Former Yomiuri Giants star Kiyoshi Nakahata again couldn’t beat his old team at Tokyo Dome, but his Yokohama BayStars are getting closer.
Yokohama embodied the never-say-die spirit of its skipper as Yoshitomo Tsutsugo’s RBI single with two outs in the top of the eighth inning gave the last-place BayStars a 1-1 tie with the Giants on Thursday.
“We went up against their ace (Toshiya) Sugiuchi who was excellent tonight,” Nakahata said at his old stomping grounds, after DeNA played Yomiuri to its second tie during the three-game series.
“Everyone on the team wanted to catch up to them so badly somehow, and I think we willed the tie today. We’re really getting tougher, that’s for sure.
“Games like this just drain you, but they mean something.”
Giants manager and Nakahata’s former teammate Tatsunori Hara conceded the game was an even battle between Japanese baseball’s richest club and the whipping boys of the Central League.
“We couldn’t get that one hit we needed,” Hara said. “Both teams played to the limit, and you have to face up to the result.”
The Giants failed to back up Sugiuchi, who struck out 12 and allowed only one earned run in 7⅔ innings. He had won his last three starts.
BayStars starter Brandon Mann’s night came to an early end with one out in the third, when he took a comebacker from Takayuki Terauchi off his right knee.
Mann limped into the dugout for treatment, but never returned as Kenjiro Tanaka took the mound in his place.
Terauchi continued to wreak havoc by stealing second on Tanaka. After Hayato Sakamoto struck out, Terauchi raced home on a base hit by former BayStar Shuichi Murata who beat the shift with a chopper up the middle.
The BayStars put a runner in scoring position for the first time with one out in the sixth.
Oscar Salazar drew his second walk of the game from Sugiuchi, and the Venezuelan advanced to second as catcher Shinnosuke Abe let the ball get away from him after striking out heralded third-year slugger Tsutsugo for the second out.
Alex Ramirez, the former Central League MVP for the Giants, hammered a single to center and Salazar decided to run on Hisayoshi Chono, which proved to be ill-advised as the Golden Glove winner gunned him out at home to end the threat.
Sugiuchi labored through a scoreless seventh, taking his pitch count well past the century mark. But Hara chose to leave him in for the eighth, when the BayStars finally got to the former Fukuoka Softbank Hawks star.
It was again Salazar who troubled Sugiuchi, stroking a double off the wall with two outs. Nakahata sent Masahiro Ishikawa to run for Salazar and on an 0-1 count, Tsutsugo ripped the game-tying single to right off Sugiuchi, who was finally removed after his 129th pitch.
Swallows 3, Dragons 1
At Nagoya Dome, Kazuki Fukuchi’s bases-loaded, two-RBI double with one out in the eighth gave Tokyo Yakult a win over Chunichi, halting a three-game slide.
Buffaloes 6, Hawks 6 (10)
At Hotto Motto Field Kobe, defending Japan Series champion Fukuoka Softbank forced extra innings with a three-run ninth before settling on its first tie of the season with Orix.
Eagles 8, Lions 7
At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Luis Garcia went 3-for-3, tying the game in the bottom of the eighth with a solo shot as Rakuten went on to beat Seibu for the second straight evening.