SENDAI – Shohei Otani brought his team from behind with a two-run home run and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters held off the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for a 2-1 Pacific League win on Sunday.
Although he has been the Fighters’ most effective hitter when he’s been in the batting order, he had only an infield single in his previous five at-bats when he came up in the sixth with one out and the tying run on third.
“I was just thinking about building a rally,” Otani said. “I hadn’t been hitting much since yesterday, so it was great to hit when it counted.”
Otani has been almost exclusively working as Nippon Ham’s designated hitter since developing a blister on his pitching hand a month ago. But he has recently been preparing to return to the starting rotation.
“The sooner I can get back to pitching the happier I will be,” he said.
The Eagles broke up a scoreless game in the bottom of the fifth. Motohiro Shima led off against rookie Takayuki Kato with a single, moved to third on Kazuo Matsui’s one-out single and scored on a groundout.
But with one out in the sixth and Haruki Nishikawa on third after a leadoff double, Rakuten starter Wataru Karashima (1-4) missed down the middle with a 3-1 fastball to Otani, who took the lefty out to center field for his 17th home run of the year.
The Eagles threatened in the bottom of the sixth, when Kato (4-1) was pulled after a leadoff single and a sacrifice put the tying run at second. Japhet Amador followed with a sinking liner that looked like it would tie the game, but Nishikawa robbed Amador with a shoestring catch in left field and doubled Zelous Wheeler off second for the third out.
After going down 1-2-3 in the seventh against Fighters lefty Yuya Ishii, Rakuten wasted back-to-back, no-out singles in the eighth off Naoki Miyanishi. With no outs and runners on the corners, Miyanishi struck out Carlos Peguero and popped up Wheeler before ending the inning with a groundout.
Amador gave the Eagles a chance to tie it in the ninth with a leadoff double off Nippon Ham closer Chris Martin, but pinch runner Ryo Hijirisawa was thrown out at third on the ensuing sacrifice attempt. Martin survived a two-out, pinch-hit single by striking out Matsui to end the game and record his 16th save.
Marines 3, Hawks 2 (10)
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Katsuya Kakunaka’s 10th-inning sacrifice fly capped an improbable Chiba Lotte comeback.
Trailing by two in the ninth with none on and down to its last strike, Kakunaka singled to start a game-saving rally. After a walk, an easy out at first was botched to load the bases and Daichi Suzuki lined the next pitch for a two-run single, allowing the tying runs to score.
Lions 5, Buffaloes 1
At Tokorozawa’s Seibu Prince Dome, Seibu’s Kona Takahashi (4-9) won after dropping his previous eight decisions, holding Orix to a run on five hits over seven innings.
Rookie Wu Nien-ting broke the tie with a two-run single in the fourth off Sachiya Yamasaki (2-2).
Tigers 8, Dragons 1
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Hanshin’s Taiga Egoshi hit a two-run shot in the first off Shinnosuke Ogasawara (0-4) while Shun Takayama went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer to send Chunichi to its fifth straight defeat.
Giants 9, Swallows 2
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Garrett Jones’ broke a 1-1 tie with a fifth-inning solo homer off side-armer Shohei Tateyama (1-4) and drove in two more in the eighth as Yomiuri snapped Yakult’s four-game winning streak. Giants starter Miles Mikolas (3-0) allowed two runs in eight innings.
Carp 3, BayStars 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Brad Eldred, playing in his first game since June 15, slugged a tie-breaking solo shot in the seventh off Yokohama rookie Shota Imanaga (6-7) before Yoshiyuki Ishihara singled in a crucial insurance run.