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Swallows pitcher Sato earns first win in five years

Kyodo

Yoshinori Sato held the Chunichi Dragons to two runs over 5⅓ innings and earned his first win in five years as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows swept their series with a 5-2 win on Sunday in the Central League.

Before 34,840 at Nagoya Dome, Sato (1-1) gave up four hits and five walks, while striking out three in his 98 pitches. The win made up for a beating he took against the Dragons on July 9, when he allowed six runs over five-plus innings in his first game since September 2011.

“I was frankly relieved when the game ended, and I’m a bit overwhelmed speaking in front of the cameras and fans,” said Sato, whose parents were in attendance. “I caused lots of trouble for my family too, and would like to present them with this (the winning ball).

“I’m really thankful to those who cheered on someone who hadn’t pitched for such a long time.”

The 26-year-old, who in 2010 became the first Japanese to have a pitch clocked at 161 kilometers per hour, went down with a right-shoulder injury in 2011. He went under the knife in 2013.

The right-hander worked around two second-inning walks, but surrendered a run in the third on a Takahito Kudo double and a Dayan Viciedo single.

But Yakult’s bats came to his rescue, Keiji Obiki tying it with a leadoff homer in the fourth against rookie Shinnosuke Ogasawara (0-2). The southpaw went on to allow a walk and a single in the fifth before his wild pitch plated Yakult’s go-ahead run, and Obiki hit an RBI single for his second RBI.

Ogasawara, pitching in his seventh game of the year, allowed three runs on three hits and three walks in five innings, while striking out two.

Naomichi Nishiura hit a two-run double in the sixth off reliever Koji Fukutani, before Sato got the hook in the bottom of the inning after he issued a leadoff walk and a double before a groundout made it 5-2.

“I can’t pitch to bulldoze my way through like I did five years ago, but I’m doing my best to have a positive influence on the team,” Sato said.

The win lifted the 2015 CL champions ahead of the Dragons and into fourth place.

Giants 9, BayStars 1

At Yokohama Stadium, Yomiuri’s Shuichi Murata, Garrett Jones and Seiji Kobayashi all went deep in the six-run fourth off Yokohama rookie Shota Imanaga (5-6), pitching for the first time in over a month. Miles Mikolas (1-0) held the BayStars to a run over seven innings in his fifth start of the season.

Tigers 8, Carp 5

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Buffaloes 3, Fighters 2

At Sapporo Dome, the only team to beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham since June 18 managed it again. Orix’s Brent Morrel went 3-for-4 with a game-tying RBI double in the eighth. Kenya Wakatsuki followed with a squeeze for his second RBI of the game.

Fighters pitcher Shohei Otani threw an inning of relief, his first action on the mound since he left his start on July 10 with a blister on his pitching hand.

Hawks 4, Lions 3

At Yafuoku Dome, Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a come-from-behind, three-run homer as Fukuoka SoftBank overturned a two-run deficit to beat Seibu and move 4½ games ahead of second-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Marines 3, Eagles 2

At Kobo Stadium Miyagi, seventh-inning homers by Alfredo Despaigne and Daichi Suzuki brought Chiba Lotte from a run down, and Hideaki Wakui (8-4) scattered 11 hits over the distance to earn the win. Tohoku Rakuten’s Takahiro Norimoto (9-6) took the complete-game loss.