The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks’ bats took a rare night off in a Central League park. Luckily the pitching staff was present and accounted for, and so was the defense.
Jason Standridge held the Yomiuri Giants to one run over seven innings, and a great defensive sequence in the eighth helped preserve the lead as the Hawks beat the Giants 3-2 in front of a crowd of 44,893 on Saturday night at Tokyo Dome.
“We never really got things going tonight,” said Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo. “We only got four hits, but fortunately we could score three runs in the fourth.”
The team also benefited from some nice work in the field.
“The defense was very good today,” said team president Sadaharu Oh.
Softbank executed a pair of perfect relay plays during the game, with second baseman Keizo Kawashima throwing out the runner at the plate both times.
“No question throwing out two runners at the plate allowed us to get the victory,” Kudo said.
The Hawks won their fourth straight game, and moved into first place in the Pacific League.
“We will do our best to hold on to first place,” Kawashima said.
Standridge (6-4), meanwhile, snapped a personal two-start losing streak.
“That was a good win right there,” Standridge said.
The Trussville, Alabama, native gave up six hits, struck out four and walked three. He gave up three singles to begin the second, with the first of the team’s two relay plays keeping a run off the board, and didn’t allow another hit until the seventh.
“I felt like I found a little groove there,” Standridge said. “I felt like the first couple of innings, I was kind of trying to feel for it and didn’t really feel it. Then I felt like I settled down a little bit and just started throwing strikes. That was the main thing, just making sure I was just throwing the ball over the plate.”
The Softbank fielders helped keep him in the decision late in the game.
The Giants had runners on first and second with two away in the eighth when Leslie Anderson sent a ball to the right-center field gap off reliever Edison Barrios.
The runner on second, Yasuyuki Kataoka, scored easily, while Hawks center fielder Yuki Yanagita raced to the ball. Yanagita threw to Kawashima on one bounce, and the second baseman fired a strike to catcher Toru Hosokawa, who tagged out pinch runner Taishi Ota at the plate.
“Yanagita made a good throw to me on one bounce and I knew we had a chance to get Ota at the plate,” Kawashima said. “So I just wanted to make an accurate throw.”
A night after putting together 16 hits, the Hawks were held to just four. They got all their offense in the fourth, scoring three runs off former Softbank star Toshiya Sugiuchi.
Kawashima was 1-for-4 with an RBI single, and Hiroaki Takaya’s only hit of the night was a two-run double.
Yomiuri’s Hayato Sakamoto was credited with a hit on a run-scoring double that glanced off the glove of left fielder Seiichi Uchikawa and finished 1-for-3. Anderson had a three-hit night and also drove in a run.
Sugiuchi (5-2) made it through five innings, but allowed three runs on four hits. The lefty struck out five and walked three. He dropped a decision for the first time since May 5.
The Giants struck first for the second straight night, taking a 1-0 lead on Sakamoto’s RBI double.
Softbank fought back in the fourth, loading the bases before tying the game on a single to left by Kawashima. Takaya broke the tie by driving in two more with a double to put Softbank ahead 3-1.
The Giants were held without a hit from the third through the sixth innings, but tried to put together a rally in the seventh. Anderson doubled to begin the inning, and advanced on Hirokazu Ibata’s fly out to right. Pinch hitter Shinnosuke Abe drew a walk to put runners on the corners with one away.
Standridge retired the next batter, pinch hitter Tatsuhiko Kinjo on a foul fly to third. Standridge then coaxed a grounder to short out of Soichiro Tateoka, and Kenta Imamiya fielded the ball and flipped it to second to end the threat.
“That was big,” Standridge said. “I was pretty excited about getting out of that. Especially since they got a leadoff double; just nice to get out that. That’s why I was pretty excited, a leadoff double and to not give up any runs.”
The Hawks’ well-executed relay kept the Giants off the board in the eighth, and closer Dennis Sarfate shut the door in the ninth for his 14th save of the season.
“Our team is playing well now and everything seems to be going right for us,” Kawashima said.