FUKUOKA – Ryoma Kidokoro continued his remarkable career turnaround on Sunday, when the light-hitting reserve outfielder belted a pair of two-run homers to help power the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to a 7-5 interleague win and a series sweep of the Yomiuri Giants.
The 31-year-old Kidokoro turned pro in 2004 and his primary use on the Hawks’ first team has been as a pinch runner. But this season he has been ripping it up.
“With this really great crowd, to be able to do so well makes me really happy,” said Kidokoro, who went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .373, while matching his career high of 74 plate appearances.
Hawks right-hander Shota Takeda (7-1) allowed five runs in 7⅔ innings, but didn’t allow a hit until Hisayoshi Chono’s leadoff homer in the fifth made it a 4-1 game. Takeda surrendered six hits, issued three walks and struck out six.
Kenta Imamiya opened the Hawks’ first off Hayato Takagi (4-6) with a double and scored on Kidokoro’s third homer of the season.
“After Kenta got on board, I went up expecting to be asked to sacrifice, but when I got the sign it was to swing away, and so I swung as well as I could,” Kidokoro said.
After a one-out single by Imamiya in the third, Kidokoro went deep again. Kidokoro singled with two outs in the fifth and restored the Hawks’ four-run lead when he scored on a double by Yuki Yanagita.
Nobuhiro Matsuda made it a 7-1 game in the sixth with his 14th home run, a two-run shot that gave him three in five games.
“You can never have enough runs, so that was an important home run,” Matsuda said. “I fell behind in the count and shortened my swing as I usually do, and got a good result.”
The Giants got to Takeda for a run in the seventh on a solo homer by Hayato Sakamoto and three in the eighth, when the first three batters singled and scored.
Takagi lasted five innings and allowed five runs on eight hits. He didn’t walk a batter, while striking out two.
Dennis Sarfate worked a 1-2-3 ninth for the Hawks to record his 22nd save.
Fighters 6, Tigers 0
At Sapporo Dome, Shohei Otani (5-4) repeatedly matched his Japan velocity record of 163 kph and struck out eight over seven innings en route to winning his fourth straight start. Yang Dai-kang, Haruki Nishikawa and Brandon Laird each homered for Hokkaido Nippon Ham in a one-sided win over Hanshin. Otani batted fifth, but went hitless for his second straight game with a walk in three plate appearances.
Marines 7, Swallows 1
At QVC Marine Field, Tatsuhiro Tamura’s fourth-inning sacrifice fly off Tokyo Yakult rookie Juri Hara (2-7) broke a 1-1 tie. Chiba Lotte’s Alfredo Despaigne singled a run in the first and hit a three-run homer in the seventh.
BayStars 4, Buffaloes 0
At Kyocera Dome, Shun Yamaguchi (5-2) threw a five-hitter for his second straight shutout. A fielding error by Orix first baseman Takahiro Okada handed the BayStars the lead in the third, and Toshiro Miyazaki hit his second homer in two days in the eighth. The loss was the fourth straight for the Buffaloes.
Eagles 4, Carp 3 (11)
At Kobo Stadium Miyagi, Tohoku Rakuten overcame a three-run deficit in the sixth, and Kazuya Fujita singled in the walk-off run in the 11th off Carp closer Shota Nakazaki (0-3).
Lions 3, Dragons 2
At Seibu Prince Dome, Seibu tied it in the seventh on a throwing error by Chunichi third baseman Kyohei Kamezawa and then took the lead on Hideto Asamura’s two-out RBI single off reliever Daisuke Yamai (0-7). Ernesto Mejia opened the scoring with his 21st home run of the season.