YOKOHAMA – Takayuki Kajitani marked his return to the Yokohama BayStars’ lineup by driving in one run and scoring another in a 3-2 victory over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the Central League on Wednesday afternoon.
Before a crowd of 28,940 at Yokohama Stadium, Kajitani, who had been out since suffering an injury to his left oblique muscle in March, broke up a scoreless tie in the fourth with a one-out RBI single and then tripled and scored Yokohama’s second run of the day in the sixth.
“It felt great today, hearing the full crowd cheering my name,” said Kajitani, whose return was delayed when he tried too hard to be fit for opening day and aggravated his injury.
“I was out for 2½ months. It was frustrating with so much time on my hands.”
The return of the multi-talented center fielder was a huge boost for the last-place BayStars, whose regular cleanup hitter, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, is sidelined with a muscle strain but is expected back soon. The BayStars’ 95 runs are the fewest in the CL this season.
“I was expecting him to do what he did,” first-year BayStars skipper Alex Ramirez said. “He led the league in batting with runners in scoring position last year. He’s the guy you want in that situation.
“We really need him in the middle of the lineup, batting third. We are a different lineup with him there. When Tsutsugo comes back, we’ll be even better.”
Rookie Kenta Ishida (2-1) threw six-plus scoreless innings to earn the win. The lefty surrendered six hits, walked one and struck out seven.
Left fielder Tomo Otosaka threw out a runner at the plate to prevent Yakult from taking the lead in the third before scoring the game’s first run for the hosts in the fifth.
In the third inning, with the Swallows hitting rookie Ishida hard in the early going, Otosaka charged Tetsuto Yamada’s two-out single, threw a strike home, and rookie catcher Yasutaka Tobashira applied a nice tag on Tomotaka Sakaguchi, who was trying to score from second.
Throwing mostly fastballs in his first trip through the Yakult order, Ishida gave up four line drives on the first five balls put in play. Unfortunately for the visitors, all but one was hit directly at a BayStars fielder for an out.
Otosaka got the first hit off Swallows starter Nagisa Arakaki (1-1) in the fourth, doubling to left center. Kajitani then singled to right to break the ice.
Arakaki allowed three runs on five hits and three walks over 6⅓ innings. The right-hander struck out three.
After Ishida broke out his changeup and cruised through the fifth and sixth innings, Kajitani tripled and scored to make it 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth.
Tobashira doubled to chase Arakaki with one out in the bottom of the seventh, and Toshiro Miyazaki brought him home with a pinch-hit single off lefty Masato Nakazawa.
The Swallows loaded the bases with one out in the eighth on a double and two walks against right-hander Tomoya Mikami, who allowed a sacrifice fly to Wladimir Balentein that made it a 3-1 game. Lefty Kenjiro Tanaka entered and surrendered an RBI single to Yuhei Takai.
Second-year closer Yasuaki Yamasaki took the mound in the ninth and worked around a two-out walk to record his fifth save.
Tigers 9, Dragons 0
At Nagoya Dome, Hanshin’s top draft pick last autumn, Yuya Yokoyama (1-0), allowed three hits and a walk over seven innings before two relievers completed the shutout.
Tigers catcher Fumihito Haraguchi feasted off Chunichi pitching, homering and driving in four runs.
Carp 6, Giants 1
At Tokyo Dome, Yusuke Nomura (4-1) allowed one run over 5⅔ innings and drove in two with a pair of RBI singles as Hiroshima beat Yomiuri to move past the Giants and take a half-game lead in the Central League.
Hawks 6, Fighters 6 (12)
At Sapporo Dome, Hokkaido Nippon Ham reliever Chris Martin twice fell afoul of Japan’s ignominious three-second balk interpretation, helping Fukuoka SoftBank score the tying run in the ninth inning for the second straight day in a game that ended in a 12-inning tie.
With Hawks runner Ryuma Kidokoro on first with a leadoff infield single, the pause in Martin’s delivery was not deemed long enough on two consecutive pitches. Kidokoro then scored on a one-out error.
Eagles 5, Marines 3
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium Miyagi, Ginji Akaminai overturned a one-run deficit with a three-run home run off Chiba Lotte rookie Kota Futaki (2-3). Tohoku Rakuten starter Manabu Mima (3-0) allowed two runs in six innings to collect the win.
Lions 8, Buffaloes 2
At Saitama’s Seibu Prince Dome, Ernesto Mejia went 3-for-3 with two homers, a walk and four RBIs to lead Seibu’s 13-hit bombardment of Orix.
Mejia increased his PL-leading home run total to 13, while Yusei Kikuchi (2-4) allowed two runs in seven innings to earn the win.