TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – The first enforcement of Nippon Professional Baseball’s “new” collision rule gave the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters the lead en route to an 8-4 victory over the Seibu Lions in the Pacific League on Friday.
Trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning, the Fighters scored two runners on a wild pitch to take the lead after the trailing runner was originally ruled out on a fairly innocuous tag at the plate by Lions starter Kona Takahashi. Instead, the ruling was overturned when umpires determined Takahashi had obstructed the plate without the ball.
“I’ve been told his left foot was blocking the plate slightly,” Seibu manager Norio Tanabe said. “The pitchers don’t cover the plate that much to be used to this change. If they’re going to call it that way, you have to learn to do it that way.”
The Fighters added three more runs in the inning to take a 7-3 lead, and the route was on.
Facing Nippon Ham for the first time, Takahashi retired the side in the top of the first and was rewarded with a two-run lead in the bottom of the inning.
Leadoff man Shogo Akiyama battled for a walk against Luis Mendoza, and Shogo Kimura doubled to set the table. Ernesto Mejia’s drive to left fell short of his 14th home run, but plated Akiyama on a sacrifice fly, and Kimura scored on a Hideto Asamura double.
The Fighters got on the board in the top of the second, when Shota Ono singled home Kensuke Kondo from second. After Seibu added another in the second when Akiyama’s fly brought home Ginjiro Sumitani, Nippon Ham once more trimmed the lead to one in the top of the third on a Sho Nakata RBI single.
Both starters appeared to have settled down until the Fighters loaded the bases with one out in the sixth on two singles and an error. After that things got weird.
Takahashi hit Ono with a pitch to tie the game, and then threw a wild pitch that rolled to the front of the home dugout. By the time catcher Sumitani tracked down the ball, the runner from second, Daiki Asama, was barreling toward home. With one foot on the plate, Takahashi caught the ball and tagged the head-first-sliding Asama.
Home plate ump Katsumi Manabe called the runner out but the crew chief, Masanobu Suginaga overturned it after a lengthy review.
Takahashi returned to the mound after being treated for a cut he received on the play, but he should have called it a night. The Fighters pressed their momentum by executing a beautiful suicide squeeze and Takahashi walked the next two batters.
He was charged with seven runs after his successor, Hirotaka Koishi, surrendered an RBI single to Kensuke Tanaka that completed the scoring in the five-run sixth.
Mendoza (2-3) was charged with three runs on six hits and two walks over five innings, but that was enough to win this one.
“That was wild. I felt really good tonight, but they battled me, made me throw a lot of pitches and you have to give them credit,” said Mendoza, who admitted feeling bad for Takahashi.
“Still it feels good to win after our last series against SoftBank (when one game was decided by two umpire balk interpretations against the Fighters).”
Nippon Ham increased its lead to 8-3 in the eighth on a double a sacrifice and a balk on pitcher Tadasuke Minamikawa.
The Lions, however, began showing signs of life in the home half of the eighth, scoring on two singles and a grounder that was fumbled for an error.
Hawks 3, Eagles 2
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Tohoku Rakuten starter Takahiro Norimoto held Fukuoka SoftBank to a run in six innings, but it wasn’t enough as the hosts rallied in the eighth, scoring twice on Akira Nakamura’s two-out RBI double and came from behind to win.
Buffaloes 5, Marines 0
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Orix ace Chihiro Kaneko (2-2) allowed four hits over eight innings and was supported by home runs from Takahiro Okada and Brent Morel in a shutout of Chiba Lotte.
Dragons 7, Giants 2
At Tokyo Dome, Shunta Wakamatsu (4-2) gave up two runs over seven innings, and Anderson Hernandez drove in three runs as Chunichi defeated Yomiuri.
Tigers 2, Swallows 0
At Koshien Stadium, lefty Yuta Iwasada (3-1) threw seven innings and two relievers completed Hanshin’s third straight shutout victory.
Rookie Yutaro Itayama’s two-run, first-inning RBI single was enough to send Tokyo Yakult to defeat.
BayStars 6, Carp 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Yokohama’s Shota Imanaga (1-4) kept Hiroshima’s powerful offense off the board for seven innings and bunted in a run to earn his first victory.