Former Yomiuri Giants pitcher Hisanori Takahashi predicted Tomoyuki Sugano would throw his third consecutive shutout on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome. His former teammate, and current Yokohama BayStars manager Alex Ramirez, believed, and hoped, there would be a different outcome.
But if it wasn’t abundantly clear after Sugano’s last two outings it is now. The Giants ace has made it nearly impossible to bet against him. Almost as impossible as scoring just one run off him.
Sugano went the distance yet again, striking out nine in his third shutout in as many starts, and Hayato Sakamoto led the Kyojin at the plate in a 5-0 win over the BayStars in front of 45,259 at the Big Egg.
“My condition wasn’t so good, but Hayato and the batters got five runs as promised, so that made it easy for me,” Sugano said.
The Yomiuri ace threw 135 pitches and limited Yokohama to four singles and a double without walking a batter. He didn’t allow a baserunner after Shuto Takajo led off the fifth with a single to center.
“I was able to maintain my strength throughout the entire game,” said Sugano, who improved to 4-0 this season and lowered his ERA to 1.36.
Sugano has now thrown 27 consecutive scoreless innings and is the first Central League player since Masaki “Mr. Complete Game” Saito in 1989 to pitch shutouts in three straight starts. Saito was formerly the club’s pitching coach and is currently serving as the farm team manager.
“Saito-san was the pitching coach when I joined the team, and he taught me a lot of things,” Sugano said.
Sugano has shut out the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, Hiroshima Carp, and now the BayStars in succession. He’s struck out 21 and walked three in those 27 innings.
“It’s been impressive to watch, especially his last couple times out,” said infielder Casey McGehee. “He’s been spectacular. It gives you a good feeling knowing you can play free and easy knowing that if there is a mistake, he’s throwing the ball so well he can kind of cover it up.”
The Giants gave Sugano plenty of run support on Tuesday, even though he didn’t need much.
Yomiuri pounded out 11 hits, with Sakamoto leading the way with four, including a home run in the first inning. McGehee had a pair of hits and drove in two runs and Daisuke Nakai was 2-for-5. Yoshiyuki Kamei drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Shingo Ishikawa recorded an RBI on an infield single.
“The way Sugano was pitching, it didn’t look like we were going to need a lot of runs because he was throwing the ball so well,” McGehee said.
The BayStars came up with a few hits early, but could never get the big one, ending three different innings with a runner stranded on third.
Rookie starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi, the BayStars’ first pick in last year’s draft, took the loss after allowing four runs on nine hits. He struck out eight and walked one.
“He’s pretty good,” McGehee said. “He had a really good changeup. I thought we did a good job of making the most of the few opportunities we got.”
The Giants jumped out to an early lead against the rookie when Sakamoto sent an ill-placed fastball over the center-field wall in the bottom of the first.
Sakamoto led off the fourth with an infield single to first and moved up a base when McGehee recorded an infield single to second. He moved to third on a groundout by Hisayoshi Chono and scored on Ishikawa’s infield hit.
The Giants loaded the bases in the fifth, and McGehee hit a two-run single up the middle to make the score 4-0.
“I was just trying to use center and right field because of that changeup he was throwing,” McGehee said. “Trying to not get out in front of it and at least give myself a chance.”
Kamei made the score 5-0 with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Buchanan leads Swallows past Tigers
David Buchanan (2-1) overcame a first-inning leadoff homer to go seven innings and reserve infielder Ryota Yachi drove in three runs as the Yakult Swallows defeated the Hanshin Tigers 4-1 on Tuesday at Jingu Stadium.
Carp 5, Dragons 2
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima came from a run down, scoring five in the fifth inning against Chunichi with two outs.
Seiya Suzuki’s RBI single tied it and a single by Brad Eldred and another by Takahiro Arai — whose foul fly was dropped — put the Carp in front for good in support of Yusuke Nomura (2-1).
Buffaloes 4, Eagles 1
At Sendai’s Kobo Park, ace Chihiro Kaneko (5-0) allowed a run on five hits and four walks over eight-plus innings to win his fifth straight start.
Home runs from Takahiro Okada and Hiroyuki Nakajima and a fluke RBI triple plated three second-inning runs as Orix beat league-leading Tohoku Rakuten.
Fighters 11, Marines 0
At Sapporo Dome, Hirotoshi Takanashi (2-2) threw a three-hit shutout and Takuya Nakashima scored three runs as Hokkaido Nippon Ham thumped Chiba Lotte, which fell 10 games under .500.
Hawks 14, Lions 4
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, No. 8 hitter Seiji Uebayashi homered twice with five RBIs and No. 9 hitter Kai Takuya belted a grand slam as Fukuoka SoftBank bashed Seibu with a 17-hit barrage.