A lot of NPB players might be looking forward to the upcoming All-Star break, but you might not find too many Yomiuri Giants on that list.

Especially not when they’re finally starting to get in a groove and build some momentum.

The Giants continued their recent turnaround, riding seven shutout innings from ace Tomoyuki Sugano and a home run by Hayato Sakamoto to a 2-0 victory over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.

The capital’s two pro baseball franchises have been keeping each other company at the bottom of the Central League standings (with Yomiuri fifth and Yakult sixth) for awhile now, but for the Giants, things are starting to look up. The Kyojin have won six of their last eight and have won three straight series for the first time this season, a stretch that includes taking two of three from both the first-place Hiroshima Carp and second-place Hanshin Tigers on the road.

“We were in a bad stretch, and now we’re picking it up,” said reliever Arquimedes Caminero, who worked the ninth for his 18th save of the season. “We’re just going to keep trying to do well.”

Sugano (9-4) has done well for most of the year. His latest outing propelled him to the head of the class in the CL with nine wins, one more than teammate Kazuto Taguchi and the Hiroshima Carp’s Kazuki Yabuta.

“I was only able to win nine games last year,” Sugano said, referring to his 9-6 record in 2016, the only season he’s failed to reach double digits. “For now, I’ll just keep doing my best.”

Sugano struck out eight and allowed just five hits, all singles, and no walks in an 106-pitch outing.

“I was conscious of my pace, and after we scored, I was just doing my best to protect the lead and hit (catcher Seiji) Kobayashi’s mark,” he said.

The Giants only had four hits themselves, one each from Sakamoto, Shinnosuke Abe, Shuichi Murata and Yoshiyuki Kamei. Daisuke Nakai finished 0-for-2, but gave Yomiuri the lead with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning. Sakamoto padded the advantage with a home run leading off the sixth, his ninth of the season.

Tetsuto Yamada had two of the Swallows’ five hits, while rookie shortstop Nobuyuki Okuhara collected the first hit of his career with a single in the second inning.

Swallows starter Tomoya Hoshi (3-4) escaped a no-out bases loaded jam with three strikeouts (of Nakai, Kobayashi and Sugano) in the second inning, but allowed Nakai’s sacrifice fly in the same situation in fourth. He also gave up Sakamoto’s home run and took the loss after seven innings of two-run ball. Hoshi struck out three, walked one and hit two batters.

The Swallows remain winless in July with nine losses and a tie during the month. The team has lost its last five three-game series and hasn’t won one since taking two of three from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters during interleague play in June.

The Giants can probably relate to the Swallows’ current situation, having endured a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak earlier in the season. The club is beginning to turn it around, however, and sits a half-game behind the Chunichi Dragons for fourth place in the CL standings.

“The team’s energy is going up,” Caminero said. “We were hanging in there even when we were doing bad. This is a good team. We’re going to do well.”

Yomiuri will try to head into the break on a high note as it goes for the sweep on Wednesday night at the Big Egg. Ryosuke Miyaguni (0-7) will start for the Giants, with David Buchanan (5-5) taking the hill for the Swallows.

Tigers pound Dragons

Kurashiki Okayama Pref. KYODO

Randy Messenger allowed a run in seven innings and Hiroki Uemoto went 4-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs as the Hanshin Tigers defeated the Chunichi Dragons 10-1 on Tuesday in the Central League.

The Tigers snapped a four-game losing streak against the Dragons.

Messenger improved to 8-5.

BayStars 5, Carp 2

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Kenta Ishida (3-3) allowed two runs in seven innings, CL batting leader Toshiro Miyazaki singled in a tiebreaking run in the fifth, and Hiroshima gave away two unearned runs in the sixth in a loss to Yokohama.


Eagles 5, Hawks 4

At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Ginji Akaminai’s two-out, two-strike RBI single off closer Dennis Sarfate lifted Tohoku Rakuten to a come-from-behind victory over Fukuoka SoftBank.

In a game that saw the Eagles waste numerous chances against their nearest pursuers in the Pacific League pennant race, Sarfate (1-1) hit a batter and walked a batter to open the door in the ninth inning.

Akaminai fouled off one pitch and took another for a strike before hitting a grounder to right.

“You always want to win these between the top teams,” said Akaminai, who went 3-for-4 with a walk and a double. “We had chances and I had hits, but it feels really good to get the big one.

“I was 100 percent certain a fastball was coming. I was up there to get a good swing on one and I was lucky to get the big hit.”

Eagles closer Yuki Matsui quickly gave up a leadoff single to Akira Nakamura, but a sacrifice, a strikeout and groundout ended the argument in Rakuten’s favor as the lefty earned his 26th save.

Before a crowd of 36,140, Takahiro Norimoto got off to a rocky start and was punished for four early runs. Seiichi Uchikawa doubled in a run in the first, Seiji Uebayashi hit a two-run homer in the second and Nakamura made it 4-0 in the third with a sacrifice fly after the Hawks loaded the bases with no outs.

The Eagles got a run on the board against rookie starter Shuta Ishikawa in the sixth on Carlos Peguero’s 19th home run, but wasted a chance to tie it when Zelous Wheeler was throw out at the plate.

The Hawks’ fielding, which had been in the right place at the right time all night, stumbled in the Eagles’ three-run seventh.

Reliever Yuito Mori allowed a leadoff double and with one out and one on, Shinya Kayama walked a batter and gave up a Peguero infield single. An error by first baseman Uchikawa on the play allowed a run to score.

With two outs, Wheeler ripped a single to left that brought home two runs to tie it.

A leadoff walk and a booming single set the Eagles up to take the lead in the eighth, but SoftBank catcher Takuya Kai picked the lead runner off third, and right-hander Sho Iwasaki pitched out of trouble.

Buffaloes 8, Fighters 1

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Yuki Nishi (4-4) allowed a run in eight innings, while Shunta Goto doubled and had a pair of RBI triples and four RBIs as Orix blasted Yuki Saito (1-3) to cruise past Hokkaido Nippon Ham.Lions 16, Marines 6

At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Hideto Asamura homered twice and drove in four runs to pace Seibu’s 17-hit attack in a win over Chiba Lotte.

The Lions’ 16 runs are the most this season in either league.

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