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Francisco lifts Giants to victory in NPB debut

by Dave Hueston

Kyodo

Former major league slugger Juan Francisco came up with the much-needed big hit in his first game in Japanese baseball as the Yomiuri Giants held off the rival Hanshin Tigers 1-0 on Saturday afternoon.

Shintaro Fujinami and lefty Aaron Poreda had waged a fierce pitching duel with neither giving an inch until Francisco, who had struck out in his two previous at-bats, drilled an RBI single down the right-field line to break a scoreless deadlock for a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning at Tokyo Dome.

Taishi Ota had led off the inning with a double off the wall in center and Francisco, who last played for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, nailed Fujinami’s 2-2 cut fastball down the right-field line to break the balance.

“I was really happy that I could get that timely hit,” said Francisco, who hit 48 home runs with four teams in the majors. “I just tried to make solid contact and I was lucky that the ball got through for that hit. I have a place to put the ball in safekeeping at home. Hopefully, I can start hitting home runs soon, too.”

Hanshin’s Tsuyoshi Nishioka reached scoring position in the eighth against Poreda on a one-out single and a ground out. But reliever Scott Mathieson fanned Mauro Gomez.

Hirokazu Sawamura worked the ninth to earn his 10th save. He allowed a leadoff single to Kosuke Fukudome and pinch-runner Yamato Maeda reached third on two groundouts before Sawamura got the final batter to ground out and end the ballgame.

Poreda (3-1) scattered six hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 7⅔ innings. Fujinami (1-3) allowed one run on five hits over eight innings. He struck out 10 and walked none.

“I was just trying to be aggressive and let my defense do the work behind me. I was able to throw my off-speed pitches for strikes and keep my fastball down,” said Poreda.

“The first couple innings I couldn’t get my breaking ball for a strike so I was struggling. I was able to keep my composure and my breaking balls came later in the game and I could get out of it without giving up a run.”

The Tigers had an early chance when Matt Murton hit a one-out single down the right-field line in the second inning but came up empty.

After a force out in the next at-bat, catcher Ryutaro Umeno reached on a single to short to put runners at first and second, but Fujinami’s hard-hit line drive was caught by leaping third baseman Shuichi Murata for the third out.

Similarly, Yomiuri had a perfect opportunity to score in the home half of the fourth, when Yasuyuki Kataoka led off with a single to right, moved to second on Fujinami’s wild pitch and then to third on a groundout.

But Fujinami struck out the next two batters swinging — fanning Francisco on a high fastball out of the zone to erase the threat.

BayStars 5, Dragons 3

At Nagoya Dome, Yokohama overcame a two-run-deficit and scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning, featuring a two-run triple by Taiki Sekine, for a dramatic come-from-behind win over Chunichi.

Carp 6, Swallows 2

At Jingu Stadium, Rainel Rosario hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the sixth inning and Tetsuya Kokubo put the game away with a grand slam in the eighth as Hiroshima romped past Tokyo Yakult, which slipped to its fifth defeat in six games.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Fighters 14, Marines 2

At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Daikan Yoh drove in four runs on 3-for-5 hitting in support of Naoyuki Uwasawa (2-3), who yielded two runs in eight effective innings in Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s 20-hit rout of Lotte. Haruki Nishikawa, Hiromi Oka and Sho Nakata homered for the Fighters.

Buffaloes 4, Hawks 2

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Takahiro Okada went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and Brandon Dickson (3-3) gave up one unearned run over 7⅔ innings as Orix held off Tadashi Settsu (2-4) and Fukuoka Softbank.

Lions 3, Eagles 0

At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium Miyagi, Ryoma Nogami (4-1) pitched seven innings of two-hit ball and Shogo Akiyama keyed a two-run third with an RBI triple as Seibu blanked Tohoku Rakuten, which has lost four in a row for the second time this season.