FUKUOKA – Five innings from ace Chihiro Kaneko and Takahiro Okada’s first grand slam in six years lifted the last-place Orix Buffaloes to a 6-0 win over the Pacific League-leading Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks on Monday afternoon.
“It’s been a while since I hit one on the screws,” said Okada, the Buffaloes’ cleanup hitter, who broke open a scoreless game in the third. “You can’t do better than that.”
Kaneko (4-6) won for the first time since May 20, pitching out of jams in the first and second innings. The right-hander, who returned to the mound on July 7 after missing nearly a month with shoulder pain, had to leave after five innings due to stiffness in his lower back.
“Honestly, I don’t know how bad it is,” said Kaneko, who allowed four hits and two walks, while striking out three. “I’ll have to wait and see how it feels tomorrow.”
Four Buffaloes relievers finished the job, allowing just two singles over four innings to send SoftBank to only its fifth shutout defeat of the season.
Hawks starter Nao Higashihama (6-3) took the loss after allowing five runs in 4⅓ innings.
“He’s not always going to be good,” pitching coach Yoshinori Sato said. “It’s his first full season in the starting rotation and he’s doing OK.”
Fighters 3, Eagles 1
At Sapporo Dome, Luis Mendoza (6-4) allowed three hits but no walks over seven scoreless innings, and Daikan Yoh and Shohei Otani each drove in a first-inning run off Takahiro Norimoto (9-5) as Hokkaido Nippon Ham defeated Tohoku Rakuten to move within five games of first place.
Lions 6, Marines 1
At Saitama’s Seibu Prince Dome, Seibu ace Takayuki Kishi (4-4) struck out eight over the distance, and Shogo Akiyama homered in consecutive at-bats in a convincing win over Chiba Lotte.
Carp 3, Dragons 2
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Takahiro Arai broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the ninth with his 11th home run of the season, a one-out sayonara blast that sent the league-leading Carp past Chunichi.
Giants 2, Tigers 1
At Nishinomiya’s Koshien Stadium, rookie Yasuhiro Yamamoto hit a game-tying, sixth-inning RBI single, Shinnosuke Abe singled home the go-ahead run in the ninth and Yomiuri beat Hanshin.
The Giants got seven strong innings from Miles Mikolas and two perfect innings of relief from Scott Mathieson (7-2) and Hirokazu Sawamura, who recorded his 24th save.
Swallows 9, BayStars 3
At Jingu Stadium, Tokyo Yakult ace Masanori Ishikawa (5-5) allowed a run in seven innings, while Takahiro Imanami and all-star catcher Yuhei Nakamura combined for five RBIs in a win over Yokohama.