Injuries have plagued Yoshinobu Takahashi for much of what was once a promising career with the Yomiuri Giants.
Much older, but most importantly healthy, he laughed at his bad luck on Friday, after reaching a milestone that seemed like a foregone conclusion in the days when he was an up-and-coming young superstar.
Takahashi hit his 300th career home run, Tetsuya Utsumi threw a shutout and the Giants beat the Hiroshima Carp 5-0 on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.
“It’s good I could hit No. 300 at home in front of our home fans,” Takahashi said. “I might have reached 300 sooner if I had not been injured so much during my career.”
With his team ahead 1-0 and Shinnosuke Abe on first, Takahashi caught up to Carp starter Bryan Bullington’s 142-kph fastball and sent it into the seats in left field for his eighth home run of the year.
“I always do my best and try to hit home runs with runners on base, or at least drive in the runs with a hit, and I’ve been lucky the homers have come at the right time,” Takahashi said.
Yoshihito Ishii also drove in a pair of runs for the Giants, giving Utsumi more run support than he needed to nail down his second shutout this season.
“He pitched his usual fine game,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “I had no problem leaving him out there for the full nine innings.”
Utsumi (11-6) allowed four hits, struck out two and walked three.
“My balance was not the best, but I managed to get a lot of ground-ball outs,” Utsumi said. “The defense played brilliantly tonight.”
With the win, Utsumi has won at least 11 games in three consecutive seasons. He’s also tied with the Carp’s Kenta Maeda for the most wins in the Central League. Utsumi has won four straight decisions and hasn’t lost since July 4.
“I try to win every time out,” Utsumi said. “Maeda is a good pitcher, but I hope to keep up with him.”
Bullington allowed three runs — two earned — and struck out five over six innings, falling to 6-10 on the year.
The Giants got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first thanks to a throwing error by shortstop Eishin Soyogi that allowed Tetsuya Matsumoto to score from third.
Abe recorded a two-out single in the fifth, which set the stage for Takahashi’s two-run shot to left.
The Giants put runners on first and second in the eighth after a Carp a error and a hit-by-pitch. The runners advanced on a wild pitch and later came home on Ishii’s two-run pinch-hit single.
“Our first run was a gift, but it was nice to get the lead in the first inning,” Hara said. “Takahashi’s home run was the big blow and we felt we would win after that. Ishii’s two-out pinch-hit gave up some insurance runs and sealed the victory.”
Nomoto lifts Dragons
Kei Nomoto hit a go-ahead two-run single with one out in the sixth inning, rallying the Chunichi Dragons past the Yokohama BayStars in a 4-3 win on Friday.
Masahiko Morino and Hirokazu Ibata had back-to-back singles followed by Motonobu Tanishige’s sacrifice bunt, putting runners at second and third to set the stage for Nomoto against Futoshi Kobayashi (1-3). Yuta Muto (3-0) won in relief.
Tigers 9, Swallows 7
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Takahiro Arai broke a 5-5 tie with his second two-run homer in as many at-bats, and pinch hitter Craig Brazell put the game out of reach with a two-run drive of his own in the seventh as Hanshin prevailed over Yakult in an 18-hit slugfest.
The Tigers took a 5-0 lead by the top of the third, but the Swallows rallied with a five-run bottom half before their bullpen collapsed.
Hawks 5, Buffaloes 0
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Yang Yao-hsun struck out 10 in his first career shutout, and Wily Mo Pena homered twice as Fukuoka Softbank blanked Orix.
Yang (1-0) allowed three hits, all singles, and walked none as he earned his first win in two years. Pena had a leadoff shot in the second and a two-run blast in the fourth, helping his team move above .500 for the first time since May 26.
Lions 4, Eagles 1
At Seibu Dome, Hiroyuki Nakajima hit a tiebreaking two-run double with two outs in the fifth inning as Seibu rallied from behind to beat Tohoku Rakuten and extend its unbeaten streak to five games.
Hideto Asamura had a game-tying sacrifice fly in the second before Nakajima gave his team the lead with his double to left-center. Ryoma Nogami (6-3) limited the damage to one run in 6 1/3 innings en route to winning his fifth straight decision.
Fighters 2, Marines 1
At Sapporo Dome, Chiba Lotte center fielder Takashi Ogino made a costly two-run error when he dropped Atsunori Inaba’s two-out fly and made a poor throw to first base in the fourth inning as Hokkaido Nippon Ham held off the Marines.
Mitsuo Yoshikawa (10-4) gave up one run in six innings, and Hisashi Takeda worked the ninth for his 18th save. Yoshihisa Naruse (11-6) took the loss.