Iihara ignites Swallows in comeback victory over Tigers


Yasushi Iihara had a tiebreaking pinch-hit double in a four-run uprising in the eighth inning as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows ran away late to beat the Hanshin Tigers 5-2 on Saturday night.

Ryohei Kiya allowed a run over seven innings in front of a crowd of 30,435 at Jingu Stadium.

The Swallows had a golden chance to score in the third off Tigers starter Atsushi Nomi, but he escaped the jam, thanks to a fine defensive play from right fielder Kosuke Fukudome as well as some nifty craftsmanship in threading the needle himself.

Takahiro Araki and Yuhei Nakamura had back-to-back singles to start off and after a sacrifice bunt from Kiya moved the runners to second and third, Fukudome made a superb diving catch on Tetsuto Yamada’s sharp liner to stop both men in their tracks.

Nomi then broke Tsuyoshi Ueda’s bat with a fastball high and inside, which dribbled for a weak grounder to second for the final out of the inning.

Nomi wasn’t as lucky in the fifth and Kiya helped his own cause, laying down a perfect sacrifice bunt after Nakamura led off with a single to right. Yamada followed with an RBI single to left to make it 1-0 Swallows.

The Tigers briefly got fired up when former Boston Red Sox infielder Mauro Gomez hit a triple — his first in Japan — on a ball that had home run written all over it in the seventh.

The ball bounced off the center field wall as the heavy-footed first baseman dove into third and hugged the base in exhaustion. Imanari then hit a shallow flare that left fielder Wladimir Balentien failed to catch as he slid onto his back, driving home Gomez from third to tie it 1-1.

Yakult finally got to Nomi in the eighth. Ueda led off with an infield single, and after a sacrifice, Balentien was walked and Iihara followed with a double off the wall in right to make it 2-1. Araki added a two-run single for insurance in the four-run frame.

The Tigers scored a run in the ninth on Imanari’s RBI single, but it was too little, too late.

BayStars 9, Carp 4

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Takayuki Kajitani homered twice to drive in three runs, Shoichi Ino pitched three-run ball over six innings and Yokohama outgunned Hiroshima.

Ino (4-2) scattered five hits, struck four and walked none. Carp starter Jumpei Shinoda (2-2) was roughed up for four runs — three earned — in three innings of the loss.

Giants 9, Dragons 5

At Nagoya Dome, Shinnosuke Abe went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Kan Otake (4-1) won despite yielding five runs in seven innings and Yomiuri banged out 14 hits to move a season-high seven games over .500.

Toshiya Okada (1-4) was tagged for eight runs in three innings for Chunichi, which lost its fifth in a row.

Marines 5, Lions 1

At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, left-hander Takahiro Fujioka (1-1) threw 5-2/3 scoreless innings en route to his first win of the year, Toshiaki Imae hit a two-run homer and went 2-for-4, and Chiba Lotte romped over last-place Seibu a day after Lions ace Takayuki Kishi tossed a no-hitter.

Eagles 6, Hawks 5

At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Andruw Jones went deep twice off Kenichi Nakata (5-1) for his fifth homer in three games, lefty Takahiro Shiomi (2-2) pitched one-run ball over six innings and Tohoku Rakuten held off Fukuoka Softbank, despite the Hawks’ four-run, eighth-inning rally.

Fighters 8, Buffaloes 2

At Sapporo Dome, Masaru Takeda (1-2) limited the damage to two runs in seven innings of work, Sho Nakata homered in his third consecutive game with a go-ahead two-run blast and Hokkaido Nippon Ham won its fourth straight.

Brandon Dickson (3-3) took the loss for Orix, which lost its third in a row for the first time this season.