SAPPORO – Fighters lefty Mitsuo Yoshikawa threw an obstacle in the path of the Giants’ march toward the interleague title on Thursday.
Yoshikawa (7-2) allowed a run in seven innings and Hokkaido Nippon Ham wore out right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura (4-7) to send Yomiuri to a 5-1 defeat at Sapporo Dome. The Giants’ magic number to clinch the interleague championship was still reduced from two to one, however, when the Chiba Lotte Marines lost to the Hiroshima Carp.
The Giants got a first-inning run on a leadoff walk and a two-out double by cleanup man Shuichi Murata, but Yoshikawa, who was ejected in his last start in Sapporo for hitting a batter in the head, held the visitors in check for the next six innings.
“I made a mess of things last time, so I wanted to go as long as I could tonight,” said the 24-year-old. “(Catcher Shinya) Tsuruoka called a great game and whatever sign he put down, that’s what I threw.”
Tsuruoka, the Fighters’ No. 9 hitter, also did yeoman-like work with his bat, singling home the tying run in the fifth and squeezing home an insurance run in the eighth.
Sawamura, who has had a string of poor starts while battling soreness in his neck, was solid through four innings. But two walks, including a bases-loaded free pass that pushed across the go-ahead run, proved his undoing.
The Fighters’ Yang Dai-kang doubled in two runs in the eighth and made a run-saving play in center field in the third inning that kept the visitors from increasing their lead.
Swallows 3, Eagles 1
At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Tokyo Yakult lefty Katsuki Akagawa (4-4) allowed a run in 7 2/3 innings and Ryosuke Morioka drove in two runs as the Swallows sent Tohoku Rakuten to its fifth loss in six games.
The Eagles’ Kelvin Jiminez (2-7) allowed three runs over seven innings to take the loss. The right-hander was in a jam in every inning, but held the visitors off the board until reserve catcher Yuhei Nakamura broke the ice with a fourth-inning squeeze. Morioka followed with an RBI single and added a sac fly in the sixth.
Hawks 8, Dragons 0
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Softbank southpaw Kenji Otonari (5-3) continued his string of strong outings and was rewarded with his first win since May 17 as the Hawks hammered Chunichi in a rematch of last year’s Japan Series.
Nobuhiro Matsuda’s two-run, first-inning double opened the scoring, and Otonari scattered six hits and two walks for his second shutout of the season and his 10th quality start this season. The Hawks have scored less than two runs in four of Otanari’s 10 starts.
Buffaloes 5, BayStars 4
At Kyocera Dome, Orix’s Lee Dae Ho provided the big blast with a three-run, first-inning homer as the Buffaloes outslugged Yokohama in a game that saw 13 pitchers.
Lee’s homer, his 11th of the season, was his first since May 28, when he hit his second in two games against the BayStars. Yokoham’s Alex Ramirez had two hits, including his fifth homer of the year, a two-run shot in the fourth.
Tigers 4, Lions 3
At Seibu Dome, Hanshin’s Ryota Arai drove in a pair of runs and his older brother Takahiro led off the ninth with a single off Seibu closer Randy Williams (1-2) that helped set up the Tigers’ game-winning run.
Hanshin, which benched outfielder Matt Murton for the third time in four games, scored four runs in a game for the first time this month.
Lions slugger Takeya Nakamura, who has hit 12 homers against the CL in interleague play this season, left the game with discomfort in his left shoulder.
Carp 6, Marines 3
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Hiroshima’s Kenta Maeda (6-3) allowed a run in eight innings and Kam Mickolio notched his fourth save as the Carp put a dent in Chiba Lotte’s hopes of winning the interleague championship.
Masato Akamatsu’s two-run single in the third helped knock Marines rookie Takahiro Fujioka (4-3) out of the game after just three innings for his second straight start.