SENDAI – Tomohiro Anraku earned his first win of the year as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles moved 1½ games ahead of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks at the top of the Pacific League standings on Friday, winning 4-3.
Zelous Wheeler hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Hawks lefty Nao Higashihama (7-3) to give his team the lead for good.
Anraku (1-2) allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks over five innings but never surrendered the lead.
“It was a must-win game given it was the first of the series,” Anraku said. “I was behind in counts lots of times but I just believed in (catcher Motohiro) Shima and the players behind me.
“I was feeling the fans’ expectations, but it was a tough start to the season with injuries. I’ve finally got the first win so hopefully I can go on a roll from here.”
Higashihama surrendered two singles before Wheeler went deep with one out. Nobuhiro Matsuda led the second with a triple for SoftBank and scored his team’s first run on a groundout.
Carlos Peguero’s solo shot made it 4-1 in the third off Higashihama, who struck out seven but allowed four runs over 6-2/3 innings on five hits and three walks.
Yuki Yanagita connected on Anraku’s 1-0 fastball for a two-run shot in the fifth before the right-hander got the hook after the inning, but four Eagles relievers each threw a scoreless inning to preserve the lead.
Buffaloes 3, Lions 0
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Chris Marrero drove in all three runs with two homers off Seibu lefty Yusei Kikuchi (7-4) as Orix defeated Seibu.
Buffaloes starter Taisuke Yamaoka (3-6) worked eight shutout innings.
Fighters 7, Marines 4
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Hokkaido Nippon Ham snapped its five-game losing skid after Brandon Laird gave Nippon Ham the lead for good and Takuya Nakajima cleared the bases with a triple in a six-run seventh off Chiba Lotte right-hander Hideaki Wakui (3-6).
BayStars 3, Giants 1
At Utsunomiya’s Kiyohara Stadium, Jose Lopez broke a tie game with a two-run shot off Yomiuri starter Tomoyuki Sugano (7-4) as Yokohama defeated the Giants.
Sugano surrendered all the runs on the two hits he allowed in the seventh as the BayStars returned to .500.
Shoichi Ino (3-4) earned the win after allowing a run on four hits over seven innings.
Swallows 4, Tigers 3
At Koshien Stadium, Tokyo Yakult rallied past Hanshin, scoring four runs in the fifth inning off Tigers starter Koyo Aoyagi.
Aoyagi (3-3) allowed three hits and a walk, and hit three batters in the decisive inning en route to his team’s eighth straight defeat.
Carp 8, Dragons 3
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Brad Eldred turned the game around with a three-run homer in the third off Raul Valdez as CL-leading Hiroshima ended Chunichi’s three-game winning streak.
Carp hurler Kris Johnson (3-2) held the Dragons to three runs over seven frames.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5