Shinnosuke Abe made his belated season debut in style, hitting a go-ahead two-run home run in the Yomiuri Giants’ 3-2 win against the Orix Buffaloes as interleague action got underway Tuesday.
With a runner on first and two outs in the sixth inning at Kyocera Dome, Abe drove the third pitch he saw from Yuki Nishi (2-7) into the right-field stands for his first hit of 2016, putting the Giants up 3-2 — and for good.
Abe missed Yomiuri’s first 50 games due to a right shoulder injury he suffered in spring training. It is the latest start to a season for the 38-year-old former captain.
Going into Tuesday, the Giants were last among both leagues in runs scored (157) and team batting average (.240), and have been waiting for Abe to return to the lineup.
“My season’s finally begun,” Abe said. “It’s a great feeling. I’ve never started a season at this time of the year so I admit, I was nervous in my first at-bat.
“I managed to put a good swing on it,” the catcher said of his 362nd career homer. “I owe it to the pitchers who worked hard the rest of the way to finish the job.”
He added: “I want to keep on hitting. We may have been in the red, but hopefully we can continue winning and get back in the black.”
Yomiuri raised its record to 24-24, and pulled within 2½ games of the first-place Hiroshima Carp.
Kazuto Taguchi (3-3) gave the Giants six solid innings for the win, allowing two earned runs on five hits and a walk.
Hirokazu Sawamura pitched a perfect ninth for his 13th save.
Hawks 5, Dragons 2
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Fukuoka Softbank closer Dennis Sarfate set a Pacific League record by earning his 12th save of the month after the Hawks tagged Chunichi reliever Koji Fukutani (1-2) for four runs in the eighth inning.
Dragons rookie Shinnosuke Ogasawara made a solid debut, holding the PL leaders to one earned run despite issuing seven walks.
Swallows 8, Fighters 4
At Sapporo Dome, Tetsuto Yamada hit his 16th home run, tripled and drove in three runs for Tokyo Yakult, which handed Kyle Davies (1-0) his first victory in Japan.
Davies fanned six and held Hokkaido Nippon Ham to one earned run in six-plus innings.
Eagles 9, Tigers 1
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Tohoku Rakuten’s Takahiro Norimoto (5-3) pitched his first complete game of the year, striking out 10 and holding Hanshin to one earned run in a 130-pitch effort.
Eagles rookie Luis Okoye had the first two hits of his career, singles in the seventh and eighth innings.
BayStars 5, Lions 2
At Tokorozawa’s Seibu Prince Dome, Yokohama climbed into a tie for second in the Central League behind seven solid innings from Guillermo Moscoso (4-3), who struck out eight and gave up his only run on a solo shot to Ernesto Mejia, his 17th round-tripper of the year.
Marines 5, Carp 0
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Ayumu Ishikawa (5-2) and two relievers combined to blank Hiroshima as Chiba Lotte halted a three-game skid.