HIROSHIMA – Kris Johnson earned his 14th win as the Hiroshima Carp beat the Chunichi Dragons 4-1 on Tuesday to inch closer to their first Central League pennant in 25 years.
Before 31,465 at Mazda Stadium, Johnson (14-6) capitalized on a hustling team effort as the Carp grinded past the last-place Dragons. The lefty allowed a run on eight hits. He struck out five without issuing a walk in seven innings.
“It’s a team game, so my hat’s off to the offense and defense,” said Johnson, who began the day tied for the league lead in wins with teammate Yusuke Nomura.
The win lowered Hiroshima’s magic number to clinch the pennant to three.
The Carp broke the ice in the bottom of the second against lefty Yudai Ono (7-8). With runners on the corners after a Takahiro Arai leadoff double and a Seiya Suzuki single, Brad Eldred chopped a ball to third. A perfect slide past the tag by the 39-year-old Arai put the Carp on the board. Yoshiyuki Ishihara’s two-out single made it 2-0.
Ryosuke Kikuchi made it 3-0 in the third after reaching on a one-out single. The speedy second baseman took a big turn at third on Yoshihiro Maru’s single, and scored when the throw back to the infield was bobbled. With two outs after Maru was picked off first, Arai homered to dead center to make it 4-0.
Kikuchi helped snuff out a threat in the Dragons’ fourth with an acrobatic play that robbed Shuhei Takahashi of a two-out single that would have loaded the bases. After Chunichi got on the board with a run in the fifth, Kikuchi turned a huge double play in the seventh.
With no outs and the runner going from first, Kikuchi snared the ball on the base line, tagged the runner going past and made the throw to first. The play turned out to be huge after Johnson failed to cover first on the next play to give the Dragons an infield single, and Yuhei Oshima followed with his third single of the game. Needing just one out to end the inning, Johnson got a routine grounder to short for the third out.
“That was a hell of a play,” Johnson said of Kikuchi’s double play. “They put on the hit-and-run. I’m glad they hit it right to Kiku and he made a good tag and his throw to first got him.”
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