SENDAI – Taishi Nakagawa belted a first-inning grand slam and Wataru Karashima tossed seven shutout innings as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles snapped their three-game losing streak with a 5-1 win on Sunday over the Pacific League-leading Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
SoftBank’s Hiroki Yamada (1-1), pitching in just his fourth game of the season, struck out two after allowing a leadoff single, but a hit batsman and a walk loaded the bases. Nakagawa connected on a fat 2-0 fastball over the center-field wall for his first grand slam in eight years since turning pro.
“I didn’t bat well yesterday but the manager used me from the start, so I wanted to repay his trust,” Nakagawa said after the game at Kobo Miyagi Stadium. “It boosts my confidence. I’d like to keep batting the way I can over the remaining games.”
Yamada left with the bases loaded in the second and allowed four runs in 1⅔ innings. Karashima (2-5), meanwhile, earned his first win since April 5.
The lefty missed more than three months this season after suffering shoulder inflammation in mid-April, but has been pitching well since returning in July. He held the Hawks to three hits and two walks, while fanning six in a 96-pitch outing. He allowed a runner in scoring position just once.
“It’s been a long time. I couldn’t win at all but I always give everything I have on the mound and am glad to get the win,” the lefty said. “I didn’t have any real positives today, I just hung in there and threw the pitches that (catcher Motohiro) Shima called for.
“It’s positive I didn’t give up a run. I joined the team at the same time as Taishi and am happy we did well together today.”
Veteran Toshiaki Imae singled in the fifth run in the seventh off former big leaguer Ryota Igarashi as SoftBank’s win streak ended at three. The loss shaved a half-game off the Hawks’ lead after the second-place Fighters played to a tie with the Buffaloes.
Fighters 7, Buffaloes 7 (12)
At Hotto Motto Field, Hokkaido Nippon Ham starter Takayuki Kato took a 7-1 lead into the seventh inning, when two relievers were necessary to get out of the six-run inning. The game remained tied until it was called a tie with no outs in the bottom of the 12th due to rain.
Lions 4, Marines 2
At QVC Marine Field, Ernesto Mejia and Takeya Nakamura each homered for the second straight game and recent acquisition Brian Wolfe (2-0) allowed two runs in 5⅓ innings as Seibu held off Chiba Lotte.
Dragons 5, Giants 3
At Tokyo Dome, Chunichi won its sixth straight and tagged Yomiuri’s Miles Mikolas (3-1) with his first loss of the year, scoring four unearned runs in the eighth. Anderson Hernandez completed the rally with a two-out, two-run single off reliever Scott Mathieson. Dragons rookie Shinnosuke Ogasawara (1-5) earned his first career win.
Carp 4, Swallows 3
At Jingu Stadium, Takahiro Arai had two RBIs and starter Bradin Hagens (7-3) worked into the seventh inning and Hiroshima’s bullpen held off Tokyo Yakult with Shota Nakazaki earning his career-high 30th save. The Carp lowered their magic number to four to clinch their first pennant since 1991.
Tigers 3, BayStars 1
At Koshien Stadium, lefty Yuta Iwasada (6-9) allowed a run in eight innings, and Yokohama’s bullpen allowed three runs in the eighth to waste seven scoreless innings from rookie southpaw Shota Imanaga. Hanshin’s win snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Otani set to return
Slugging ace Shohei Otani has been penciled in for his first starting pitching assignment since July 10, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama said Sunday.
Otani, who has been with great success as the Fighters designated hitter since he developed a blister in his last start, has been throwing bullpens but has appeared in just one game in relief on July 24. The Fighters will host the Chiba Lotte Marines on Tuesday at Asahikawa’s Starfin Stadium.
“I plan to send him out to the mound to start on Tuesday,” Kuriyama said.
Otani threw a 38-pitch bullpen prior to Sunday’s 7-7 tie with the Orix Buffaloes at Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, and also threw one on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.
“It’s been a long time so I want to do a competent job,” said Otani, who went 0-for-5 with a walk on Sunday.