SAPPORO – Shohei Otani’s tiebreaking, two-run homer propelled the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to a 4-2 Pacific League win over the Orix Buffaloes on Wednesday.
With the game tied 2-2 with one on and two outs in the seventh inning after Kenshi Sugiya’s squeeze bunt, Buffaloes lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada hung a 1-1 curve to Otani, the Fighters’ ace pitcher and designated hitter, who launched the ball well back into the distant right-field stands.
The second-place Fighters held on for the win before 20,652 at Sapporo Dome to pull within a half game of the idle Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
“(Sugiya) really executed well to tie the game, so that more or less took the pressure off me when I came to the plate,” Otani said.
“I was waiting for a fastball, but it hung up high and so I went after it.”
Yamada (1-4) came out, having allowed four runs on six hits and four walks, while striking out four.
Nippon Ham lefty Mitsuo Yoshikawa kept the Fighters in the game, allowing two runs over 5-2/3 innings.
Fighters right-hander Yohei Kagiya (4-3), however, nearly let the Buffaloes widen their lead in the top of the seventh, when he worked around two walks and a single in keeping the visitors off the board.
Lefty Naoki Miyanishi worked a 1-2-3 eighth for Nippon Ham, but closer Chris Martin made things interesting in the ninth. After a pair of scratch singles, the 203-cm right-hander loaded the bases with a two-out walk before getting a line out to center to seal his 18th save.
The Fighters opened the scoring in the second, when back-to-back, no-out singles by Kensuke Tanaka and Yang Dai-kang set up a run that scored on a fielder’s choice.
The last-place Buffaloes, who earlier in the day announced manager Junichi Fukura would be back for 2017, tied it in the fifth when Hiroyuki Nakajima doubled home Brent Morel. The visitors took the lead in the sixth, when Ryoichi Adachi led off with a triple and scored on a Takayoshi Kawabata single.
Eagles 10, Marines 5
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Tohoku Rakuten hammered five home runs, including three in a six-run sixth, and Takahiro Shiomi (6-6) allowed two runs over six innings.
Chiba Lotte starter Jason Standridge (6-6) yielded five runs over 5-1/3 innings.
Dragons 3, Giants 1
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi snapped its six-game losing streak as Shuhei Takahashi tripled in the go-ahead run in the eighth off Yomiuri reliever Scott Mathieson.
Raul Valdes allowed a run over 7-1/3 innings, while Giants starter Tetsuya Utsumi (7-4) saw his three-start winning streak come to an end despite giving up just two runs over 7-1/3 innings.
Carp 7, Tigers 2
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Hiroshima’s Yoshihiro Maru doubled in a run to break the tie in the fifth off Hanshin’s Shintaro Fujinami (5-9).
The Carp’s Takahiro Arai hit a solo homer in the seventh to take the CL RBI lead with 85.
Swallows 9, BayStars 1
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Tokyo Yakult starter Yasuhiro Ogawa (6-5) threw a three-hitter and broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth with a two-run homer off Yokohama’s Yasutomo Kubo (5-7).
The Swallows hit two of their four homers in a five-run seventh to turn the game into a rout.