There were fireworks the last time the Hanshin Tigers’ Shintaro Fujinami pitched against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Emotions weren’t running quite as high on Thursday afternoon, but the Tigers’ batters did their best to run up the score.
Masahiro Nakatani and Kosuke Fukudome homered during a five-run fifth inning, and Fujinami drove in a run while also holding down the Swallows’ lineup in Hanshin’s 7-1 victory over Yakult on a sunny day at a sold-out Jingu Stadium.
Fukudome punished the Swallows again, going 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs.
“It (the home run) was helped by the wind,” Fukudome said, referring to the steady wind, blowing toward the outfield, present throughout the game.
His big day came after a 4-for-5, two-RBI performance in the Tigers’ win on Wednesday. The 40-year-old outfielder raised his batting average to .323 for the season to go with three home runs and 17 RBIs.
Tigers catcher Ryutaro Umeno also had three hits and drove in two runs. One of those came on a solo homer, his first since Aug. 26, 2015.
“I didn’t get all of it, but the wind carried it,” Umeno said.
Nakatani, whose home run was his second of the season, and Fujinami, who hit an RBI single in the fifth, also plated runs for Hanshin.
From the mound, Fujinami (3-1) held the Swallows to one run on four singles in 7⅓ innings. Fujinami has now won five straight games at Jingu Stadium dating back to Aug. 14, 2015.
“I give him all the credit for holding them to one run,” Umeno said.
A brawl broke out the last time Fujinami faced the Swallows, on April 4 at Kyocera Dome. The Tigers pitcher hit Kazuhiro Hatakeyama with a pitch around the head and neck area, drawing the ire of the Yakult batter, who took a few steps toward the mound.
The benches cleared and a tense situation nearly exploded when an irate Wladimir Balentien got into it with Tigers coach Akihiro Yano, who fell to the ground and got up and charged after the Swallows slugger. Balentien was later fined ¥200,000, while Yano drew a ¥150,000 penalty.
Fujinami’s control wasn’t so great this time either, as evidenced by seven walks and two pitches that sailed over batters’ heads, but he avoided beaning any Swallows.
Yakult starter Masanori Ishikawa didn’t have his best stuff either. Ishikawa (2-3) didn’t make it out of the fifth, allowing seven runs on 13 hits in 4⅔ innings. He struck out one.
Outfielder Yuhei Takai was one of the few bright spots for the home team, going 4-for-4. Tomotaka Sakaguchi accounted for the team’s only run with an RBI groundout in the fifth.
Fukudome got Hanshin on the board in the third with a single up the middle that allowed Nakatani to score from third.
Umeno made the score 2-0 with his homer in the fourth.
Nakatani added to the lead with his solo shot leading off the fifth, and Fukudome made it 5-0 with his two-run home run to right.
Umeno and Fujinami added run-scoring hits later in the inning to give Hanshin a seven-run cushion.
“When I stepped in the batter’s box, I was just hoping to do something to get a run in,” said Umeno, who went to the plate with runners on second and third. “I thought there was a lot of space between first and second and I felt that I could get a good result if I tried to go that way.”
The Swallows got their lone first run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, with Yuhei Nakamura coming home on Sakaguchi’s groundout.
The second-place Tigers will now head home for a showdown against the first-place Hiroshima Carp in a three-game series that begins Friday at Koshien Stadium.
Undefeated Randy Messenger (4-0) gets the ball for Hanshin, with Hiroshima giving the start to rookie Takuya Kato, who is 1-3.
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