Miles Mikolas talked about his new haircut, getting into a footrace against Takahiro Suzuki and got a kiss from his wife, Lauren, on the field with more than 40,000 people screaming in the stands.
Before all that, he turned in another solid start and, along with Hisayoshi Chono, Yoshiyuki Kamei and Yoshinobu Takahashi, helped make sure the Yomiuri Giants remained the only Central League team with its head above water.
Mikolas threw seven shutout innings, Kamei and Chono drove in two runs apiece, and Takahashi chipped in with a pinch-hit three-run home run to propel the Giants to a 7-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
“I felt pretty good today,” Mikolas said. “I think I threw some really good pitches. I think the mistakes that I made, maybe I got away with them today.
“They hit some hard balls right at some guys, and our defense made some great diving plays. Overall, I felt strong.”
Mikolas (3-3) allowed four hits, struck out five and walked one in a 101-pitch outing, as he bounced back from an off-night last week against the Chiba Lotte Marines.
“The only thing I really changed from last game was my haircut,” Mikolas said. “Everything else was pretty much the same. I’m not trying to reinvent myself in the middle of a season. It was a normal week.”
The Giants snapped a four-game skid with the victory.
“All our players are doing their best,” Kamei said. “We didn’t feel much pressure, but we are relieved to break the losing streak.”
The Kyojin improved to 35-33 this season, and are the only CL team with a winning record. The other five teams in the league are at least one game below .500.
“We had to win this game to stay above .500, and I’m glad I was able to start the scoring today,” said Kamei, who drove in the first two runs of the game.
Kamei connected on an RBI single in the first and a run-scoring double in the fifth on a 2-for-4 afternoon. Chono had a three-hit afternoon, capped by a two-run double in the eighth.
Takahashi was pinch-hitting for Hirokazu Ibata when he went deep in the seventh to pick up his third home run of the season.
“This was my job today, being a pinch hitter,” Takahashi said. “It was good I could get a good pitch to hit and cushion our lead.”
Mikolas helped get the seventh started by drawing a leadoff walk. He was then lifted for the speedy Suzuki, who took over the pinch-running duties.
“He’s much faster than I am. Maybe I need to race him,” Mikolas joked. “If I beat him in a race, then maybe I would run instead. But that’s a very smart play. He’s much faster. If there wasn’t a home run, he’s much more likely to score.”
Mikolas has seemingly overcome a slow start to the season. He’s won three of his last four decisions and thrown at least seven innings while allowing one run or fewer in four of his last five outings.
“I think the first couple of starts, I was trying to hard to impress, trying to do too much and letting things get out of control,” Mikolas said.
“Having one successful start and backing it up with two more and then a not-so-great one and then to come right back after that makes me very confident.
I just know that I can go out there any day and have a good game if I just go out there and do what I gotta do.”
His wife has become a familiar presence at Giants games, and also on the front of many sports dailies around Tokyo. She joined her husband near the home dugout after the win as photographers snapped away.
“It’s always nice when she’s in the stands,” Mikolas said. “She’s my biggest fan and I love her very much.”
Dragons starter Raul Valdes (2-7) allowed a pair of runs — one earned — in his six innings on the mound. Valdes struck out four and walked three.
Nobumasa Fukuda provided the Dragons’ offense with a pinch-hit solo homer in the top of the eighth against reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi. Fukuda tied Ryosuke Hirata, who had a decisive three-run blast in Friday’s 8-5 Chunichi win, for the team lead with six home runs.
The Dragons managed just five hits in the game, with Yohei Oshima and Masahiko Morino, who is closing in on 1,500 hits, collecting two apiece.
BayStars drop 12th straight
Yoshihiro Maru and Brad Eldred drove in five runs between them as the Hiroshima Carp came from behind to whip the slumping Yokohama BayStars 8-4 in a Central League game on Saturday afternoon.
Maru went 3-for-3, homered, drew two walks and drove in three, while Eldred struck out his first three times before hitting a tie-breaking two-run home run, and the BayStars went on to lose their 12th straight decision.
Before 28,962 at Yokohama Stadium, Maru brought the Carp from behind for the second time with his ninth home run, a fourth-inning solo shot that knocked starting pitcher Shun Yamaguchi out of the game and made it 4-4.
Eldred, who led the Central League in home runs last year and was playing in his 23rd game since returning from knee surgery, broke the tie in the seventh with his sixth homer, a two-run shot off Guillermo Moscoso (3-3).
Eldred came to the plate after Takahiro Arai reached on a leadoff single and pinch runner Masato Akamatsu stole second. Eldred gave some credit to batting coach Masahiro Arai for an adjustment he made in his fourth at-bat.
“I was really ready for that (fourth at-bat),” Eldred said. “Arai coach said keep going that way (to the opposite field) because they had been coming inside for balls and I’d been swinging at them. So I was sure to get something out over the plate.”
Eldred swung and missed at one inside fastball but took three others to run the count to 3-1, when Moscoso missed over the plate. Eldred got all of it, and put in the seats in right center.
Kosuke Tanaka reignited Hiroshima rally with his third hit of the game and scored on Yoshiyuki Ishihara’s double. Maru then doubled in the visitors’ final run.
Zach Johnson (6-3) allowed four runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings, while striking out seven. He also singled in the tying run in the second after surrendering the lead to the BayStars in the first.
Daichi Osera, who had started the season in the starting rotation, worked an inning of relief, before Shota Nakazaki finished up in the ninth.
Jose Lopez, who went 1-for-2 with two walks, gave Yokohama a 4-3 lead in the third with his 13th home run, a two-run shot.
Tigers 4, Swallows 1
At Koshien Stadium, Matt Murton slammed his first home run of the season, Mauro Gomez hit two RBI singles and Randy Messenger (5-5) allowed one run in seven innings as Hanshin defeated Tokyo Yakult and moved into second place.
Lions 14, Buffaloes 0
At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, Seibu hurler Ken Togame (5-3) allowed five hits and two walks, while striking out three over eight innings in a rout of Orix.
The Lions pounded out 17 hits, including Ernesto Mejia’s 12th home run, off six Buffaloes pitchers.
Eagles 3, Marines 2
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Zelous Wheeler started on the bench but his two-run, fifth-inning single put Tohoku Rakuten in front for good and Yuki Matsui shut the door on Chiba Lotte in the ninth to earn his 18th save.
The Eagles moved above .500 for the first time since April 18.
Hawks 11, Fighters 1
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Yuki Yanagita, who was named this season’s interleague MVP earlier in the day, went 3-for-5 with a double, his 14th home run and three RBIs to lead Fukuoka Softbank’s 15-hit onslaught in a win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.