CHIBA – Yusei Kikuchi threw eight shutout innings as the Seibu Lions beat the Chiba Lotte Marines 6-0 on Saturday to pull a game ahead of them in the battle for the Pacific League’s final playoff spot.
Kikuchi (8-8) established his fastball early before wrecking havoc with his other pitches and dominated the game for the first six innings. He left after throwing 105 pitches and allowed six hits and two walks, while striking out four.
“This was a big game for us, so I came out fired up from the first inning,” Kikuchi said. “My fastball was good in the early innings, and then I got a lead that made it easier for me.”
Ernesto Mejia homered, drove in three runs and had four of the Lions’ 14 hits.
“I’m trying to finish strong,” said Mejia, whose average and power have not matched his impressive numbers last season, when he batted .290 and tied for the league lead in home runs.
“I had a good season last year, but I didn’t do well at the end, so I want to finish strong.”
Before a good crowd of 27,091 at QVC Marine Field, Takeya Nakamura broke the ice with a first-inning RBI single off lefty Takuya Furuya. Ryota Wakiya hit a one-out squib infield single and Hideto Asamura was jammed but saw his fly ball fall between center and right to put men on first and second with one out. Nakamura fell behind 0-2 but pulled a 3-2 slider away into left to put the Lions up.
Seibu scored two more in the third because the Marines chose not to let Nakamura beat them again with his bat. With two outs and PL batting leader Shogo Akiyama on second after his 192nd hit of the season, Lotte walked the slugger on four pitches. Mejia, whose double play grounder had cut short Seibu’s first-inning rally, smacked the first pitch into left for an RBI single, and Takumi Kuriyama followed with a single that scored Nakamura.
Furuya (3-3) allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks over four-plus innings.
The Marines switched to right-hander Kento Yachi after Wakiya’s leadoff single in the fifth and things went from bad to worse. With two outs, Mejia blasted a 2-2 slider for his 24th home run. Kuriyama walked and scored after singles by Tomoya Mori and Ginjiro Sumitani.
Kikuchi’s control appeared to be waning in the eighth, when a walk and a single with no outs gave Lotte its best opportunity of the night, but a strikeout from a poor at-bat and bad base running spoiled it.
“In the middle of the game, I wasn’t that good,” Kikuchi said. “Overall it was OK, but I’m capable of more than I did tonight.”
Hawks 7, Eagles 0
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Shota Takeda (11-5) threw seven shutout innings on five hits for Fukuoka Softbank and Nobuhiro Matsuda set a career high in home runs with his 30th, a fifth-inning solo shot off Tohoku Rakuten’s Kenji Tomura (7-8).
The PL-leading Hawks sealed the game with a five-run seventh.
Fighters 7, Buffaloes 0
At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, Hokkaido Nippon Ham rookie Kohei Arihara (8-4) marked his first-career shutout after scattering four hits without a walk against Orix.
Sho Nakata’s two-run homer gave the Fighters the lead in the fourth and Nakata, Kensuke Kondo and Brandon Laird each hit solo homers in the sixth.
Tigers 8, Dragons 2
At Nagoya Dome, Matt Murton opened the scoring in a seven-run third for Hanshin with a one-out, bases-loaded single before Mauro Gomez and Hiroki Uemoto each drove in two runs against Chunichi.
Atushi Nomi (10-11) held theDragons to two runs on five hits in 6-1/3 innings.
Carp 4, Swallows 0
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Hiroshima broke a scoreless deadlock in the ninth with a one-out grounder with runners on the corners and Yoshihiro Maru plated two more with a bases-loaded single off Tokyo Yakult’s closer Tony Barnette (2-1).
Carp starter Hiroki Kuroda allowed three hits in seven innings, while counterpart Taichi Ishiyama yielded five hits in six shutout innings.
BayStars 6, Giants 5
At Yokohama Stadium, Sho Aranami hit a leadoff solo shot in the first inning, and Takayuki Kajitani and Jose Lopez added each homered in the third off Yomiuri’s Hayato Takagi (8-9) and Yokohama never trailed.
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