NAGANO – Wladimir Balentien brought his home run bat to bear on the Central League pennant race as league play resumed in Japan.
Balentien, who leads the CL with 17 homers, hit two over the fence at Nagano Olympic Stadium and drove in four runs to power the visiting Tokyo Yakult Swallows to a 5-3 victory over the newly crowned interleague champion Yomiuri Giants.
Swallows southpaw Katsuki Akagawa (5-4) kept the Giants under wraps, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk over seven innings to win his second straight start.
Lim Chang Yong, once one of the most effective relievers in Japan, nearly gave the game away in the eighth, when he allowed three base runners in two-thirds of an inning. But lefty Ryo Hidaka steadied the ship by getting Yomiuri captain Shinnosuke Abe to fly out to second and end the inning.
Tony Barnette recorded his 17th save when he pitched out of a one-out, two-on jam in the ninth by getting Hisayoshi Chono to fly out to Balentien in right for the final out.
Giants lefty Tetsuya Utsumi, who won the interleague MVP award with a 4-0 record against Pacific League teams, fell to 2-5 in the CL with his third loss in four starts against Yakult. The two runs scored behind him matched the Swallows’ offensive output in his previous three starts against them
BayStars 2, Tigers 1
At Koshien Stadium, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo tripled in two runs in the sixth inning and five Yokohama pitchers held Hanshin to a run on three hits and five walks.
It was back to usual for Tigers starter Randy Messenger (4-6). After scoring eight runs behind him last Saturday, Hanshin was held to a run or less for the seventh time this season in one of his starts.
Hawks 2, Fighters 1
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Fukuoka Softbank southpaw Hiroki Yamada (6-5) allowed a run in seven innings to knock off Hokkaido Nippon Ham for the third time in three starts this season against the Fighters.
Fighters idol Yuki Tanaka (5-6) allowed two runs on four hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. Yuichi Honda opened the scoring, reaching base when his swinging third strike was not caught. He stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Seiichi Uchikawa single. Wily Mo Pena doubled in Uchikawa for all the runs Yamada would need.
Eagles 3, Marines 2
At Fukushima Prefecture’s Koriyama Stadium, Masahiro Tanaka (4-2) scattered 10 hits, while still allowing just two runs, as Tohoku Rakuten knocked off Pacific League-leading Chiba Lotte. Tanaka, who threw his fourth complete game of the season, struck out 10 and walked none to outduel Seth Greisinger (6-2).
Kazuo Matsui tied it 1-1 in the bottom of the second for the hosts after the Marines’ Shunichi Nemoto homered in the first, his third home run in three games. Rakuten’s Ryo Hijirisawa singled home Teppei Tsuchiya with the go-ahead run in the third. Tsuchiya, who went 2-for-2 and was hit by a pitch, also scored on a sac fly.
Buffaloes 3, Lions 3 (10)
At Omiya Stadium, Orix’s Hikaru Ito’s two-run single in the fourth tied it 3-3 against Seibu southpaw Kazuhisa Ishii and the Buffaloes managed to get just three base runners, all on walks, the rest of the way in a 10-inning tie with Seibu.
Chronically wild Lions lefty Kazuhisa Ishii, who allowed no walks or hit batsmen for just the second time in his long career in his previous start, issued three costly walks in the fourth as the Buffaloes rallied to tie it.