• Kyodo


Luis Cruz drove in two runs, one on a tie-breaking solo homer as the Yomiuri Giants avenged a shutout loss to Hiroki Kuroda by beating the Hiroshima Carp 6-5 in the Central League on Saturday.

With the game tied 5-5 in the bottom of the fifth and his parents in the stands, Cruz went deep to left for his fourth home run of the season. The Giants then held on to the slim lead behind a strong effort from the bullpen. Yomiuri used seven pitchers, with the last five not surrendering a run, and closer Hirokazu Sawamura recording his fourth save.

“I enjoy seeing them enjoy the game. It motivates me a lot. He helps me concentrate,” Cruz said of his dad, whom he called the best coach he’s ever had. “We were talking yesterday at 1 a.m., watching video (of my hitting). I woke up this morning and felt really good.”

After getting out of a tight spot in the top of the first before 44,250 at Tokyo Dome, the Giants opened the scoring with three runs in the first off Kuroda. Two weeks after holding Yomiuri to four hits, Kuroda’s control was not sharp as he allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks over five innings.

With a miserly strike zone from home plate umpire Tetsuo Yamaji, he and Giants starter, lefty Kazuto Taguchi, both struggled to get ahead in counts. And when the command was not there, the runs piled up.

“He threw a lot of pitches close (to the zone) but we weren’t swinging at those,” Cruz said. “We were able to bring him back to the plate.”

Cruz broke the ice in the bottom of the first, going the opposite way with a 1-0 two-seamer inside for a two-out RBI single that dropped in front of right fielder Seiya Suzuki to plate Yasuyuki Kataoka. Garret Jones beat a throw to third and Cruz took advantage of the throw to take second. They both scored on Yoshiyuki Kamei’s clean single to center.

“The first inning was everything,” Kuroda said. “Today I wasn’t able to do the things I’m capable of doing.”

Trailing 4-1 in the top of the third, the first six Carp batters reached against Taguchi to tie it up. With runners on first and second and no outs, Hector Luna singled in one. A hit batsman loaded the bases for Takahiro Arai, who singled in two more, but Luna, who has solved Hiroshima’s offensive hole at third base this spring, limped back to the bench and came out of the game.

In the bottom of the inning, Kuroda hung a first-pitch slider away to Shuichi Murata, who just cleared the wall in right for his first home run of the year and a one-run lead. Taguchi was pulled for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning and the Carp tied it off Yuki Koyama.

The right-hander surrendered a leadoff single, but was helped out when catcher Seiji Kobayashi threw him out trying to steal for the second out. Koyama, however, walked two, and Brad Eldred greeted new right-hander Seiji Tahara with an RBI single to tie it up.

Kuroda pitched out of a jam in the fourth to keep it tied, but Cruz put a good swing on a mediocre 0-1 splitter at the knees and drove it over the left-field wall for a leadoff homer.

“He did well to get out in front of that split,” Kuroda said. “This is a (small) dome stadium, and that (the home run ball) will take your life.”

Chiaki Tone worked a scoreless sixth for the Giants and Scott Mathieson did the same in the seventh, but left after allowing two hits to the first three batters he faced in the eighth. With the infield in, lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi got a grounder to second, a strike to home from second baseman Kataoka and a good tag at by Kobayashi at the plate for the second out, and the threat died with a groundout to Cruz at short.

Swallows 4, BayStars 0

At Ehime Prefecture’s Botchan Stadium, lefty Masanori Ishikawa (2-2) allowed four hits over 6-1/3 innings, and Wladimir Balentien hit a two-run homer as Tokyo Yakult handed Yokohama its third straight loss.

Dragons 4, Tigers 3

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi overcame a late three-run deficit to beat Hanshin, clinching it on Shota Sugiyama’s two-run sayonara double.


Fighters 8, Marines 2

At Sapporo Dome, rookie lefty Takayuki Kato (1-0) allowed four hits but no walks or runs over six innings to earn his first win as Hokkaido Nippon Ham cleanup hitter Sho Nakata reached base four times and drove in four runs in a win over Chiba Lotte.

Lions 7, Buffaloes 4

At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, Seibu overturned a one-run deficit in the eighth against Orix ace Chihiro Kaneko (0-2) behind 2-1/3 scoreless innings of relief from Kazuhisa Makita (3-0).

Eagles at Hawks — ppd.

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