It’s still very early in the season, but so far everything has come up red for the Hiroshima Carp.
Shota Dobayashi gave the Carp some breathing room with a two-run pinch-hit home run in the top of the ninth inning to help prop up starting pitcher Yusuke Nomura in a 4-1 victory on Tuesday over the Yomiuri Giants in front of a crowd of 42,497 on the 26th anniversary of the first regular-season game at Tokyo Dome.
“I made an error in my last game and we lost, so I wanted to do something to contribute,” Dobayashi said, referring to a miscue in the fourth inning that helped the Yokohama BayStars put together a six-run inning in a game they won 9-6 on Saturday.
The Carp entered Tuesday’s contest having already put together a 4-0 record in one-run games, and it looked like they’d have to sweat out a fifth before Dobayashi’s big hit.
“That gave us some breathing room, which you need in this place against those guys,” said closer Kam Mikolio, who retired the side in the ninth for his fourth save of the season.
Weekly Baseball magazine put the Carp on its cover last week and openly wondered if a return to the success of the team’s aka-heru (red helmet) era was in the cards in 2014.
So far, the team has raced out to a 7-2 record and won each of its first three series. Hiroshima can make it four-for-four with a win on Wednesday or Thursday against the Kyojin.
“Coming off last year, I think a lot of our younger guys got a taste of seeing what kind of team we could be,” said outfielder Brad Eldred, who finished 2-for-4 with an RBI. “We have a lot of good players, a lot of good young players and a lot of good guys who have been here for awhile. I think everybody is on the same page of where we thought we could be by this year.”
The Carp were visiting the Big Egg for the first time since being swept out of the final stage of the Central League Climax Series last season.
“We were swept by the Giants in the Climax Series last year, but tonight we proved we could beat them,” Hiroshima manager Kenjiro Nomura said.
Yusuke Nomura (2-0) did much of the heavy lifting early on, striking out five and walking one over six innings of one-run ball.
“I felt really good pitching tonight,” Nomura said. “My forkball was working well.”
Former Yomiuri great Masumi Kuwata threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game. So he was the first pitcher to take the mound, just like he did 26 years ago to the day when Tokyo Dome hosted its first regular-season game. The Giants lost then too, falling 4-2 against the Yakult Swallows.
Officially, Tetsuya Utsumi got the start for Yomiuri, but his night was over just 2 1/3 innings into the game as he was tossed for hitting Carp center fielder Yoshihiro Maru in the head with a pitch. Utsumi (0-1) was charged with two runs on two hits in the loss.
Yomiuri’s Itaru Hashimoto went 2-for-3 at the plate and drove in his club’s only run. Hayato Sakamoto and Hisayoshi Chono also had two-hit nights.
Eldred began the top of the second with a single and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from Eishin Soyogi. Jun Hirose brought the run in with an RBI double to put Hiroshima ahead 1-0.
Maru remained in the game and stole second after being hit in the third inning. He moved to third base on Ryusuke Kikuchi’s fly out to right and scored when Eldred came through with a two-out RBI single later in the inning.
Sakamoto singled to begin the Yomiuri half of the fifth, and Hashimoto delivered an RBI double to make the score 2-1. Kazunari Sanematsu laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Hashimoto to third, but Nomura responded by striking out pinch hitter Kenji Yano and Chono to end the threat.
Yomiuri put runners on first and second to begin the sixth, but Carp shortstop Soyogi managed to catch a hard liner hit by Shuichi Murata and then make a nifty flip to second in time to turn a double play.
The teams will meet in the second game of their series on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome. Left-hander Chris Seddon will be making his debut for the Giants against Carp rookie Daichi Osera.
Wada belts 300th HR
Nagoya — Daisuke Yamai tossed two-run ball over six effective innings, Kazuhiro Wada celebrated with his 300th career homer, and the Chunichi Dragons routed the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 7-2 to take the opener of a three-game series on Tuesday night.
Yamai (2-0) scattered four hits with as many walks and induced two double plays at Nagoya Dome. Three relievers silenced Yakult’s bats over the final three innings.
Ryosuke Hirata led off the second with a single to center off Chris Narveson (0-1) and after consecutive walks to load the bases scored from third on Naomichi Donoue’s sacrifice fly to center. Yamai helped his own cause the same inning with a ground-ball single up the middle with two outs to make it 2-0.
Hector Luna hit a two-run blast in a three-run third before the Swallows cut the deficit to 5-2 on a Wladimir Balentien sac fly and Yuhei Takai’s RBI single in the fourth and sixth, respectively. Wada went deep for a two-run drive in the eighth.
Yamai escaped a second-and-third jam in the fifth, getting Tetsuto Yamada to ground out to shortstop to end inning.
BayStars 6, Tigers 5
At Koshien Stadium, Yokohama came back from a four-run deficit with a five-run seventh capped by a Tony Blanco grand slam en route to a win over Hanshin.
Former Tigers right-hander Yasutomo Kubo (1-0) gave up four runs in six innings but got the win. Second-year righty Shintaro Fujinami (0-2) lost his second straight start.
Buffaloes 4, Marines 0
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Yuki Nishi (2-0) threw a two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and no walks to carry Orix to its seventh win in a row in a blanking of Chiba Lotte.
Hikaru Ito had a two-out, two-run double in the second for his first hit of the season. Tomotaka Sakaguchi added insurance with a two-run single in the third off Hideaki Wakui (0-2).
Hawks 4, Lions 3
At Seibu Dome, Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a go-ahead two-run drive off reliever Ken Togame (0-1) with two outs in the ninth inning to lift Fukuoka Softbank past Seibu, which fell to its fourth loss in a row.
Dennis Sarfate got three strikeouts in the ninth for his third save.
Eagles 11, Fighters 7
At Sapporo Dome, Ginji Akaminai went 4-for-5 and Kevin Youkilis drove in four runs in a 20-hit onslaught as Tohoku Rakuten downed Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
All of the Eagles’ starting nine had at least one hit and the team broke the game open with a five-run seventh. Manabu Mima (1-1) won despite allowing five runs in five shaky innings.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5