The Yomiuri Giants and Seibu Lions played for almost four hours before Fuminori Yokogawa made his first appearance in the game.
He ended it just a few minutes later.
Yokogawa hit a sayonara single through the left side of the infield in the bottom of the 10th to give the Giants a 4-3 win over the Lions in front of a crowd of 44,093 on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.
“I felt the fans cheering for me to end the game, so I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Yokogawa said.
Giants relievers Tetsuya Yamaguchi and Scott Mathieson took care of the side in the top of the 10th, and Hisayoshi Chono began the bottom half with a single to right. Chono stole second, and Shinnosuke Abe singled to put runners on the corners.
Yokogawa took a first-pitch fastball for a ball, then lined a slider into left to send the Yomiuri fans into a frenzy.
Mathieson threw two-thirds of an inning and was credited with the victory, while Yamaguchi earned the 200th hold of his career with 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.
“I never thought about milestones,” Yamaguchi said. “I just wanted to keep the other team from scoring.”
Yomiuri spoiled the debut of Lions interim manager Norio Tanabe. The Lions’ batting coach is filling in for Haruki Ihara, who on Wednesday announced he was taking an indefinite leave to take responsibility for the team’s poor start. Seibu was 20-34 and in last place in the Pacific League under Ihara this season. They’re now 0-1 under Tanabe, and fell to 5-8 in interleague play.
Jose Lopez, batting ninth for the first time in his NPB career, accounted for Yomiuri’s other runs with a three-run homer in the fifth, his 14th of the season. Lopez also had a single.
“It’s been a while since Lopez had a timely hit,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said of the Venezuelan, who hadn’t driven in a run since an RBI single against the Lions on May 21 at Seibu Dome. “I hope he is getting hot now.”
The game was Hayato Sakamoto’s “Player’s Day” and the crowd got to see a lot of the shortstop, who drew walks in all five of his plate appearances.
Starting pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano allowed three runs over eight innings and didn’t factor into the decision. Sugano struck out six and walked three.
“The starting pitcher and closer did their jobs,” Yamaguchi said, also referring to Mathieson. “So it was a complete effort by our pitchers tonight.”
Yomiuri improved to 8-5 in interleague play with the win and leapfrogged the idle Chiba Lotte Marines and Yokohama BayStars, who each had their games rained out on Friday, to move into third place in the interleague standings, a half-game behind the first-place Chunichi Dragons.
Yuji Kaneko was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk for Seibu, while Naoto Watanabe and Takumi Kuriyama each drove in a run.
The Lions broke through against Sugano in the top of the fifth, taking a 1-0 lead on Kaneko’s RBI double to right. Kaneko moved to third on a Shogo Akiyama groundout and was driven home when Watanabe singled up the middle.
Yomiuri’s Yoshiyuki Kamei led off the bottom half of the frame with a single, and Abe drew a walk later in the inning. Lopez then slugged the Giants into the lead with a three-run home run to left.
The Lions put runners on second and third for Kuriyama in the sixth, and the Seibu captain tied the game 3-3 with an RBI single.
Yomiuri looked primed to answer in the bottom half of the inning, but was turned away by reliever Ryohei Fujiwara, who issued a walk and gave up a pair of hits before later retiring Shuichi Murata with the bases loaded to end the inning.
The Kyojin threatened again in the eighth. Kamei reached on an error and went to second on Chono’s sacrifice bunt. Abe drew a walk, and a groundout by Takahiro Suzuki left the Giants with runners on second and third with two outs. Pinch hitter Yoshinobu Takahashi worked the count to 3-1 in his favor, but reliever Tatsushi Masuda’s next two pitches were strikes the Giants hitter only watched sail past.
The teams will wrap up their two-game series on Saturday at Tokyo Dome, with the Giants looking for a sweep.
“This was a good win and Yokogawa came through with a nice sayonara hit at the end,” Hara said.
Dragons 5, Eagles 1
Buffaloes 4, Tigers 3
Hawks 10, Carp 3
Marines at Swallows — ppd.
Fighters at BayStars — ppd.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5