OSAKA – Carlos Peguero’s two-run, ninth-inning homer overturned a one-run deficit and boosted the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to a 5-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes on Sunday.
Peguero, whose 11th-inning homer decided Friday night’s season opener, again went deep at Kyocera Dome as the Buffaloes fell to an 0-3 start and the Eagles opened a season 3-0 for the first time in three years.
With two outs in the ninth and a runner on second against Orix relief ace Yoshihisa Hirano, the Buffaloes opted to challenge Peguero instead of putting the go-ahead runner on ahead of the heart of the Eagles order. Hirano missed with a 3-1 forkball, however, and the 192-cm Peguero didn’t.
A slugging giant in the No. 2 hole that Japanese managers often reserve for light-hitting middle infielders, Peguero launched it high over the wall in dead center.
“I thought they might pitch around me in that situation, but I was prepared just in case they threw me anything good to hit,” said Peguero.
“So far, I’ve just been focused on hitting my pitch.”
Trailing 4-0 after a poor start by right-hander Yuri Furukawa, the Eagles came to life in the eighth against Orix starter Yuki Nishi. A single and a two-run Egoro Mogi homer made it a 4-2 game, and reliever Yuta Kuroki allowed another run in the inning.
In the ninth, Hirano (0-1) allowed a leadoff single to Takero Okajima, who was bunted to second. But after two outs it all came down to Peguero, and the 30-year-old delivered.
Furukawa allowed four runs on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman over 3⅓ innings, but the bullpen allowed nothing else.
Right-hander Shu Sugahara gave Orix a chance to ice the game in the seventh, when two walks and an error loaded the bases with one out. But the rookie got Hikaru Ito to ground into an inning-ending double play that laid the groundwork for Rakuten’s comeback.
Hawks 5, Marines 3
At Yafuoku Dome, Seiichi Uchikawa got the Hawks on the board with a solo homer in the second and broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh with a two-run double. The Hawks swept their season-opening series for the first time since 2014, with closer Dennis Sarfate posting his 178th save in Nippon Professional Baseball, setting a record for foreign relievers.
Lions 6, Fighters 3
At Sapporo Dome, Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s Shohei Otani hit his first home run of the year in the fourth with a game-tying solo shot and went 3-for-4 with a double, but Seibu pulled away with four runs in the next frame that included two Fighters errors and a balk. Former Fighter Brian Wolfe (1-0) allowed three runs in six innings to earn the win.
Giants 6, Dragons 3
At Tokyo Dome, Casey McGehee and Yoshiyuki Kamei each drove in two runs as Yomiuri came from two runs down to beat Chunichi and complete a three-game sweep. Giants starter Kan Otake (1-0) allowed three runs in six-plus innings to earn the win and squeezed home a run.
Carp 9, Tigers 1
At Mazda Stadium, Allen Kuri (1-0) was able to pitch out of trouble and hold Hanshin to a run over six innings, while Tigers ace Atsushi Nomi (0-1) gave up four over 3⅓ innings to take the loss.
Swallows 8, BayStars 4 (10)
At Jingu Stadium, Atsushi Ugumori’s pinch-hit grand slam lifted Tokyo Yakult past Yokohama, which had tied the game 4-4 in the fifth inning on Jose Lopez’s second RBI double.