TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. – Luis Mendoza was hardly at his best Wednesday, but the former Kansas City Royal battled into the sixth inning to earn the win as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Seibu Lions 6-3.
Sho Nakata drove in two runs for the Fighters, who exploited Yusei Kikuchi’s poor command of his breaking pitches. The visitors made consistent contact to tag the lefty for five runs on seven hits and two walks before 25,661 at Saitama Prefecture’s Seibu Prince Dome.
The Lions turned two double plays behind Kikuchi (6-7) in his five-inning stint. One run was unearned.
Mendoza, if anything, looked even less comfortable than his shaky counterpart. The Mexican right-hander frequently flicked, probed and smoothed the dirt on the mound between pitches and nearly stumbled on numerous deliveries only to keep his balance by landing on his glove hand.
“The mound here is loose, sandy. Shohei Otani told me the same thing last night. It’s hard to manage your pitches,” said Mendoza, who improved to 7-6. “Don’t make a mistake because of that.”
Despite shaky footing, four hits and seven walks, Mendoza managed to allow just three runs in 5⅔ innings. He struck out four and allowed a home run in the second to Takeya Nakamura, who hit his Japan-leading 32nd homer.
After Kikuchi worked a 1-2-3 first, the Fighters broke the ice in the second in a four-hit, one-walk inning. Shingo Ishikawa’s one-out groundball single past short made it 1-0, and another sharp single made it 2-0.
Nakamura opened the bottom of the inning by diving into a slider like he knew it was coming after five two-seamers, and rocketed it out to left.
But Kikuchi couldn’t stop the bleeding as the Fighters tacked on two more in the third. Following a leadoff single, Nakamura fielded a double-play grounder at third but his throwing error put two on with no outs.
Nakata’s RBI single brought in one, and another scored on a double play.
Mendoza was poised to give the game away in the third, when three two-out walks brought Nakamura to the plate. But this time, Japan’s all-time grand slam leader tapped out weakly to short.
“I just try to trust my stuff,” Mendoza said. “I thought my two-seam was moving good, but they just took it: ball, ball.
“I trusted I could get him (Nakamura) out with a changeup.”
In the Fighters’ fifth, Kensuke Tanaka drew a one-out walk and scored from second on a sweetly-struck single from Nakata.
“Nakata is gradually getting in better form,” Fighters skipper Hideki Kuriyama said. “He even looked good taking pitches and fouling off ones he didn’t like. We need him to hit. If he doesn’t hit, we don’t win.”
Two walks a wild pitch and a throwing error by substitute catcher Tatsuyuki Uemoto made it 6-3 Fighters in the seventh off reliever Toshihiro Iwao.
Closer Hirotoshi Masui capped the night for the Fighters with three straight outs in the ninth for his 28th save.
Buffaloes 3, Hawks 2
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Orix’s Yuya Oda broke a 2-2 tie in the third with his first career home run, a solo shot off Kenichi Nakata (7-4), and Daiki Tomei held SoftBank to two earned runs on eight hits.
Eagles 1, Marines 0
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium Miyagi, Kazuo Matsui’s solo homer in the fourth provided the only run of the game as Tohoku Rakuten snapped its losing skid at five against Chiba Lotte, which couldn’t help Ayumu Ishikawa (8-9), who fanned 11 in pitching a six-hitter.
Giants 8, BayStars 7
At Tokyo Dome, Takehiro Donoue hit a one-out grand slam off the BayStars’ Daisuke Miura (4-4) and Tetsuya Utsumi (1-1) picked up his first win of the season for Yomiuri despite giving up four runs on eight hits in 5⅔ innings.
Tigers 3, Dragons 1
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Hanshin starter Randy Messenger singled in a run in the third off his Chunichi counterpart Raul Valdes (2-8), and Katsuhiko Saka hit a tie-breaking RBI triple in the eighth as Hanshin moved to a season-high six games over .500.
Swallows 5, Carp 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Yasuhiro Ogawa (7-6) threw a four-hitter against Hiroshima for his first shutout in two years for Tokyo Yakult, which was aided by home runs from Tetsuto Yamada in the first and Keiji Obiki in the fifth.
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