OSAKA – On a night when both teams were sporting throwback uniforms, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks introduced a throwback player, former big leaguer Munenori Kawasaki, in Friday’s 3-1 Pacific League win over the Orix Buffaloes.
A crowd of 22,293 witnessed the return of the Hawks’ fan favorite on a night when the Buffaloes sported the red, white and blue of the defunct Kintetsu Buffaloes, while the Fukuoka-based Hawks wore the green of their Osaka-based forebearers, the Nankai Hawks.
Kawasaki made some small but crucial contributions in his return to NPB’s top flight. In his first game back with the Hawks since moving to the major leagues in 2012, he went 1-for-4 in the leadoff spot, but saved a run at second base when he made a diving stop and ended a fourth-inning Orix threat.
After the Buffaloes tied the game in the sixth inning, Kawasaki singled to open the seventh and scored the go-ahead run when Shuhei Fukuda homered off Yuki Nishi (2-1).
Fukuda started the game on the bench but entered for defense after star center fielder Yuki Yanagita was hit in the back of the leg with a pitch by Nishi in the third inning.
“My thought was to go after a fat pitch if I got one,” said Fukuda, whose homer was his first hit of the season.
Although Fukuda said Kawasaki told the team to “have fun!” before the game, it was clear afterward that Kawasaki was less than impressed by a homecoming in which he struck out twice.
“My batting was not how I pictured it,” he said.
Kenichi Nakata (2-2) allowed a run on four hits and two walks over six innings, while Nishi allowed three runs in his seven-inning stint.
SoftBank designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne opened the scoring with a leadoff homer in the second. Nishi survived one jam after another before taking the 1-1 tie into the seventh.
Former New York Mets reliever Ryota Igarashi worked a 1-2-3 seventh and Sho Iwasaki, looking more comfortable in the setup role, did the same in the eighth. Dennis Sarfate completed the trifecta with a perfect ninth, earning his ninth save.
Marines 2, Lions 2 (12)
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Seibu’s Yusei Kikuchi and Chiba Lotte’s Hideaki Wakui each allowed two runs in seven innings in a game that was called after 12 innings.
Giants 7, Swallows 0
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Hayato Sakamoto broke the ice with a first-inning RBI single and Casey McGehee capped the outburst with a three-run homer as Yomiuri scored seven runs off Tokyo Yakult ace Masanori Ishikawa (2-2) behind seven innings from Miles Mikolas (3-1).
BayStars 9, Carp 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Yokohama pounced on Hiroshima rookie Takuya Kato (1-3) with four runs in four innings.
BayStars pitcher Joe Wieland (1-0) worked five-plus innings to earn the win, while singling two runs.
Tigers 6, Dragons 0
At Koshien Stadium, Randy Messenger (4-0) scattered six hits and a walk over seven innings and Eric Campbell opened the scoring with an RBI single as Hanshin shut out Chunichi.