Shintaro Fujinami helped himself with the bat and then turned his game around on the mound, going seven innings as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 7-3 in a game between the Central League’s top two teams.
Fujinami (10-5) allowed two runs over the first three innings, in which he walked five and surrendered three hits — mostly on his normally effective fastball. But just after Hanshin tied the score 2-2 in the top of the third, the pitcher’s two-run double put the visitors in front for good.
“I was really frustrated at the start, so it was a matter of adjust, adjust, adjust,” said the 21-year-old Fujinami, who took over the CL lead in wins. “The hit was just a matter of the ball hitting my bat and going in a lucky direction.”
With a two-run lead to work with, the 198-cm right-hander went to the mound in the fourth and changed the game. Making more use of his cut fastball and breaking pitches, Fujinami retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced, five by strike out. He gave up four hits and five walks, while striking out seven in his 122-pitch stint.
“Being able to go after batters even with my breaking pitches is one of my strong points,” he said. “Going back to that kept me from falling apart when I stumbled and hang in there.”
The win, before 31,731 at sold-out Jingu Stadium, kept the Tigers 2-1/2 games clear at the top of the standings, with the Yomiuri Giants replacing the Swallows in the second spot.
With one out and two Swallows on base in the second, Hanshin right fielder Kosuke Fukudome made a super catch in right for the second out, but Fujinami let things get away.
The youngster followed by walking Yakult pitcher Masato Furuno (4-3) and light-hitting leadoff man Masayoshi Miwa to push across the game’s first run. Fujinami left a 2-2 forkball high in the zone for Shingo Kawabata, but the CL’s leading hitter missed it to end the threat.
After the Tigers’ Taiga Egoshi tied it in the top of the inning, Swallows dynamo Tetsuto Yamada doubled and came around to score on a wild pitch.
Furuno, who’d allowed just a run on five hits up this point, hit Mauro Gomez to open the Tigers fourth and walked Matt Murton. With two outs, Kazunari Tsuruoka doubled past third base to tie it, and Fujinami did likewise to drive in two.
The Swallows threatened to get back in the game in the eighth and ninth, but with two on and none out in the final inning, closer Oh Seung-hwan took over and put out the fire with three straight strikeouts for his 36th save.
Giants 7, Dragons 2
At Nagoya Dome, Aaron Poreda (7-5) allowed two runs, one earned, in five innings, while Daiki Yoshikawa and Hayato Sakamoto each drove in two runs for Yomiuri in a win over Chunichi.
Carp 8, BayStars 4
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Takahiro Arai broke a 4-4 tie with a fifth-inning RBI double, and Yoshihiro Maru hit a three-run homer in the sixth to power Hiroshima past Yokohama.
Hawks 8, Lions 2
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Rick van den Hurk (6-0) allowed two runs in six innings, while striking out nine and Fukuoka Softbank broke the game open early with first-inning home runs from Yuki Yanagita and Nobuhiro Matsuda off Seibu starter Ken Togame (7-7).
Marines 3, Buffaloes 2
At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, Hideaki Wakui (10-7) allowed two runs in seven innings and Alfredo Despaigne drove in all three Chiba Lotte runs with a homer and a two-run double as the Marines snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Orix.
Fighters 4, Eagles 2
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Mitsuo Yoshikawa (9-5) allowed a run in seven innings, and Kensuke Kondo opened the scoring for Hokkaido Nippon Ham with a sixth-inning RBI double in a win over Tohoku Rakuten.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.