Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Dragons capitalize on pair of wild pitches in ninth to beat Giants

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Shunta Wakamatsu kept the Chunichi Dragons in the game long enough for his teammates to grab the lead in the ninth inning. Then, he went out and finished what he started.

Wakamatsu threw 141 pitches over the distance, and the opportunistic Dragons scored two runs on two wild pitches in the ninth to secure a 3-1 win over the Yomiuri Giants in front of a crowd of 43,763 on Thursday night at Tokyo Dome.

“Wakamatsu showed his guts tonight,” Dragons manager Motonobu Tanishige said. “He was just as good at the end as he was at the beginning.”

After not making it out of the fifth inning in either of his last two starts, Wakamatsu limited the Giants to two hits in his third complete game of the season. It was his first victory since June 1, snapping a three-start losing streak, and first against a Central League team since May 6 against the Kyojin at Tokyo Dome.

“It doesn’t matter how many pitches I threw,” Wakamatsu said. “The important thing is that we won.”

Wakamatsu (6-6) allowed one run, struck out seven, walked two, and held the Giants hitless after the second inning.

“I seem to be able to step up a bit when I’m pitching against the Giants.” he said.

He needed a good game since his counterpart, Yomiuri’s Kan Otake, held the Dragons in check for eight innings. Otake allowed one unearned run and struck out four.

Wakamatsu kept the Giants off the scoreboard after the first inning, long enough for Chunichi to take advantage of two costly Yomiuri miscues.

With the scored knotted at 1-1, Giants reliever Hirokazu Sawamura walked Yohei Oshima to begin the top of the ninth. He then allowed a single against Ryosuke Hirata to put runners on first and second with no outs. He retired the next two batters, though the runners advanced on Ricardo Nanita’s grounder to first.

Sawamura threw a 3-2 forkball into the dirt with Nobumasa Fukuda at the plate, and Oshima scored the tiebreaking run when catcher Kazunari Sanematsu couldn’t corral the ball. He threw another wild pitch, with Naomichi Donoue at the plate, that allowed pinch runner Masahiro Araki to score later in the inning, giving the Dragons a 3-1 advantage.

Wakamatsu, who was at 125 pitches at that point, went back to the mound with Yomiuri’s 3-4-5 hitters due up. He retired the first two before allowing a single to Shinnosuke Abe. He then got Shuichi Murata to ground out to first to end the game.

“I felt I still had enough gas left in the tank to finish the game, even against the heart of the Giants’ lineup,” Wakamatsu said.

The Dragons took two of three in the series at the Big Egg.

“Anytime we can win a series against the Giants on the road is really good,” Tanishige said. “I’m very happy.”

Sawamura (3-1) was charged with the loss after giving up both runs in the ninth.

Hayato Sakamoto drove in the Giants’ only run with a solo homer, his 15th of the year, in the bottom of the first. Abe had the team’s only other hit.

Takai sparks Swallows

Hiroshima KYODO

Yuhei Takai drove in three runs and Kyohei Muranaka allowed two runs in five innings as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows held off the Hiroshima Carp in a 4-2 win that snapped the Central League leaders’ 11-game winning streak on Thursday.

Tetsuto Yamada opened the scoring in the second inning, when he drew a 12-pitch leadoff walk, went to second on a groundout and scored on Takai’s single off lefty Kyohei Nakamura (1-1), who allowed four runs in four innings.

Muranaka (5-2) issued two walks in the bottom of the second but got out of the jam on a double play. The lefty gave up five hits and struck out seven.

“I wanted to get ahead in counts today and that worked out well,” Muranaka said. “I wasn’t conscious of trying for strikeouts, but my command was good and I was able to get my share.

“The guys got me an early lead and I was able to hold the fort. The bullpen came in and did a good job and without that I wouldn’t have won.”

The Swallows loaded the bases in the fourth with no outs on a leadoff double by Shingo Kawabata, and singles by Yamada and Wladimir Balentien. Takai’s second single made it 3-0. Two more singles made it 4-0, but catcher Yuhei Nakamura was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.

The Carp scored a single run in the fourth and again in the fifth, when Muranaka stranded two to preserve the lead.

Yakult got three scoreless innings from its bullpen after Muranaka left, and Yamada delivered a sacrifice fly in the ninth to give the visitors a three-run cushion.

With closer Logan Ondrusek suspended, the Swallows sent right-hander Ryo Akiyoshi to the mound in the ninth. The side-armer worked around a leadoff single and a two-out walk to earn his second save.

BayStars 3, Tigers 0

At Koshien Stadium, Yasuo Kubo (4-4) threw a three-hit shutout against his former team as Yokohama blanked Hanshin.

Kubo struck out six without issuing a walk or letting a runner get as far as second. Kubo also singled in a run for the BayStars.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hawks 2, Marines 1

At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Fukuoka SoftBank came from a run down on an RBI double and an RBI single by Seiichi Uchikawa, who went 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk to spoil a strong start by Chiba Lotte’s Yuki Karakawa (2-4).

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