OSAKA – Shohei Otani did not exactly get a welcome return to the mound in his first start of the season Wednesday, as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ two-way star failed to make it out of the second inning of a 6-3 defeat against the Orix Buffaloes.
Otani, whose time on the mound had been limited to a one-inning minor league rehab start on July 1 because of a torn left hamstring, allowed four earned runs on two hits and three walks in 1⅓ innings in taking the loss.
Otani, who struck out two, consistently hit mid-150 kph on the gun, but was all over the place with his location. After 29 pitches, manager Hideki Kuriyama had seen enough, going to the mound at Kyocera Dome to pull the right-hander.
“I couldn’t do a single thing I wanted to do,” said Otani, who made his first competitive start since Game 1 of the Japan Series in October. It was during that series that he rolled his right ankle running the bases — an injury he aggravated the following month playing for the Japan national team.
“I could turn up the velocity, but I couldn’t harness it. It shows I’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.
Otani walked the first batter he faced, Shuhei Kojima, but fanned Shunta Goto for his first strikeout of the year. He ended the inning by getting Masataka Yoshida to ground into a double play.
Otani struck out Stefen Romero to start the second, but walked Eiichi Koyano and allowed back-to-back singles to Chris Marrero and Takahiro Okada to load the bases.
With major league scouts on hand, Otani walked in the Buffaloes’ first run, issuing his third free pass of the night to Koji Oshiro. Kuriyama replaced Otani with Luis Mendoza, who gave up a bases-clearing double to Hikaru Ito.
Orix added another run in that inning and one more in the fourth to take a four-game winning streak into the All-Star break. Nippon Ham lost its third in a row and Otani, who is also nursing a bone spur in his right foot, claimed responsibility.
“I felt bad for Mendoza,” he said. “I have to learn from this and keep working towards my next start.”
Chihiro Kaneko (7-6) held the Fighters to three earned runs over five innings to win for the first time since May 30.
Lions 6, Marines 3
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Stephen Fife (1-0) held Chiba Lotte to two runs in five innings to win his first game in Japan, as Seibu rolled to its third straight victory.
Eagles 2, Hawks 0
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Takayuki Kishi (7-3) struck out nine over six shutout innings for Tohoku Rakuten, which sent SoftBank to its third consecutive loss and moved a season-high 26 games over .500.
Carp 5, BayStars 1
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, the first-place Carp’s Sawamura Award winner Kris Johnson (4-2) limited Yokohama to one earned run in eight innings.
BayStars starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-4), lasted only three innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits and a wild pitch.
Giants 8, Swallows 3
At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri’s Ryosuke Miyaguni (1-7) earned his first win of the season in his 12th start by pitching one-run ball in five innings against hapless Tokyo Yakult, which is on its second 10-game slide this year.
Tigers 5, Dragons 4
At Nishinomiya’s Koshien Stadium, Yamato Maeda had three hits and four RBIs, including the game-winning base hit in the eighth, as Hanshin edged Chunichi.
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