Fighters rally past Carp in interleague finale

Otani pitches, bats in same game for first time as NPB rookie


Hokkaido Nippon Ham rookie right-hander Shohei Otani made his debut pitching and batting in the same game, tossing four innings of three-run ball while batting in the No. 5 spot in the Fighters’ 7-4 win over the Hiroshima Carp on Tuesday.

In the last interleague game of the year, Otani doubled down the right-field line in his first turn at the plate and hit a tiebreaking RBI grounder at Mazda Stadium. He started off shaky on the mound but limited Carp bats to four hits while walking three and striking out four with one hit batsman in a no-decision.

Otani doubled leading off the second and reached third on a bunt sacrifice but was left stranded. Ryuhei Matsuyama gave Otani a stir with a leadoff homer to right-center in the home half of inning.

Brad Eldred’s temper flared when he was hit in the left hand with Otani’s fastball in the third and the first baseman appeared to take out his aggression with a hard slide that leveled second baseman Takahiro Imanami. Two runners scored on the broken-up double play on Matsuyama’s RBI grounder for a 3-0 Hiroshima lead.

But the Fighters rallied in the top of the fourth.

Atsunori Inaba led off with a single to center and after Otani drew a one-out walk, Eiichi Koyano hit an RBI single later followed by a bases-loaded walk from Kenji Sato and Shinya Tsuruoka’s sacrifice fly to tie it 3-3.

Toshiyuki Yanuki (2-1) got the win with two perfect innings in relief. Carp starter Yusuke Nomura also left after allowing three runs in four innings of work.

Reliever Jumpei Ono (1-1) walked the first two batters in the fifth and hit Sho Nakata to load the bases. Otani then drove in a run facing Yuichi Hisamoto on a sharply hit groundball and Koyano hit a sac fly to bring home Inaba from third for a 5-3 cushion.

After Otani was pulled for lefty reliever Naoki Miyanishi, he took over in right field. Yang Dai-kang added an RBI triple in the eighth and after Fred Lewis’ run-scoring double in the bottom half, Nakata went deep, his 17th homer of the year, to left-center with one out in the ninth.

Otani, who posted his first career win against the Chunichi Dragons on June 1, did not get a chance to bat in his two previous starts at Sapporo Dome because of the designated hitter. On Tuesday, he went 1-for-3 with one RBI and was replaced for a pinch-hitter in the ninth.

Otani threw a 160-kph fastball and hit 56 home runs during his days at Hanamaki Higashi High School in Iwate Prefecture. The 18-year-old once declared he would play in the majors before deciding to join Nippon Ham this season.

The last-place Fighters won their fourth in a row while Hiroshima dropped its third straight.

“We were able to get a victory in the last game of the interleague,” said Yang. “I just want to continue to get on base and contribute to the team.”

The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks won the interleague title for the first time in two years, fourth overall, with a 15-8-1 record. The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (15-9) placed second. The Pacific League got the majority of wins over its Central League rival for the fourth consecutive year. League play in both the PL and CL resumes on Friday.