Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Kuo earns first win in Japan as Lions sweep Buffaloes

Kyodo

Kuo Chun-lin won a duel of young pitchers marking their league debuts on Sunday as the Seibu Lions beat the Orix Buffaloes 5-4 to complete a three-game sweep of their season-opening series.

Pitching before 26,507 at Seibu Prince Dome, Kuo allowed three runs in five innings. The 23-year-old right-hander from Taiwan allowed six hits — but just one after the second inning. He struck out four, walked four and hit a batter.

“After they scored three runs, I thought I’d better throw for all I’m worth or this is going to be a disaster,” said Kuo, who started against South Korea last autumn in the Asian Games’ gold-medal match.

“I wasn’t that nervous before or during today’s game — except when the coach came to the mound. This was less tense than pitching in the Asian Games against South Korea before 30,000 in their home park. Here, I knew the fans were on my side.”

Lefty Sachiya Yamasaki, Orix’s top draft pick last autumn, walked five in his 2⅓ inning debut. He allowed three runs, while surrendering three hits and striking out one. Reliever Hirokazu Shiranita, who took over in the third, allowed a run in 2⅓ innings and took the loss.

Orix broke its season-opening scoring drought in the second inning on a sac fly by Takahiro Okada and a two-run home run by Eiichi Koyano, but the Lions struck back in the bottom of the second. Shogo Akiyama singled in the hosts’ first run after Yamasaki walked the bases loaded with two outs.

Kuo pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam in the third and his teammates went back to work against the rookie Yamasaki. A leadoff walk, a single and Ernesto Mejia’s RBI single made it a 3-2 game. With one out, right-hander Shiranita took over in relief.

The Lions then tied it on Fumikazu Kimura’s opposite-field single. Right fielder Itoi got to it, but the ball had too much slice on it for the six-time Golden Glove winner to make a catch.

“I was overthrowing today,” Yamasaki said. “Something was off right from the start. I thought I could adjust easily, but right until the end I couldn’t get it right.”

A good play at the wall in left by Okada and a questionable called third strike to Mejia kept the Lions from taking the lead in the fourth, but they got to Shiranita in the fifth. Tomoya Mori’s opposite-field fly to left fell in for a leadoff double and he scored on Ginjiro Sumitani’s one-out RBI single.

In the seventh, Yuji Kaneko set up Seibu’s fifth run by laying down a perfect two-out bunt single off Ryo Sakakibara and stealing second. Akiyama then picked up his second RBI with a double to right.

Lions skipper Norio Tanabe said Kuo was one run away from an early shower.

“One more run and he was gone,” Tanabe said. “He seemed to be rushing a little at the start, but he got the job done. He has quality pitches, it all depends on whether he can execute or not.”

Itoi went deep for Orix with two outs in the ninth off lefty closer Tomomi Takahashi, who then walked former Lion Hiroyuki Nakajima to put the tying run aboard. Former Central League batting champ and RBI king Tony Blanco came to the plate, but Takahashi shattered his bat with his first pitch and ended the game with a routine ground-out to record his third save.

Marines 5, Hawks 4

At Yafuoku Dome, Luis Cruz drove in a pair of runs and Rhee Dae-eun overcame a shaky start to last 6⅓ innings and win his Japan debut as Chiba Lotte beat Fukuoka Softbank.

Fighters 11, Eagles 1

At Sapporo Dome, new import Victor Garate (1-0) hurled five scoreless innings as Hokkaido Nippon Ham battered Tohoku Rakuten’s pitching with 17 hits, including three home runs.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Giants 11, BayStars 3

At Tokyo Dome, rookie Hayato Takagi allowed two runs in six innings to win his pro debut while Yoshiyuki Kamei drove in four runs, featuring a two-run homer, as Yomiuri battered Yokohama.

Tigers 10, Dragons 8

At Kyocera Dome, Shintaro Fujinami overcame a three-run first inning to earn the win in his season debut as Hanshin outslugged Chunichi to sweep their three-game series.