Swallows pound Dragons


Staff Writer

Lastings Milledge ended his home-run trot with a salsa dance in front of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows dugout.

When you hit a ball as far as he did, you can do whatever you want.

Milledge crushed a two-run homer deep to left in the third inning, then did it again in the eighth to help Shohei Tateyama pick up a rare home win as the Swallows routed the Chunichi Dragons 12-3 on Thursday night at Jingu Stadium.

Milledge, whose bat has been on fire since moving from third to first in the lineup on May 28, finished 4-for-5 with four RBIs.

“I’m just not missing pitches,” Milledge said. “That’s just baseball. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. Just take every day as it comes.”

After Tateyama had taken a first-pitch strike and watched four straight balls fly by, Milledge launched the first pitch he saw from Yudai Kawai (a 140-km fastball) deep to left to turn a one-run deficit into a 2-1 lead with two outs in the third.

“You think you should be out of the inning,” Tateyama said of drawing the walk. “But the result was good, so I’m happy with that play.”

Milledge’s second home run of the night followed a walk drawn by pinch hitter Kazuki Fukuchi. Milledge now has 10 home runs this season.

The Swallows blew the Dragons out of the park for the second consecutive night. Yakult beat Chunichi 12-4 on Wednesday.

“Everything’s just clicking,” said Swallows outfielder Wladimir Balentien. “Everybody’s doing well right now.”

Balentien went deep three times Wednesday, and had an RBI double among his two hits on Thursday. Shingo Kawabata finished 2-for-5 with a three-run home run and Ryoji Aikawa finished with two RBIs. Shinya Miyamoto also drove in a run for Yakult.

Tateyama (6-5) aided his own cause with a successful safety squeeze in the fourth.

“I was happy about that,” Tateyama said.

Tateyama entered the game having lost his last four decisions at Jingu Stadium, with his only other win at the Swallows’ home park coming on April 10. Tateyama allowed two runs on seven hits over seven innings, striking out four and walking two.

Tateyama knew early on it was going to be his night.

In the third inning he drew a called third strike against Kazuhiro Wada on a pitch up in the zone, and Tateyama said that was the turning point in the game for him.

“The pitch was kind of high,” Tateyama said. “When the umpire said it was a strike, I thought, ‘Oh, this is good.’ If the umpire had called it a ball, I would’ve had to chance my approach.”

Chunichi starter Yudai Kawai (3-3) lasted three-plus innings, allowing three runs on four hits.

Dragons outfielder Takahiro Donoue was 1-for-4 and drove in the game’s first run with a single in the second. Hirokazu Ibata drove in a run for Chunichi in the sixth and Kohei Oda picked up an RBI in the eighth.

Giants 6, BayStars 3

Karakawa gets win


Yuki Karakawa celebrated his 23rd birthday with a victory in Pacific League action Thursday, pitching seven shutout innings in the Chiba Lotte Marines’ 2-1 decision over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Karakawa (8-2) had an efficient 80-pitch outing using a mixture of fastballs and off-speed pitches, scattering four hits with no walks and four strikeouts at QVC Marine Field. The Chiba native tied the Pacific League lead for most wins.

Naoya Masuda allowed a run in the eighth and Tatsuya Uchi escaped a two-out jam with a runner on third in the ninth for his third save.

Shoitsu Omatsu hit a one-out, two-run homer in the second inning.

Katsuya Kakunaka led off the inning with a single up the middle and stole second before Omatsu hit an opposite-field blast to the stands in left off Rakuten starter Takashi Kawai (2-1).

Rakuten wasted a first-and-second chance with none out in the eighth, scoring only one run on Ginji Akaminai’s sacrifice fly, and lost its second in a row.

Fighters 4, Buffaloes 3

Lions 4, Hawks 3