The latest matchup between two of the oldest teams in Japan saw two of the youngest players on the field shining brightest under the lights at Tokyo Dome.
Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami did it with both his arm and his legs, and rookie outfielder Shun Takayama left his mark in his first appearance in the old Central League rivalry as Hanshin beat the Yomiuri Giants 8-2 in front of a crowd of 44,532 on Tuesday night at the Big Egg.
Fujinami held the Giants in check for eight innings, allowing two runs and striking out 12. He didn’t have his best control early on but settled in as the game wore on and kept the Giants hitters off-kilter.
“Today, I was able to be be effective with my breaking pitches, my cutter and forkball especially,” Fujinami said. “I mixed my pitches well and just followed (catcher Ryutaro) Umeno’s lead.”
The 21-year-old also finished with a single, drew a walk and showed off his base-running skills in scoring two runs.
“That was a little unexpected,” Fujinami said of his third-inning single. “I’m just glad I was able to put the ball in a good place.”
Takayama, the Tigers’ heavily-hyped, 22-year-old rookie, finished with four singles and drove in two runs.
“It was a very good night for me,” Takayama said. “Anytime I can get four hits, especially against the Giants, it’s a big thrill.”
He was drafted to much fanfare last fall and hasn’t disappointed. He hit .327 during the spring and has carried that form into the regular season, hitting .333 with a home run and seven RBIs in his first 10 regular-season games. He didn’t miss a beat on Tuesday, stepping into the Giants-Tigers fray for the first time.
“It’s a great start for him,” said Tom O’Malley, one of the Tigers’ hitting coaches. “It doesn’t seem to faze him. He’s relaxed in big situations, and I think that helps. He’s got a good demeanor and good composure. It was a great game for him.”
Not even the prospect of going up against former major leaguer Aaron Poreda, who has a good fastball, could shake the rookie.
“I didn’t change my approach,” Takayama said. “I had prepared for that.”
Veteran Kosuke Fukudome also recorded a pair of RBIs. Shintaro Yokota, a 21-year-old, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka each finished with one RBI.
The Tigers did a lot of the little things right on the basepaths to put themselves in favorable situations and reaped the benefits.
The result gives Tigers manager Tomoaki Kanemoto the advantage over his counterpart Yoshinobu Takahashi in the battle of rookie skippers. Hanshin also got off to a winning start against Poreda, a pitcher the club didn’t have much luck against in 2015.
Poreda made eight starts against Hanshin last season, coming away with five victories. He was hit early and often in their first meeting in 2016, allowing eight runs on eight hits over six innings. Poreda struck out five, walked three, and was called for a balk with the bases loaded in the sixth.
The Giants didn’t do much on the offensive end either, coming up with just six hits. Takehiro Donoue drove in a run with a solo home run and Garrett Jones finished 1-for-3 with an RBI single.
The Tigers started the scoring in the bottom of the first, taking an early lead on an RBI single by Fukudome.
Yomiuri’s Hisayoshi Chono swung at the first pitch he saw in the bottom half of the inning and connected on a single. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and advanced to third on a flyout by Hayato Sakamoto. A single by Jones evened the score at 1-1.
Fujinami singled to begin the third, then went from first to third on a single by Takayama. Fujinami later scored the tiebreaking run on an infield single from Yokota. The next batter, Matt Hague, drew a walk to load the bases, and Fukudome connected on a sacrifice fly to bring in a run. The Tigers scored again when Giants catcher Seiji Kobayashi made an errant throw into center field while trying to prevent Hague from stealing second.
The Tigers were back at it in the sixth. Mauro Gomez drew a one-out walk and stole second. He went to third on a single by Takashi Toritani and scored on a hit by Nishioka. Fujinami drew a walk that loaded the bases later in the inning, and Poreda was called for a balk to bring in another run. Takayama then connected on a two-run single to make the score 8-1.
The two teams will return to Tokyo Dome on Wednesday for the second game of their three-game set.
The Tigers will send lefty Minoru Iwata to the mound as they try to earn a fourth straight victory. Ace Tomoyuki Sugano will toe the rubber for the Kyojin, who will be looking to avoid their first losing streak of the season.
Hanshin would move into first place with a victory.
“That would be great if we can win again tomorrow and go into first place,” Takayama said. “But it’s still very early in the season.”
Dragons edge BayStars
Chunichi’s Shunta Wakamatsu (2-0) pitched out of jams for eight innings and drove in the game’s only run when he plated his catcher, Shota Sugiyama from third with a sacrifice fly in the Dragons’ 1-0 win over Yokohama BayStars on Tuesday in Central Leageu.
Sugiyama’s triple was one of just three hits allowed by rookie Shota Imanaga (0-2), who struck out six and walked none but took the loss.
Carp 12, Swallows 5
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima catcher Tsubasa Aizawa tagged out a Tokyo Yakult runner at home to end the fifth inning and put his team ahead in the home half with a grand slam.
Brad Eldred, who threw the runner out from left field, singled with one out in the fifth off Swallows lefty Yoshihisa Naruse (1-1) to start the winning rally.
Lions 10, Fighters 0
At Tokorozawa’s Seibu Prince Dome, Seibu ace Takayuki Kishi (2-0) remained unscored upon this season after throwing a one-hitter against Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Kishi walked two and struck out five. The Lions mauled Fighters pitcher Mitsuo Yoshikawa (1-1) for eight runs in the fourth inning, when the lefty was knocked out of the game.
Eagles 11, Buffaloes 0
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, lefty Wataru Karashima (1-1) threw seven innings and Tohoku Rakuten teed off on Orix starter Yuki Nishi (0-2), who gave up six runs in three-plus innings.
Rookie Eigoro Mogi had three of the Eagles’ 17 hits and scored three runs in the rout.
Hawks 4, Marines 4 (12)
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Tsuyoshi Wada came two innings short of winning his first game since returning to Fukuoka SoftBank after four years in Major League Baseball.
Trailing 4-2 in the eighth, Chiba Lotte rallied for two runs against Edison Barios and the game was declared a tie after 12 innings.
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