When Daikan Yoh got his bat around the slider Jason Standridge threw him, the only question was how far was it going to go.
It was a no-doubter in every other way.
Yoh put the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in front with a tiebreaking two-run home run in the sixth, and the team turned its game against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks into a laugher from there, pulling away for a 10-2 win on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.
“This is the best,” Yoh beamed after the game. “I’m happy.”
The Fighters entered the sixth inning trailing the Pacific League leaders by a run. Nippon Ham catcher Tomoya Ichikawa started the frame with a single and moved to second on Haruki Nishikawa’s sacrifice bunt. Takuya Nakashima tied the game with an RBI triple, and Yoh put the Fighters on top with his 21st home run of the season.
“That came at the perfect time,” Yoh said.
His heroics came with a number of fans from his native Taiwan, where the outfielder’s popularity is akin to that of a rock star, in attendance.
“I’m really grateful to everyone who came to cheer for me,” Yoh said.
The Fighters put the game out of reach in the eighth.
Sho Nakata made the score 5-2 with an RBI single early in the inning to drive Standridge out of the game. Nippon Ham then went to work on the Hawks’ bullpen. Keiji Obiki blew the game open with a three-run double and Nishikawa rubbed salt in the wound with a two-run two-bagger that made it 10-2.
Four players recorded two-hit nights for the Fighters, including Nakata, who hit his 24th home run of the season during the third.
Fighters starter Masaru Nakamura made liberal use of the off-speed pitches in his arsenal, especially a slow curve, in six innings on the mound. Nakamura (7-0) allowed a pair of runs on a home run by Seiichi Uchikawa in the third, but survived a bases-loaded jam later in the inning to help keep Nippon Ham in the game. Nakamura struck out five and walked three and became the first Nippon Ham starter in 18 years to win his first seven decisions.
“I was just trying to follow the signs Ichikawa was laying down,” Nakamura said.
The Hawks are already assured of a spot in the Climax Series but are trying to fend off the Orix Buffaloes in the race for the Pacific League pennant. Despite the loss, the Hawks still have the best record in Japan (73-48-6) and a four-game lead over Orix, which lost to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, in the PL.
Uchikawa provided all the offense for Softbank on Tuesday with his two-run home run.
Starter Jason Standridge took the loss for Softbank. Standridge (10-6) was charged with seven runs in seven-plus innings. He struck out eight.
Eagles edge Buffaloes
Tohoku Rakuten got to Orix closer Yoshihisa Hirano (1-4) for the second straight night, with Motohiro Shima’s two-out, ninth-inning base hit scoring the winning run for the Eagles, who won 8-7 on Tuesday and walked off with their fourth consecutive victory.
Marines 3, Lions 2 (11)
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Kazuya Fukuura’s game-winning double in the bottom of the 11th ended Chiba Lotte’s skid at three, after Toshiaki Imae’s solo home run in the ninth invited extra innings against Seibu.
Giants 8, Tigers 2
At Koshien Stadium, Yomiuri chased Randy Messenger in the fourth inning with a six-run burst to beat Hanshin.
The Giants handed Messenger (11-9) his shortest outing of the season, the right-hander failing to record a single out in the fourth before being pulled by manager Yutaka Wada.
The two-time defending Central League champion Giants have a three-game lead over the Hiroshima Carp, and are up 5-1/2 games ahead of the Tigers.
“We struck first and then had a big inning,” Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara said. “Just a great game.”
Hayato Sakamoto opened the scoring in the first with a two-run home run, his 14th blast of the year.
Sakamoto led off the decisive fourth with his second hit of the game off Messenger before Shinnosuke Abe walked and Yoshiyuki Kamei singled to load the bases.
Shuichi Murata drove in Sakamoto with a single, and Jose Lopez plated two more to make it 5-0 for the Giants. After Yasuyuki Kataoka’s base hit, Murata came home on Yomiuri starter Toshiya Sugiuchi groundout and Hisayoshi Chono’s two-run double sent Messenger to the dugout.
Sugiuchi (9-5) held Hanshin to two earned runs on five hits, one walk and one hit batsman in seven innings. The Tigers have lost four in a row.
BayStars 3, Swallows 0
At Yokohama Stadium, Yokohama’s Yasutomo Kubo (12-6) threw his first shutout in four years against Tokyo Yakult, earning a league-leading 12th win after scattering four hits and not allowing a walk.
Carp 2, Dragons 1 (10)
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Ryosuke Kikuchi’s first career walk-off hit with the game tied at one won it for Hiroshima, which ended Chunichi’s winning streak at four.