Norimoto displays dominant form against Buffaloes

Right-hander holds Orix to three hits in eight scoreless innings, strikes out seven


Takahiro Norimoto threw eight shutout innings on Saturday as the cellar-dwelling Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles beat the pennant-contending Orix Buffaloes 2-0.

Before 24,593 at Kyocera Dome, Norimoto (11-8), the Pacific League’s 2013 Rookie of the Year, allowed three hits, walked three batters and hit one, while striking out seven. Brian Falkenborg retired the Buffaloes in order in the ninth to earn his 14th save as the Eagles snapped a three-game losing streak. The Buffaloes, second in the PL, fell 3-1/2 games behind the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

“Today, my fastball was running well from the start, and I tried to get the most I could out of it,” said Norimoto, who ratcheted up the speed gun as far as 154 kph. “Towards the middle of the game I was a little wild, but I didn’t give in and was able to get through it.

“I’m glad to have posted those kind of speed numbers. But even better was being able to get fouls and swinging strikes with my fastball. More than the speed, I was pleased with the quality of my pitches.”

Andruw Jones doubled in two runs in the fourth off Orix right-hander Yuki Nishi (12-6), who scattered seven hits and three walks over eight innings, while striking out six.

Nishi was fortunate not to give up a run in the first inning following a bloop leadoff single by Kazuo Matsui. On an 0-2 count to Kazuya Fujita, the Eagles put on the hit-and-run. Nishi served up a fat fastball high and away and Fujita drilled it to third baseman Esteban German, who made the catch and easily doubled off Matsui.

The Buffaloes were less fortunate in the fourth, in the kind of at-bat that typified Rakuten’s efforts a year ago, Fujita opened the inning by singling on Nishi’s 13th pitch of the inning. Nishi missed up with a 2-2 fastball that Takero Okajima lined to center for another single.

With no outs and two on, Jones fell behind in the count. When Nishi tried to put him away with a 1-2 fastball low and away, the ball got up, Jones put a good swing on it and found the gap in left-center, driving in both runners. Nishi followed by issuing a walk but struck out two of the next three batters he faced to hold the Eagles to two.

Fighters 8, Lions 5

At Sapporo Dome, Seibu’s Takeya Nakamura followed a two-home run, seven-RBI effort on Friday with a two-homer, four-RBI game on Saturday, but little else went the Lions’ way in a loss to Hokkaido Nippon Ham, which posted a five-run first inning on homers by Yang Dai-kang and Juan Miranda.

Hawks 5, Marines 1

At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Seiichi Uchikawa hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Kenichi Nakata (9-4) threw a three hitter as Fukuoka Softbank beat Chiba Lotte to snap a brief two-game losing streak.


Giants 4, Dragons 1

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri’s Kan Otake (9-6) allowed a first-inning home run, but little else and had an RBI to boot in a three-hit victory over Chunichi.

Hayato Sakamoto brought the Giants from behind with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first.

Carp 2, Tigers 1

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Tsubasa Aizawa broke up a scoreless tie in the eighth inning, when he homered for the second straight game, Ryosuke Kikuchi also went deep for Hiroshima off Hanshin ace Atsushi Nomi (6-11), and closer Kam Mickolio allowed a run in the ninth but recorded his 19th save.

Swallows 4, BayStars 2

At Matsuyama Stadium, Shingo Kawabata drove in three runs, including two with a tie-breaking seventh-inning single, and Tony Barnette worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to record his seventh save as last-place Tokyo Yakult defeated Yokohama.