ishikawa, who got his first win of the Climax Series. “Since Nagoya Dome is a pitcher’s ballpark it makes it easier to attack the strike zone,” said Ishikawa, who was pitching on three days’ rest.

Shohei Tateyama, pitching on five days’ rest since his Game 1 start against Yomiuri, made a two-inning relief appearance from the eighth and got Masahiro Araki to fly out to center for the third out with a runner on second after issuing a walk to Yohei Oshima.

Tateyama, who went 11-5 during the regular season, surrendered a one-out solo drive to Masahiko Morino in the ninth but got the final two outs to close out the game.

Iihara belted a shot off Chen over the left-field wall with two outs in the eighth.

Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, who went just 2-for-14 (.143) with no RBIs in the first stage, replaced Josh Whitesell at first in the seventh and had a two-run single in the ninth to cushion the lead.

“Ishikawa also was throwing some great stuff and the RBIs by Hatakeyama were huge. We can’t afford to lose any more,” Ogawa said.

Fighters hire Kuriyama


Baseball analyst Hideki Kuriyama on Thursday formally accepted the offer to become the new Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ manager on a two-year contract.