CHIBA – Ernesto Mejia hit a tie-breaking solo homer for the Seibu Lions in their 5-4 Pacific League victory over the Chiba Lotte Marines on Saturday.
Before 25,618 at QVC Marine Field, Mejia, who tied for the PL lead with 34 home runs in his first partial season in Japan in 2014, made the first entry in his 2016 long-ball ledger in the sixth inning.
“It was a nice forkball hanging for a strike,” Mejia said. “I wasn’t looking for that, but I saw it and I guess I reacted really well, put good contact on the ball.
Kazuhisa Makita (2-0) threw four sparkling innings of long relief as the Lions twice overcame two-run deficits. The submariner allowed two hits and a walk, while striking out two after entering in the fifth inning. The Marines loaded the bases in the ninth with one out against right-hander Tatsushi Masuda, but could not push across the tying run.
On defense, Mejia darted around the field like a terrier — the first baseman nearly collided with his catcher before catching a foul pop for the second out. Mejia also tried his hand at coaching with one out and a man on first in the ninth, the first basemen went to the mound to have a word with Masuda after a first-pitch ball.
“I didn’t really say nothing, because my Japanese is not that good. But he understood what I was trying to do,” Mejia said. “I just wanted to give him a couple of seconds to breathe and relax. He slowed down a little, he came back and threw more strikes.”
Masuda surrendered a booming double and issued an intentional walk before ending the game with a pair of easy flies.
Lotte dented the scoreboard in the second, opening the scoring on a two-out, two-run double by catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura after an error prolonged the hosts’ at-bat. With two out and none on, third baseman Takeya Nakamura misplayed a grounder, and right-hander Ken Togame compounded matters by issuing a four-pitch walk.
With runners on first and second, Togame missed up high with a fat fastball and Tamura doubled to the gap in left to give the Marines the lead.
Seibu soon tied it. Ginjiro Sumitani and Yuji Onizaki opened the third inning with soft singles. Yuta Omine then pitched too carefully, and back-to-back walks by Shogo Akiyama and Tomoya Mori pushed a run across. Another run scored when Omine served up his third double play groundball of the game.
Ikuhiro Kiyota doubled in a run to put the Marines ahead in the third inning. Daichi Suzuki doubled to open the hosts’ fourth and scored his second run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Shogo Nakamura.
But Akiyama tied it in the fifth. Sumitani singled to open the fifth to set the table. Akiyama fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before running the count full. Omine missed with a fastball in the heart of the zone and Akiyama drove it over the wall in right for his first homer.
In the sixth, Lotte right-hander Masaki Minami (0-1) missed up with a 1-1 forkball and Mejia drove it well back into the stands in left center.
“That was the kind of careless pitch you can’t have in a tight game,” Marines manager Tsutomu Ito said.
Togame allowed four runs — two earned — in four innings, while walking three and striking out two. Omine lasted an inning longer, but faired no better, giving up five hits and walking four, while striking out one.
Hawks 13, Buffaloes 1
At Kagoshima’s Kamoike Stadium, Fukuoka SoftBank treated its fans in Kagoshima to an offensive explosion as Rick van den Hurk (2-0) allowed one unearned run over seven innings to outpitch Orix ace Chihiro Kaneko (0-1), who yielded eight runs in 4-1/3 innings.
Fighters 9, Eagles 7
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Kensuke Tanaka and Sho Nakata each drove in three runs apiece to power Hokkaido Nippon Ham to a come-from-behind victory over Tohoku Rakuten.
Carp 6, Tigers 2 (10)
At Koshien Stadium, Yoshihiro Maru and Hector Luna drove in two runs apiece as Hiroshima came from behind to beat Hanshin.
The Tigers took the lead on Taiga Egoshi’s fourth homer in four games, a two-run shot off Hiroki Kuroda in the fourth inning.
BayStars 10, Swallows 5
At Yokohama Stadium, Jose Lopez homered in three consecutive at-bats and drove in six runs as Yokohama rallied to beat Tokyo Yakult.
Giants 0, Dragons 0 (12)
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi ace Kazuki Yoshimi and third-year Yomiuri lefty Kazuto Taguchi matched zeroes for seven innings, and a total of 10 relievers kept the game scoreless until it was declared a tie when called after 12 innings.