SENDAI – Eigoro Mogi’s three-run homer off Kodai Senga iced the game for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in a 7-1 win over the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
Before a late Tuesday afternoon crowd of 26,162 in the Eagles’ home opener at Kobo Park Miyagi, the Pacific League’s two unbeaten teams and a pair of World Baseball Classic pitchers went head to head, but Rakuten’s Takahiro Norimoto (1-0) got the better of that duel, allowing a run in six innings to earn the win.
“I was just thinking about winning,” Norimoto said. “I wanted to go a little longer but I was able to pitch out of trouble. Our batters are really playing with a lot of heart. Senga was really good at the start but our guys kept battling.”
Norimoto, who has led the Pacific League in strikeouts the past three seasons, got out of jams in the first and second innings with swinging strikeouts before finally retiring the side in order in the third.
By contrast, Senga, Japan’s only member of the WBC’s all-tournament team, didn’t allow a hit until Kazuya Fujita led off the third with a single and scored from third on a wild pitch. He broke for the plate the instant it bounced and scored despite a good effort from catcher Takuya Kai to corral it near the plate.
The Eagles, however, broke the bank in the fourth, starting with a one-out Ginji Akaminai single and a two-out Ryo Hijirisawa triple. A walk and a single by Motohiro Shima made it 3-0, and brought Mogi to the plate.
“I hit it pretty well and thought it would get out,” said Mogi of his second homer of the young season. “It’s not really my style, but I have been able to put good swings on some fat pitches.
“To be honest, I’m not in the best form, but I’ll keep working on it.”
Carlos Peguero, who hit two massive game-breaking homers in the Eagles’ opening series, followed with a walk, went to third on a single and scored on a wild pitch.
“We never won four straight all last year. It feels good to come home, especially when so many fans came out on such a cold day,” Rakuten manager Masataka Nashida said.
Norimoto allowed five hits and three walks, while striking out eight. The Hawks’ only run came in a chaotic sixth, when the Eagles lost veteran catcher Shima.
With one out and two on, the follow through on a big swing by Alfredo Despaigne caught Shima behind the neck and he had to be stretchered off the field. He was replaced by Toru Hosokawa, who left the Hawks for the Eagles in the offseason.
After a wild pitch and a walk, Akira Nakamura delivered a sacrifice fly. SoftBank reloaded the bases with a walk but was unable to stage a rally.
Senga (0-1) surrendered six hits and four walks, while striking out four.
Buffaloes 7, Lions 3
At Tokorozawa’s Metlife Dome, Brandon Dickson (1-0) allowed three runs, two earned, in five innings and Orix beat Seibu for its first win of the season.
The Buffaloes broke 2-2 tie in a four-run fifth on Eiichi Koyano’s RBI single and a three-run Stefen Romero homer.
Fighters 6, Marines 1
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Field, Kensuke Kondo went 3-for-4 with a double, a walk, two runs and three RBIs to lift Hokkaido Nippon Ham past winless Chiba Lotte.
Fighters starter Hirotoshi Takanashi (1-0) was far from sharp but allowed only a run in five-plus innings to earn the win.
Carp 7, Dragons 1
At Nagoya Dome, Yusuke Nomura (1-0) allowed a run in seven strong innings, and went 2-for-3 with a run as Hiroshima spoiled winless Chunichi’s home opener.
Swallows 3, Tigers 1
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Yakult’s David Buchanon (1-0) threw a five-hitter in his Japan debut against Tokyo Yakult.
Netherlands WBC hero Wladimir Balentien hit a monstrous home run for the Swallows before being ejected along with Hanshin coach Akihiro Yano in a bench-clearing brawl after Tigers starter Shintaro Fujinami hit former RBI king Kazuhiro Hatakeyama with a pitch.
Giants 5, BayStars 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Tomoyuki Sugano (1-0) allowed a run in seven innings, and Yomiuri broke a 1-1 tie in a four-run eighth on Soichiro Tateoka triple.
The inning also featured Shinnosuke Abe’s third homer, a two-run shot.
Yokohama battled back in the eighth and ninth but fell short.
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