After beginning interleague play in the middle of what would become an historic low, the Yomiuri Giants are poised to end the annual midseason competition on a high note.
Kazuto Taguchi pitched a four-hit shutout, Casey McGehee drove in two runs and the Giants routed the Chiba Lotte Marines for the second straight night, blowing out the Pacific League cellar-dwellers 8-0 on Saturday at Tokyo Dome.
The Giants, who won by the same score on Friday night, began interleague play with nine straight losses (part of a franchise-worst 13-game skid), but would finish up on a three-game winning streak with a victory over the Marines on Sunday afternoon.
Good starting pitching and a healthy dose of McGehee was the winning formula on Friday, and the Kyojin gave the Marines another helping Saturday.
“It’s a great feeling,” Taguchi said of his performance.
Taguchi limited the Marines to four singles and walked two over the distance. He also struck out 10 to reach double digits for the first time in his career.
“It just happened by chance,” Taguchi said. “I wasn’t trying to get strikeouts, but it was good that I got them.”
The victory was his first since shutting out the Yokohama BayStars on May 21, snapping a streak of three winless starts. The left-hander improved to 5-2 this season and lowered his ERA to 2.10.
“He’s pitched really well,” McGehee said. “He’s been consistent every time out. He’s given us a chance to win. His numbers probably should be better than they are, there have been a couple of games we haven’t been able to score for him, but he’s done a great job.”
McGehee led the charge at the plate finishing 3-for-4 with a a double and a pair of RBIs. It was his second straight three-hit night against the Marines after falling a single short of the cycle in Friday night’s win.
“Same as yesterday, the guys in front of me put me in that situation,” McGehee said. “It’s nice to know that no matter who it is hitting behind me, that if I don’t get the job done or if I walk, they can do it just fine. The guys in front of me and behind me make the job a lot easier.”
Daikan Yoh, who joined the team as a free agent over the offseason but didn’t debut until June because of injuries, hit his first home run as a Giants player, connecting on a two-run shot in the eighth.
When asked about the homer during his hero interview, he playfully responded “happy desu,” something he often did during his days with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
Shuichi Murata also drove in two runs for the Giants, who also scored on a Marines error and a wild pitch.
Lotte starter Kota Futaki lasted just four innings and was charged with the loss. Futaki (4-1) allowed three runs on eight hits. He struck out three and walked two batters.
Shota Ishimine was 2-for-4 for the Marines, who couldn’t muster any offense.
McGehee opened the scoring with a one-out RBI single in the bottom of the third. The next batter, Murata, connected on a run-scoring double, which put the Giants ahead 2-0.
The Kyojin put runners on the corners on singles by Hisayoshi Chono and Yasuhiro Yamamoto in the fourth, and scored when shortstop Ryo Miki committed an error on a grounder hit by Hayato Sakamoto.
McGehee hit another RBI single in the sixth, and the Giants made it 5-0 in the seventh after Itaru Hashimoto tripled to begin the inning and scored on a wild pitch.
Murata drove in another run in the eighth, and Yoh put an exclamation point on the night with his two-run homer later in the inning.
Maru homers again
One well-timed home run proved more valuable than three for Yoshihiro Maru, whose fourth solo homer in two games lifted the Hiroshima Carp to a 3-2 interleague win over the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks on Saturday afternoon.
A day after he hit three homers in a 5-3 loss, Hiroshima’s No. 3 hitter broke a 2-2, eighth-inning tie by leading off with his 12th home run of the season.
“The game was tied so my first thought was to create a scoring opportunity by getting on base,” Maru said. “I got a really good swing. Basically I went up looking to put a good swing on a fat pitch.
“I don’t want people to misunderstand and think this (power spurt) is normal for me, it was just something that happened.”
The win pushed the Carp to the head of the interleague standings. A win over the Hawks, six-time interleague champs, on Sunday would make the Carp just the second Central League team to win the interleague title in a competition routinely dominated by Pacific League teams.
With Hiroshima closer Takeru Imamura on the mound in the ninth, the Hawks mounted a threat with one down. After a scratch infield single, pinch runner Keizo Kawashima made the most of a bounced pitch to take second. He went to third on a comebacker off Imamura’s leg for another infield single.
With much of the Mazda Stadium crowd of 31,769 in stunned silence, Imamura returned to the mound after briefly receiving treatment and threw five straight strikes before getting a sharp grounder on a 1-2 pitch. Third baseman Tomohiro Abe’s throw to first was wide, but Brad Eldred laid out down the line on his back, cradling the ball while keeping his foot on the bag.
SoftBank took a two-run lead off Carp starter Yusuke Nomura on a first-inning Kenta Imamiya homer and a fourth-inning RBI single by Nobuhiro Matsuda.
Hiroshima caught a break when center fielder Yuki Yanagita misplayed Eldred’s two-out, fourth-inning single to center, allowing two runs to score and make it a tie game.
Nomura and Hawks rookie Yuki Matsumoto each allowed two runs in seven innings. Nomura gave up seven hits but no walks, while striking out four. Matsumoto surrendered five hits and three walks and fanned seven.
Carp reliever Shota Nakazaki (2-0) worked around a pair of walks to earn the win in relief after Maru hit the first pitch from Sho Iwasaki (3-2) out to center. Imamura earned his 13th save.
Swallows 5, Fighters 0
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Tokyo Yakult won its fourth straight behind the first shutout in Japan by David Buchanan (4-4), who held Hokkaido Nippon Ham to four hits.
Tetsuto Yamada belted a three-run homer and former Fighter Keiji Obiki hit a solo shot.
Dragons 4, Lions 1
At Nagoya Dome, Raul Valdes (3-4) allowed a run on two hits and two walks over seven innings, and Chunichi scored three runs in 3-1/3 innings off reliever Frank Garces (2-2) who entered in the first after Seibu starter Yasuo Sano departed with knee trouble.
BayStars 14, Buffaloes 5
At Yokohama Stadium, a day after breaking a late tie with a three-run home run, catcher Yasutaka Tobashira brought Yokohama from behind in the sixth inning with his first career grand slam.
Orix lost its sixth straight game.
Eagles 8, Tigers 2
At Koshien Stadium, Hiroaki Shimauchi stroked a go-ahead triple to score Zelous Wheeler in the eighth inning, and a Hanshin defensive lapse contributed to a six-run Tohoku Rakuten inning, capped by a Carlos Peguero grand slam.