The Hiroshima Carp have more work to do during the regular season in order to get where they want to be. Now the Tokyo Yakult Swallows still do as well.
Yoshihiro Maru tied the game with a homer in the fifth, Brad Eldred hit a tiebreaking two-run shot during the same frame, and the Carp forced the Central League-leading Swallows to put the beer on ice for at least another night with a 4-2 victory in front a crowd of 33,522 on Tuesday at Jingu Stadium.
The Carp, favored by many to compete for the CL title, are out of the pennant race, but still trying to chase down the Hanshin Tigers for the third and final spot in next month’s CL Climax Series. The Carp began the day 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers, who edged the Yokohama BayStars 4-3 at Koshien Stadium on Tuesday night.
“We gotta win pretty much every game just to try to put us in the best situation,” Eldred said. “This is a big win. We’ve got a handful of games left and we basically gotta come out and do the same thing — score runs, and the pitching has gotta be right on the money the way it’s been.”
The Swallows’ magic number to win the pennant remained at one.
“They won’t let you win it easily,” Swallows manager Mitsuru Manaka said. “It was just a tough game for us. We aren’t thinking we’re going to win it easily.”
The Birds will have another chance to clinch on Thursday night with a win over the Tigers.
“It is what it is,” said second baseman Tetsuto Yamada. “We just have to regroup for the game the day after tomorrow.”
The third time turned out to be the charm for the Carp against Swallows starter Shohei Tateyama, who entered the game having thrown 14 consecutive scoreless innings over two starts against the them.
Having left a number of runners on base over the first four innings, Maru sent the second pitch he saw in the fifth screaming toward the seats in left, tying the game with his 19th home run of the season.
“I threw him a change-up and was trying to get him out on an outfield fly, but it was too high of a pitch against someone who can hit 19 home runs,” Tateyama said.
Eldred, who entered the game 0-for-5 with a strikeout against Tateyama this year, hit an even deeper drive, after Ryuhei Matsuyama drew a walk, to give the Carp a two-run advantage.
“I’ve faced him twice already this year,” Eldred said. “Both times I had two at-bats that I hit the ball pretty well, just barely missed hitting home runs. I knew he was a guy that’s aggressive, that’s going to throw strikes, so I was looking for a good pitch and I got one that I was able to hit over the fence.”
Eldred’s home run was his 18th of the season.
“I threw a two-seamer and it’s what I believed would do the job,” Tateyama said. “I’ve actually held opponents down with this pitch and gotten some double plays. I was confident with that pitch, but he prevailed in that spot.”
Hiroshima’s Yusuke Nomura was the winning pitcher. Nomura (5-8) threw five innings of one-run ball, allowed eight hits and struck out three.
“They had a good pitcher going against us,” said Yakult slugger Kazuhiro Hatakeyama. “All you can do is prepare well, and if you can’t hit, you can’t hit.”
Tateyama (6-3) got off to a shaky start and was charged with the loss after allowing three runs on three hits. He struggled with his location for much of his outing and walked four batters over the first two innings. He walked five in total and finished with four strikeouts.
“I tried not to give up a run, but I ended up giving up two home runs for three runs,” he said. “It was all on me.”
Yamada accounted for all of the Swallows’ scoring with run-scoring singles in the third and seventh innings. The Swallows out-hit the Carp 10-9, but failed to turn that offense into runs.
One of the few exceptions came in the third, when Tateyama singled and went to second on a two-out single by Shingo Kawabata later in the frame. Yamada drove his pitcher in to make the score 1-0.
The Carp surged ahead to take a 3-1 lead in the fifth after the home runs from Maru and Eldred.
Yakult’s Yuhei Nakamura led off the home half of the seventh with a single off reliever Daichi Osera, and Tsuyoshi Ueaa drew a one-out walk later in the frame to give the Swallows runners on first and second. Kawabata popped up for the second out, but Yamada singled into center to cut the Hiroshima advantage to one run.
That’s all the Swallows would get as Osera retired Hatakeyama to end the threat.
The Carp tacked on an insurance run on an RBI triple by rookie Takayoshi Noma in the eighth to make the score 4-2.
Tigers eke out win over BayStars
Nishinomiya Hyogo Pref. KYODO
The Hanshin Tigers capitalized on a string of ninth-inning mistakes to defeat the Yokohama BayStars 4-3 after the visitors had tied it at 3-3 in the eighth inning on Tuesday night.
After the leadoff batter reached on a swinging third strike that wasn’t caught at Koshien Stadium, a throwing error on a sacrifice put the go-ahead run on third, where it scored on a passed ball.
Eagles 10, Hawks 5
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Takero Okajima and Zelous Wheeler each homered and drove in seven runs between them as last-place Tohoku Rakuten shellacked PL champion Fukuoka Softbank.
Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report
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