Ryoji Aikawa delivered a tiebreaking, three-run double to lift the Yomiuri Giants to a come-from-behind 10-7 Central League win over the Yokohama BayStars on Sunday afternoon.
Before 44,017 at Tokyo Dome, the Giants bullpen stemmed the tide after Yokohama scored seven runs over the first four innings before catcher Seiji Kobayashi’s three-run homer tied it in the fifth.
The Giants loaded the bases in the seventh against Kota Suda (2-3), the BayStars’ fifth pitcher, on two singles and a walk to bring Aikawa to the plate.
With two outs, Aikawa, the veteran backstop who began his career in Yokohama with the BayStars, drilled a high 1-0 pitch to the wall to clear the bases. It was a welcome result off the bench for a team that lost its best pinch hitter over the winter, when Yoshinobu Takahashi was promoted to manager.
“My main concern was pitch selection, getting a good one to hit,” said Aikawa, who will turn 40 on Monday. “It’s not easy. The skipper has talked to me at length about this role and given me a lot of helpful advice.
“I saw they had the outfield shallow, but anything that gets it done is fine with me.”
The BayStars scored twice in the top of the first, when Miles Mikolas walked two of the seven batters he faced. With one out and the bags juiced, former Giant Jose Lopez drove a pitch off the center-field wall for an RBI single and Toshihiko Kuramoto delivered a sacrifice fly.
Shinnosuke Abe singled in a run in the bottom of the first off Yuki Kuniyoshi, who lasted just 1-2/3 innings in his season debut.
A two-run Kajitani double in the second made it 4-1 BayStars, but a two-out walk to Mikolas triggered a Giants comeback in the second. An Itaru Hashimoto double and a walk to light-hitting Daisuke Fujimura loaded them up for Sakamoto. Yomiuri’s No. 3 hitter smacked a two-run single to chase Kuniyoshi. Hisayoshi Chono singled off reliever Yota Kosugi to tie it, but the right-hander saved the inning with a sharp fielding play.
Lopez singled and scored in the third, and Yokohama added two runs in the fourth after Kajitani drew a two-out walk from Kentaro Nishimura and stole second. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo doubled him home and scored on Lopez’s third hit of the game.
Former Giant Yuya Kubo, who helped the BayStars escape a fourth-inning jam, issued a leadoff walk in the fifth and then surrendered Shuichi Murata’s second double of the game. With one out, Kobayashi whose botched suicide squeeze in the third had cost the Giants a run, went deep for his first home run of the year.
Kobayashi, who returned to action on Friday after missing three weeks with a fracture in his left shoulder, got all of a pitch from Kubo to tie it.
“My main thought was to have a good at-bat, get a runner in,” said Kobayashi, who was happy to share the postgame heroes’ podium with Aikawa.
“He allowed me to work out with him in the offseason. I was so happy and learned so much from a guy who has had an incredible career both as a hitter and a catcher.”
Mikolas, who went 13-3 last season in his Japan debut, allowed five runs and six hits in three innings on six hits. He walked three batters.
But the Giants bullpen finished with five perfect innings from five different pitchers, with Ryosuke Miyaguni (4-1) earning the win and Hirokazu Sawamura working the ninth to nail down his 23rd save.
Swallows 8, Dragons 3
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Tetsuto Yamada hit his 29th homer of the season and the 100th of his career as Tokyo Yakult clobbered Chunichi ace Kazuki Yoshimi (4-3) for six runs in five innings.
Carp 9, Tigers 0
At Koshien Stadium, Takaya Toda (4-0) threw his first career complete game and shutout as league-leading Hiroshima knocked out Yuta Iwasada (4-7) in 1-1/3 innings.
Fighters 6, Marines 5 (12)
At Sapporo Dome, Kensuke Tanaka tied it with a two-out, ninth-inning solo homer, and Brandon Laird won it with his 25th home run in the 12th inning as Hokkaido Nippon Ham overcame a five-run deficit to beat Chiba Lotte and equal its franchise record with 14 straight wins.
Fighters right-hander Shohei Otani’s appearance in the upcoming two-day All-Star series next weekend is in doubt after he left the mound with a blister on his right middle finger.
Otani held the Marines to three runs on five hits over 6-1/3 innings before exiting the game. He allowed his first run in 30 innings, and five games, in the first inning.
“I don’t know how it will turn out. I’ll try to recover to be able to pitch, but I fear it’s probably not possible. It’s looking bleak,” said Otani, who will decide on the participation after Monday.
A Fighters trainer said there are no issues with him batting at the All-Star Games scheduled on Friday and Saturday.
Nippon Ham manager Hideki Kuriyama said, “We’ll do our utmost for him to be able to pitch.”
Hawks 6, Eagles 2
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Kenji Otonari (1-0) won his first start in over a year, allowing one run in six innings and catcher Toru Hosokawa homered for the first time in two years as Fukuoka SoftBank topped Tohoku Rakuten.
Buffaloes 8, Lions 2
At Tokorozawa’s Seibu Prince Dome, Brandon Dickson (7-6) allowed two runs in six innings and Orix came from two runs down to beat Seibu.
Lions starter Shinsaburo Tawata (1-4) gave up the go-ahead run in the fifth with a wild pitch.