Tomoyuki Sugano allowed himself a brief expression of frustration after allowing an earned run for the first time in more than a month.
He took out the rest of his annoyance on the Hiroshima Carp batters.
Sugano threw a complete game and was aided by a tiebreaking single by Hayato Sakamoto and home runs by Garrett Jones and Shuichi Murata, as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Hiroshima Carp 4-2 in front of a crowd of 45,793 on Thursday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
“This big series was tied 1-1 and I knew a win would put us back in first place,” Sugano said. “I just wanted to pitch my game and it worked out OK.”
Sugano (4-0) struck out 10 and allowed a pair of runs on five hits and no walks as he held the Carp lineup in check most of the afternoon.
“I didn’t allow any walks today,” Sugano said. “I tried to stay in the strike zone. The Carp have a good batting average. I was able to hold down their lineup today and I hope I can keep this up.”
Sugano also hit a single to help get the Giants going in the sixth inning.
The Carp entered the three-game series with a half-game lead over the Giants at the top of the Central League standings. The league lead changed hands after each game of the series, with the Kyojin up by a half-game after their latest win.
“This was a game we did not want to lose,” Sakamoto said. “The Carp are a good team and we didn’t want to fall a game and a half behind in the standings.”
Sugano and Carp starter Aren Kuri were locked in a pitcher’s duel for most of the game, but it was the young Carp hurler who cracked first, allowing three runs in the sixth inning.
Sakamoto struck first with an RBI single in the sixth and Jones piled on with a two-run homer.
“Kuri was pitching well too, but my confidence got a boost after Sakamoto’s hit and Garrett’s home run gave me a 3-0 lead,” Sugano said.
Sugano had his streak of innings pitched without an earned run snapped at 40. Despite that, he earned his third complete-game victory of the season. Sugano said pitching coach Takao Obana approached him in the dugout about going back out for the ninth inning.
“I felt good and thought it would be nice to give the bullpen pitchers a day off and did my best to complete the game,” Sugano said.
Jones’ home run was his sixth of the season. The first-year foreign player finished 1-for-3 and has at least one hit in his last five games. Murata finished 2-for-3 and hit his second homer of the season. Sakamoto was 1-for-4.
Kuri (0-1) was charged with the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits over seven innings. Kuri struck out three and walked one.
Yoshihiro Maru had two of Hiroshima’s five hits and Soichiro Amaya accounted for both runs with a two-run homer in the seventh.
Kuri had allowed just four baserunners, on three hits and a walk, entering the bottom of the sixth.
His fortunes began to turn when Sugano led off the frame with a single. Yomiuri’s Soichiro Tateoka laid down a sacrifice to move Sugano to second, and the Giants pitcher took third when Yasuyuki Kataoka grounded out.
Sakamoto then broke the deadlock with his single to make the score 1-0. Jones added to the lead with his two-run blast.
Maru hit a one-out double in the Carp’s half of the seventh, and Amaya, in the lineup in place of slugger Brad Eldred, brought the Carp within a run with his two-run shot to right.
Murata gave the Giants a two-run cushion with a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh.
The Carp put a runner on first with one out in the eighth and sent up Eldred, who is tied for the CL lead with 11 home runs, as a pinch hitter. Sugano struck out Eldred then fanned Kosuke Tanaka to leave the inning with his two-run lead intact.
BayStars top Swallows
Jose Lopez hit a decisive solo shot in the third off Yakult’s Masanori Ishikawa (3-4) and Yoshiki Sunada held the visitors to a run over six innings in the Yokohama BayStars 4-2 victory over the Swallows on Thursday in the Central League.
Tigers 1, Dragons 0
At Nagoya Dome, Randy Messenger threw seven shutout innings and Yamato Maeda hit a solo shot for the game’s only run in the seventh off Chunichi’s Daisuke Yamai (0-4) as Hanshin climbed up to third in the CL.
Hawks 2, Fighters 1
At Sapporo Dome, Fukuoka SoftBank’s Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a two-run shot off Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s Takayuki Kato (1-1) and Nao Higashihama (2-0) held the home team to a run on Shohei Otani’s solo shot over 6-1/3 innings.
Marines 15, Eagles 8
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadiumi, Tadahito Iguchi rapped out a two-run single off Tohoku Rakuten closer Yuki Matsui (0-1) to break an 8-8 tie in the ninth and Shogo Nakamura, who went 4-for-4, hit a three-run homer for Chiba Lotte.
Buffaloes 7, Lions 5
At Tokorozawa’s Seibu Prince Dome, Yoshio Itoi broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI single off Seibu’s Ken Togame (1-2) and Takahiro Okada singled in two after a wild pitch in the third, before he doubled in two more in the fifth.