Kokubo sacrifice fly lifts Carp over Giants


The Hiroshima Carp outlasted the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants in a tense 4-3 win on Wednesday evening, with Tetsuya Kokubo coming off the bench to drive in the winning run with a sacrifice fly.

With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Kokubo faced lefty relief ace Tetsuya Yamaguchi with one out and runners on the corners. He flied out to center and Yoshihiro Maru just beat a strong relay throw home to score the go-ahead run.

“I went to the plate relaxed, thinking all I needed was an outfield fly,” said Kokubo, who came off the bench to face Yamaguchi the night before and singled in the go-ahead run in a game Hiroshima went on to lose.

“Maru-kun really did a good job running home. I wasn’t able to hit it any farther.”

The win, boosted by a strong effort by rookie right-hander Aren Kuri, moved the Carp to within 2-1/2 games of first place as they chase their first CL title since 1991.

“Every chance we have, we want to beat the league-leading Giants.”

Hiroshima got off to a strong start as Kuri worked a 1-2-3 first and Soichiro Amaya led off the bottom of the inning with a home run off Giants right-hander Yuki Koyama.

Kuri and Koyama each added four more zeroes to the scoreboard until the Giants scored in the top of the sixth on a two-run double by Hisayoshi Chono. The Carp, however, tied it in the bottom of the sixth, when Amaya singled and scored from first on a double down the third-base line when Giants left fielder Yoshiyuki Kamei had trouble picking the ball out of the corner.

Kuri allowed two runs on four hits and four walks over six innings, while striking out four. He did not figure in the decision, but drew praise from Hiroshima manager Kenjiro Nomura.

“Kuri kept us in the game,” Nomura said. “Our bench guys, they are so well prepared and they get the job done.

“I feel we have become good at hanging in there in tough games, and I think the fans see it as well.”

Right-handed reliever Katsuhiro Nagakawa worked a 1-2-3 seventh for the Carp, and the hosts grabbed the lead in the seventh with the help of a walk and a throwing error by Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto. But a one-run lead in the eighth was unsafe in the hands of right-hander Ren Nakata for the second straight night.

Nakata, who blew an eighth-inning lead in Tuesday’s loss, surrendered the tying run. A bloop single and a hit batsman set the table, and Chono tied it with a two-out grounder between short and third that dribbled into the outfield for an RBI single. Nakata (5-3) earned the win.

The Carp rallied in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back one-out singles from Maru and Brad Eldred off the Giants’ second pitcher, Yuya Kubo (2-3). Left-handed reliever Yamaguchi inherited runners on the corners but Kokubo and Maru got the job done, and closer Kam Mickolio survived a leadoff walk to nail down his 14th save.

Tigers 1, Swallows 0

At Koshien Stadium, lefty Minoru Iwata (5-3) scattered eight hits over seven innings, and Hanshin scored its only run on two hits and a throwing error by Tokyo Yakult starter Taichi Ishiyama (1-3).

Yamato Maeda singled with one out in the first inning, went to second on an errant pickoff throw and scored on a Mauro Gomez single.

BayStars 6, Dragons 2

At Toyama’s Alpen Stadium, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo drove in five runs and Yasutomo Kubo (6-4) allowed a run in seven innings as Yokohama defeated Chunichi.

Eagles 2, Buffaloes 0

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Tohoku Rakuten’s first-round draft pick Yuki Matsui (1-4) worked 2-1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn his first victory as four Eagles pitchers combined on an eight-hit shutout of PL-leading Orix.

Hawks 6, Marines 1

At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, side-arm southpaw Kazuyuki Hoashi (5-0) allowed a run in six innings and Nobuhiro Matsuda and Yuichi Honda each drove in a run in the bottom of the sixth as Fukuoka Softbank came from behind to beat Chiba Lotte.

Lions 6, Fighters 5

At Seibu Dome, career minor leaguer Shogo Saito won it with his first career homer, a three-run sayonara shot as Seibu overturned a three-run ninth-inning deficit.

Hokkaido Nippon Ham starter Shohei Otani struck out 12 batters in seven innings in a duel with lefty Yusei Kikuchi. Neither pitcher figured in the decision.