Kosuke Fukudome just had a feeling.
The Hanshin Tigers veteran’s first trip to the plate ended with a called third strike. So the bat that had remained on his shoulder in the first inning was left in the dugout when Fukudome strode to the plate in the third. He swung the new one, and the results couldn’t have been better.
Fukudome connected on a two-run home run in the third inning, starter Takumi Akiyama gave his team seven good frames and the Tigers edged the rival Yomiuri Giants 4-2 in front of a crowd of 42,606 on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.
“It was just my intuition,” Fukudome said when asked why he changed bats.
The first-place Tigers, coming off a three-game sweep of the Hiroshima Carp, won for the sixth straight time.
“Everything is going good right now, and everyone has been able to play well,” Fukudome said. “But we can’t stand still. Everyone still has to do their job and take it one game at a time. Today is over, we have to come back tomorrow.”
The team also snapped Yomiuri starter Tomoyuki Sugano’s streak of three consecutive shutouts with a pair of runs in the first inning.
Yoshio Itoi drove in the first with a single to right, following a double by leadoff man Shun Takayama (on a ball that landed just fair) and a sacrifice bunt by Fumiya Hojo.
“Because the Nos. 1 and 2 batters created the chance, I just wanted to get a hit to make the most of it,” Itoi said. “I’m glad we were able to score first.”
Takashi Toritani also drove in a run during the inning.
Fukudome finished 2-for-4 and drove in two runs. The 40-year old is hitting .321 with four home runs and 21 RBIs this season. Takayama also had a pair of hits.
Akiyama improved to 2-2 on the year with the victory.
“I was a little nervous, but I pitched with tenacity,” Akiyama said. “We scored early thanks to the position players, which allowed me to go after the batters.”
Akiyama allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings. He struck out four and walked one.
“He has been good this year,” Fukudome said. “He’s stood on the mound with a lot of confidence. He pitched with a good rhythm, which was good.”
Sugano (4-1), who entered the game having thrown 27 consecutive scoreless innings in his last three starts, allowed four runs on nine hits over eight. He struck out six.
The Kyojin scored both their runs on solo homers. Casey McGehee hit his fifth of the year in the second inning and Shingo Ishikawa went deep in the seventh for his third of the season. Shinnosuke Abe continued his march to 2,000 hits with a 3-for-4 night. Abe now has 1,948 career hits.
The old rivals will wrap up their two-game series on Wednesday night at the Big Egg. Yuta Iwasada (2-1) is slated to pitch for the Tigers. The Kyojin will hand the ball to Kan Otake, who is 3-1 on the year.
Dragons hammer BayStars
Chunichi’s Dayan Viciedo went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs as Yokohama rookie starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi allowed (2-2) six base runners over four innings and all of them scored in the Dragons’ 8-3 win over the BayStars on Tuesday in the Central League.
Swallows 3, Carp 2 (12)
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Shoitsu Omatsu, acquired after an offseason tryout following his release by Chiba Lotte, hit his first CL homer, a 12th-inning, sayonara blast that lifted Tokyo Yakult past Hiroshima.
The Carp lost their fourth straight.
Marines 6, Eagles 4
At Sendai’s Kobo Park, struggling Chiba Lotte Marines defeated Pacific League-leading Tohoku Rakuten behind six shutout innings from Taiwan lefty Chen Kuan-yu, who made his first start of the season.
Chen, who went 5-4 in 2015 and 1-1 last year, had thrown three innings of relief over two games this year with one earned run. But he held the Eagles in check, scattering three hits in an effective 120-pitch effort, issuing five walks and fanning none.
“I hadn’t pitched deep into a game before today … (but) I could get them out thanks to (good game-calling by catcher Tatsuhiro) Tamura,” Chen said after Lotte improved to 9-21 with one tie.
“I threw each pitch with care because their lineup has a lot of power.”
Chen’s counterpart, lefty Wataru Karashima (3-2), had won his first three starts but has now lost two straight. He lasted only 3-2/3 innings, while surrendering five runs on six hits. It was only the second time this season a Rakuten starter has failed to go at least four innings.
The Marines’ Kei Hosoya struck out three times but his only hit came at the right time, his two-out, two-run triple plating Taiga Hirasawa and Shota Ishimine to open the scoring.
Karashima got two quick outs in the fourth, but fell behind in the count to Tamura and Hirasawa, who hit back-to-back singles. Takashi Ogino doubled in both and scored on Ishimine’s RBI triple to chase Karashima, who struck out one and issued three walks.
Matt Duffy’s solo shot in the sixth off reliever Kenji Tomura made it a six-run game for the Marines but the Eagles, who entered the game with a 20-7 record, didn’t go away without a fight before a home crowd of 25,451.
Eigoro Mogi hit a one-out solo shot off reliever Tomohito Sakai in the sixth. With two on right fielder Ikuhiro Kiyota caught a Zelous Wheeler drive high off the fence above the outfield wall to save two runs.
Ginji Akaminai singled in a run for the Eagles in the inning, and Hiroaki Shimauchi singled and scored on a groundout in the eighth. Tatsuya Uchi wrapped up his second save after surrendering a huge solo homer to Wheeler with one out.
Hawks 2, Buffaloes 1
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, rising star Kodai Senga (5-1) matched his career high with 13 strikeouts as he outdueled former Sawamura Award winner Chihiro Kaneko (5-1) over eight innings. Seiichi Uchikawa and Nobuhiro Matsuda homered to lift Fukuoka SoftBank past Orix.
Lions 7, Fighters 2
At Sapporo Dome, Kona Takahashi (1-4) survived a rough five innings as Seibu’s Takeya Nakamura tied the game with a two-run single in the third and Takumi Kuriyama’s two-run homer off Hirotoshi Takanashi (2-3) gave Seibu the lead for good against Hokkaod Nippon Ham.
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