Yuki Miyazaki homered twice and ace Chihiro Kaneko overcame an early run to lead the Orix Buffaloes to an 8-4 Pacific League win over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on Thursday.
The Buffaloes, who won their fourth straight, took the lead on Miyazaki’s first homer of the season, a third-inning solo shot, and pulled away with his second, a two-run blast in the seventh at Tokyo Dome.
The 30-year-old Miyazaki has struggled for playing time, getting 100-plus at bats in just two seasons since he was picked third in the 2010 draft. But the outfielder has been on fire this season.
“I was able to hit a home run at a crucial juncture with Chihiro pitching well, so I’m pretty happy,” Miyazaki said. “(Kengo) Takeda went deep before me and I was just trying to reach base but got a good result. It was a fastball and I got a good swing on it.
“I haven’t played a lot, but I have been trying hard.”
Kaneko, who has been a disappointment since winning the Sawamura Award in 2014 as NPB’s most impressive starting pitcher, won his third straight game, allowing a run on one hit over eight innings.
Five days after needing 92 pitches to throw a two-hit shutout against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in which he didn’t walk a batter, Kaneko walked the leadoff man in the bottom of the first.
As they do the Fighters sacrificed and Haruki Nishikawa trotted home from second when Kensuke Kondo made contact with a pitch out of the zone for an opposite-field double.
Second-year Nippon Ham right-hander Takayuki Kato (1-1) held his lead until rookie Takeda opened the third with his first career homer. With one out, Miyazaki put the Buffaloes ahead.
Reliever Yohei Kagiya surrendered Miyazaki’s homer in the seventh, and Takahiro Okada made it 6-1 in the eighth with his fifth homer of the year and added an RBI single in a two-run ninth.
The Fighters rebounded from the canvas in the bottom of the ninth against reliever Tomoyuki Kaida, but an RBI single by Kondo and a two-run Brandon Laird homer were not enough to change the final result.
Hawks 4, Marines 0
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Field, Fukuoka SoftBank’s Rick van den Hurk (1-2) found his groove after two poor starts, allowing two hits and a walk, while striking out 11 in eight innings to outduel Chiba Lotte rookie Chiya Sasaki (1-1), who gave up a run in seven innings.
BayStars 5, Carp 3 (10)
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo’s sacrifice fly broke a 10th-inning tie as Yokohama won back-to-back games for the first time this season.
A night after dealing Hiroshima’s powerful lineup its first shutout defeat, BayStars starter Shoichi Ino shut the Carp down for six innings before they tied it 3-3 in the seventh.
Dragons 5, Tigers 2
At Nagoya Dome, Ryosuke Hirata hit a game-tying solo homer, and Yota Kyoda singled in two runs in a three-run seventh as Chunichi rallied to beat Hanshin and move out of the CL cellar with its first consecutive victories.