The Hiroshima Carp were held without a run for five innings. Once the reigning Central League champions finally got going in the sixth, there was no stopping them, especially not Ryosuke Kikuchi.
Kikuchi had five hits, including a two-run home run, and the Carp scored nine runs from the sixth inning on in a 9-6 victory over the Yomiuri Giants on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.
“This is a big win for us, to beat the Giants here at Tokyo Dome,” Kikuchi said.
The Carp have won five straight since a tie against the Chunichi Dragons and are 8-0-1 in April. The team’s last loss came against the Hanshin Tigers on March 31, the opening night of the season.
“We’ll try to keep the winning streak going tomorrow,” Kikuchi said.
Kikuchi led the way on Tuesday. While he’s known mostly for the amazing plays he makes in the field at second base, his hitting skills took center stage against the Giants. He singled in his first four trips to the plate, driving in a run during the last of those.
Kikuchi came up with a man on first in the seventh and sent a ball into the throng of Carp supporters in left field for his first home run of the season.
“I really felt good tonight at the plate and saw the ball well,” Kikuchi said.
Kikuchi grounded out in his final at-bat to finish 5-for-6 with three RBIs. The last NPB player with six hits in a game was the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks’ Kenji Johjima in 2003. The single-game record is seven, achieved by Hiroshi Oshita in 1949 for the Tokyu Flyers.
Hiroshima pounded out 14 hits overall. Seiya Suzuki had two in the sixth, one of them a two-run double, and was 3-for-5 in his first career game as the cleanup hitter. Tetsuya Kokubo had a game-tying pinch-hit two-run triple in the sixth and a tiebreaking single in the seventh. Tomohiro Abe also drove in a run on a 2-for-5 night.
The Carp led all NPB teams in runs scored last season and have picked up where they left off early this year. Tuesday’s total put the club at an NPB-best 60 runs scored this season, with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles second with 49.
They did most of their damage during a six-run sixth inning.
“That one big inning did us in,” said Giants manager Yoshinobu Takahashi. “We had some missed plays on defense and that hurt us.”
Runs weren’t exactly at a premium on either side at the Big Egg. Daisuke Nakai drove in a pair for the Giants with a two-run home run, his second of the year. Casey McGehee, Yoshiyuki Kamei and Shinnosuke Shigenobu also recorded RBIs.
Carp reliever Ren Nakata finished as the winning pitcher after throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Yomiuri’s Masahiko Morifuku allowed three runs in two innings on the mound and was charged with the loss.
Neither of the marquee starters were part of the decision. The Giants’ Tomoyuki Sugano was charged with five runs in 5 2/3 innings. Sugano allowed seven hits, struck out nine and walked three. Hiroshima’s Yusuke Nomura gave up three runs — two earned — on four hits in five innings. He struck out one and walked one.
“Sugano is a great pitcher,” Kikuchi said. “We were fortunate to catch him on a night when he was not at his best.”
The Giants scored the first run of the game on an error. Soichiro Tateoka hit a grounder to third with two outs and a man on third, but Abe’s off-target throw to first allowed a run to score.
The Giants added to their lead on Nakai’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth.
The Carp got on the board in the sixth thanks to a defensive lapse by Giants first baseman Shinnosuke Abe, who failed to get an out on a fielder’s choice.
Kokubo stepped to the plate with two on and two out later in the inning and sent a ball deep to right. Outfielder Hisayoshi Chono fell down while trying to catch it and two runs scored on the triple to tie the score at 3-3.
Sugano walked the next batter, which brought an end to his night on the mound. He was still charged with another run after Kikuchi connected on a tiebreaking RBI single off reliever Tappei Tanioka. Suzuki, who had begun the frame with a single, made the score 6-3 with a two-run double.
The lead didn’t last long.
Hayato Sakamoto began the Giants’ half of the sixth with a single and Shinnosuke Abe drew a walk. McGehee then doubled in a run, Kamei drove in another with a pinch-hit RBI single, and Shigenobu tied the game with a run-scoring single to left.
The Carp snatched the lead back in the next inning, with Kokubo driving in the tiebreaking run with a single to left. Kikuchi struck later in the inning, making the score 9-6 with his two-run homer to left.
Dragons at Swallows — ppd.
Tigers at BayStars — ppd.
Buffaloes win sixth straight
The Orix Buffaloes secured their sixth straight win for the first time in three years with an 11-1 pounding of the Chiba Lotte Marines on Tuesday, Eichi Koyano driving in four runs and Brandon Dickson hurling eight strong innings in the Pacific League.
Lotte starter Ayumu Ishikawa (0-2) gave up three straight hits after one out to load the bases in the first inning, and Koyano plated two runs to get the Buffaloes on the board at Kyocera Dome.
Koyano then drew a two-out walk in the third off the right-hander before four base hits stretched the lead to 5-0. Ishikawa was pulled after the inning,. He allowed five runs on eight hits and two walks, striking out five in a 98-pitch effort.
Reliever Taiki Tojo gave up two walks before two-out doubles from Hiroyuki Nakajima and Koji Oshiro drove in three more runs in the fourth to put the game beyond reach for the Marines.
Dickson (2-0) allowed three runs in five innings in his first start of the year but improved to hold Lotte to a run in a 106-pitch outing. He had two runners on in the first and fourth but got out of trouble and scattered six hits and two walks with two strikeouts.
Daichi Suzuki hit a leadoff triple off the right-hander in the seventh before Matt Duffy plated the Marines’ first run in the seventh, but Koyano hit a two-run triple off Lotte reliever Keisuke Takano in the eighth and Takahiro Okada hit a single for his second RBI of the day.
Hawks 3, Fighters 0
At Sapporo Dome, Fukuoka SoftBank’s Kodai Senga (1-1) threw eight shutout innings against Hokkaido Nippon Ham, fanning 13 batters.
Seiichi Uchikawa hit a two-run double for the Hawks, while the Fighters suffered their sixth straight defeat for the first time in three years.
Lions at Eagles — ppd.