HIROSHIMA – Yuki Yanagita hit a tie-breaking home run in his hometown as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks won a battle of league leaders, beating the Hiroshima Carp 6-1 in interleague action on Friday.
The Hiroshima native, who has returned to MVP form after a slow start this season, had three hits at Mazda Stadium, including a one-out solo homer in the third inning off former big leaguer Hiroki Kuroda (4-3). Yanagita also homered off Kuroda in the preseason and said he didn’t expect to repeat that performance.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I’d get hits off him, so I was just giving all I had and trying my hardest,” Yanagita said. “The ball found the sweet spot on the bat and carried for me so that was pretty good.”
It was not a banner performance for Kuroda, who surrendered a solo shot in the first to Ryoma Kidokoro. After Yangita went deep with his eighth homer of the season, the Hawks’ Nos. 4 and 5 hitters, Seiichi Uchikawa and Nobuhiro Matsuda, followed suit.
Hawks starter Nao Higashihama (4-0) allowed the Carp to load the bases in the first but surrendered just one run and had little trouble after that. The right-hander issued three walks and gave up three hits, while striking out four in 6-2/3 innings.
Despite the four homers, Kuroda lasted seven innings, surrendering five runs on eight hits and two walks. Yanagita closed the books on one of his boyhood heroes with a two-out RBI double.
“I have not done well in Hiroshima before, so today was pretty special,” Yanagita said. “A lot of people I know were here, so that worked out well.”
Yanagita struck out against Oscar Nakaoshi in the ninth, when a triple would have seen him hit for a cycle.
“I tried not to think about it. But on the bench Matsuda was shouting ‘Get a triple.’ It was pretty annoying,” Yanagita said. “I tried, but that’s how it goes.”
Matsuda hit another solo homer in the eighth as the win lifted Pacific League-leading SoftBank 20 games over .500.
Lions 12, Tigers 3
At Koshien Stadium, Ernesto Mejia opened the scoring with a third-inning grand slam and added a two-run homer, his PL-leading 19th, in the eighth as Seibu pounded Hanshin.
Giants 5, Fighters 4
At Tokyo Dome, Hayato Sakamoto belted a three-run homer and Yomiuri held off Hokkaido Nippon Ham, which came within a run on Brandon Laird’s three-run homer off Scott Mathieson.
The Fighters sacrificed after a leadoff walk in the ninth against closer Hirokazu Sawamura, but the game ended with the bases loaded and Laird on deck.
Eagles 3, Dragons 1
At Nagoya Dome, pinch hitter Ginji Akaminai broke a tie with a two-out RBI single in the seventh off Chunichi’s Jordan Norberto (3-1) and Takero Okajima also singled in a run for Tohoku Rakuten.
Takahiro Shiomi (3-2) limited the Dragons to a run over six on three hits.
BayStars 2, Marines 1
At Yokohama Stadium, Yasutomo Kubo (2-3) held Chiba Lotte, his first pro club, to a run over 7-2/3 innings.
Jose Lopez singled in a run off losing pitcher Hideaki Wakui (5-3) in the first and an infield error handed Yokohama another run in the fourth.
Buffaloes 5, Swallows 4
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Brian Bogusevic brought Orix from a run down in the eighth inning, and Orix held off Tokyo Yakult in the ninth when closer Yoshihisa Hirano got longtime former teammate Tomotaka Sakaguchi to hit into a game-ending double play.