SAPPORO – Shohei Otani went 3-for-5 and rookie Takayuki Kato worked six innings on Sunday as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 4-2 to salvage the final game of their three-game series.
Kato (5-1) survived a first-inning scare when Akira Nakamura was thrown out trying to score on a delayed, two-out double steal to allow just two runs over six innings. The lefty gave up four hits and issued two walks, while striking out three.
“I was able to reliably execute my fastballs today and I think that was the best thing,” said the 24-year-old Kato, who was Nippon Ham’s second draft pick last autumn.
“The hitters gave me a lead and kept going after I gave up runs, so I am grateful to them.”
The Fighters took the lead in the first on doubles by Kensuke Kondo and Otani. Haruki Nishikawa doubled and scored in the third inning off Hawks starter Sho Iwasaki (4-2) on a single by Sho Nakata.
The Pacific League-leading Hawks, however, tied it in the fourth, when they loaded the bases with no outs on a walk, a single and fielder’s choice. Kato walked Nobuhiro Matsuda to force in a run and the tying run scored when the Fighters were unable to turn a double play.
But back-to-back, fifth-inning singles by Otani and Nakata, and a walk by new pitcher Yuya Iida set the stage for a Fighters counterattack. An error on golden glove shortstop Kenta Imamiya let in one run and Iida walked in another before Yuito Mori took the mound and got out of the inning with a double play.
Kato left after throwing 86 pitches, and the Fighters bullpen, which blew a one-run lead in Saturday’s loss, was perfect. Right-hander Keisuke Tanimoto was followed by lefty Naoki Miyanishi with Chris Martin working the ninth to record his 19th save.
“I couldn’t see anybody getting a hit off them,” Kato said.
Iwasaki was charged with four runs — three earned — in 4-1/3 innings. He allowed seven hits, while walking three and striking out five.
Eagles 4, Buffaloes 4 (12)
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, three-straight, one-out pinch hits set up Orix’s three-run, game-tying rally in the eighth, but the hosts failed to mount a threat after that.
Tohoku Rakuten failed to cash in on two late scoring chances, and the game was declared a tie after 12 innings.
Marines 8, Lions 9
At Tokorozawa’s Seibu Prince Dome, Alfredo Despaigne’s 20th homer of the season, a two-run shot off Kona Takahashi (4-10), broke a 1-1 tie and sparked a seven-run fifth inning, which Despaigne capped with a sacrifice fly as Chiba Lotte beat Seibu to snap a four-game losing streak.
The Lions’ Hotaka Yamakawa hit two homers, giving him four in the three-game series and a two-run double.CENTRAL LEAGUE
Tigers 4, Giants 1 (10)
At Tokyo Dome, Fumiya Hojo hit a two-out, two-run, tiebreaking double in the 10th inning off lefty reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi (1-6) as Hanshin came from behind to beat Yomiuri and snap a four-game losing streak.
Dragons 3, BayStars 0
At Nagoya Dome, Yudai Ono (6-7) allowed five singles and a walk over eight innings and Chunichi captain Ryosuke Hirata homered and drove in all three runs in a win over Yokohama.
BayStars rookie Shota Imanaga (6-8) allowed a run on three hits and a walk, while striking out eight over seven innings to take the loss.
Carp 3, Swallows 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima’s Bradin Hagens (6-2) allowed a hit and four walks over six innings, and three relievers completed the shutout, while Tokyo Yakult submariner Hirofumi Yamanaka (5-9) yielded three runs in seven innings to take the loss.
Kosuke Tanaka delivered the big blow for the Carp with a two-run, seventh-inning homer.