Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Giants edge Carp, climb back into first place

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Garrett Jones knew Hayato Sakamoto had the speed to make it home; he just needed the chance.

So Jones gave him one.

Jones hit a tiebreaking RBI double off Kris Johnson in the eighth inning, with Sakamoto sprinting from first to home, to help lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 3-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp in front of a crowd of 44,858 on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.

“I was hoping he could score and I’m glad it worked out for us,” Jones said.

Jones, who has had an up-and-down start to his NPB career, finished with two hits, none bigger than the ball he hit between the Hiroshima outfielders in right-center in the eighth.

“Garrett had been struggling, so it’s good to see him get some hits and the winning RBI,” Giants manager Yoshinobu Takahashi said.

The Giants ended a three-game losing streak with the win, moving back into first place in the Central League ahead of the Carp.

“Now we’ve started a winning streak and will try to build on it,” Takahashi said.

Yomiuri also got the better of Johnson for the first time. The Carp left-hander hadn’t even allowed a run against the Kyojin in three previous appearances (two wins), which all came last season.

Johnson kept the Giants off the board through three innings on Tuesday, before a two-out error by shortstop Kosuke Tanaka allowed a run to score in the fourth. The Giants added another on an RBI single by Shuichi Murata later in the frame.

“Errors happen,” Johnson said. “I should’ve knuckled down and shouldn’t have let that second run score.”

Jones, Murata and Hisayoshi Chono accounted for all of the Giants’ hits with two apiece.

Yomiuri pitcher Scott Mathieson (3-0) retired all three batters he faced in the eighth and was credited with the win. Hirokazu Sawamura allowed a hit in the ninth but still managed to convert his eighth save of the season.

Giants starter Kazuto Taguchi gave up a home run on the very first pitch he threw but regained his bearings and made it through seven innings, allowing a pair of runs on seven hits.

“I gave up the solo home runs, but I did not walk any batters, so I was happy about that,” Taguchi said.

Taguchi, who didn’t factor into the decision, struck out seven.

“Taguchi pitched well for us,” Takahashi said. “It’s too bad he was not the winning pitcher.”

Johnson (3-3) was charged with the loss. The left-hander allowed six hits, struck out four and walked two batters.

“I felt like I threw all my pitches for strikes, really mixed them well,” Johnson said. “I just didn’t make the pitches when we needed it.”

Tanaka hit a leadoff home run for the Carp in the top of the first inning, and Brad Eldred added a solo shot, his 11th of the season, in the fourth. That was all the offense Hiroshima could muster despite out-hitting Yomiuri 8-6.

The Carp led 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth.

Sakamoto drew a one out walk for the Giants and later went to third on a two-out single by Chono. Yoshiyuki Kamei then hit a ground ball to short that should’ve ended the inning, but Tanaka couldn’t come up the ball, allowing Sakamoto to score on the error. The next batter, Murata, tied the score with an RBI single to left.

The Carp looked ready to break the deadlock in the seventh. Eldred singled to begin the frame, and Seiya Suzuki doubled. The Giants got the first out of the inning when Shota Dobayashi hit into a fielder’s choice, and Taguchi got an opportune ground ball from Yoshiyuki Ishihara that resulted in a 6-4-3 double play.

“It was a relief to get the double play and get out of the inning,” Taguchi said.

Johnson retired the first two batters of the eighth before walking Sakamoto. Jones then delivered his run-scoring double off his former Pittsburgh Pirates teammate.

“I just wanted to get a good pitch to hit,” Jones said. “Johnson’s a good pitcher.”

Yamanaka blanks BayStars

Yokohama KYODO

Submarine right-hander Hirofumi Yamanaka (2-1) threw a four-hitter, Wladimir Balentien homered and drove in four runs, and Tetsuto Yamada added a two-run jack as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows defeated the Yokohama BayStars 6-0 in the Central League on Tuesday.

Yakult extended its winning streak to five games..

Dragons 4, Tigers 2

At Nagoya Dome, Iori Katsura’s fifth-inning leadoff home run against Shintaro Fujinamai (3-2) broke a 2-2 tie as Chunichi came from behind to beat Hanshin and snap a three-game losing skid.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hawks 5, Fighters 4 (10)

At Sapporo Dome, Nobuhiro Matsuda capped a late comeback with a 10th-inning solo homer as Fukuoka overturned a four-run, eighth-inning deficit to beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham in an afternoon contest.

“I thought I hit it too high. It’s been a long time,” said Matsuda, who had singled in a run in the eighth before going deep off rookie right-hander Kazutomo Iguchi (0-1).

Seiichi Uchikawa singled in two runs off second-year Fighters right-hander Kohei Arihara in the eighth, while Matsuda singled in another before Uchikawa plated Yuichi Honda with the tying run in the ninth — taking starter Rick van den Hurk off the hook for what would have been his only first-team defeat in Japan.

Without first-choice middle relievers Edison Barrios and Ryota Igarashi, three Hawks pitchers worked the ninth inning. Hayato Terahara (1-0) entered with two outs and the bases loaded, but struck out cleanup hitter Sho Nakata on a 3-2 pitch to send the game to extra innings.

Softbank closer Dennis Sarfate took the mound in the bottom of the 10th and closed it out to earn his seventh save.

Van den Hurk had a chance to make history by winning his first 14 decisions, but strong efforts from Brandon Laird and Arihara put any hopes for a record in peril.

Laird hit two solo homers, walked and scored three runs, while Arihara, last year’s PL Rookie of the Year, held the Hawks scoreless for seven innings before giving up three runs in the eighth. He worked 7-1/3 innings, allowing five hits and three walks, while striking out four.

Van den Hurk allowed four runs in a game for the first time with the top team. The right-hander was charged with three earned runs on five hits and two walks, while striking out nine over seven innings. When he made mistakes, the Fighters took advantage.

Daiki Asama, coming off the first three-hit game of his career on Sunday, hit a 150-kph fastball that missed in the heart of the zone and sliced it out to left for an opposite-field homer.

With two outs in the second and a 3-0 count to Laird, van den Hurk missed again with a fastball and Laird responded with his sixth homer of the season. Laird made it 3-0 in the fifth, when he walked and scored on an error.

With Arihara cruising, Laird’s seventh-inning homer looked like all the Fighters would need, but the Hawks rallied and kept van den Hurk’s run at history alive for his next start.

“On the bench we were all talking about keeping Vandy from getting stuck with a loss. We were pretty motivated,” Matsuda said.

Back-to-back singles opened the Hawks’ eighth. A one-out walk loaded the bases for Uchikawa, who singled to chase Arihara. With two outs, Matsuda singled off Chris Martin.

After Softbank right-hander Yuito Mori escaped a two-out, bases-loaded scare in the bottom of the eighth, Uchikawa singled to tie it against Fighters closer Hirotoshi Masui with two outs in the ninth.

Buffaloes 7, Lions 6

At Tokorozawa’s Seibu Prince Dome, Takahiro Okada homered for the second straight game, hitting a three-run shot in the first inning, and Brandon Dickson (3-2) allowed two runs in eight innings to earn the win as Orix held off Seibu.

Lions leadoff man Shogo Akiyama went 4-for-5 with a solo homer and a two-run single.

Eagles 2, Marines 1

At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Motohiro Shima tied it in the ninth with a two-out RBI double off closer Yuji Nishino (2-1) and scored the winning run on Takero Okajima’s single as Tohoku Rakuten rallied from a run down to beat Chiba Lotte.

Kam Mickolio (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his first win since he was with the Hiroshima Carp in 2014.

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