Seiji Uebayashi’s third-inning, three-run homer brought the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks from behind in a 5-3 win over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on Monday evening.
Before a crowd of 46,808, the largest announced at Tokyo Dome this season, the Hawks overturned a 3-0 deficit in the third against Fighters rookie Yuki Yoshida (0-2).
The right-hander struggled after two outs in each of the first two innings, but got hammered from the start of the third, beginning with a leadoff double by catcher Takuya Kai.
Leadoff man Kenji Akashi doubled Kai home and scored on a two-out double by Yuki Yanagita. Alfredo Despaigne’s single trimmed the Fighters’ lead to a run. Yoshida’s third walk of the game brought Uebayashi to the plate.
The left-handed-hitting outfielder, who will turn 22 on Tuesday, started his birthday celebrations early by pulling a straight 1-2 fastball into the seats in right for his 10th home run.
“Recently I haven’t hit at all with runners in scoring position, and I’ve felt like crying it’s been so bad, but today I got a hit so I’m happy,” Uebayashi said. “Even though I was behind in the count, I wanted to swing hard.”
Brandon Laird opened the scoring with his 23rd home run, a solo shot off rookie Yuki Matsumoto in the first. Taishi Ota, who began his career in this park with the Yomiuri Giants before an offseason trade brought him to Hokkaido, belted a two-run homer in the second.
The Fighters chased Matsumoto in the fifth, putting the tying runs on with two outs and left-handed slugger Shohei Otani at the plate. But Cuban reliever Livan Moinelo (2-0) came on and remained perfect against Otani this season. Otani took a healthy cut at a high 1-2 breaking ball, but just missed it, hitting a soft liner that was caught at shortstop.
“I was just trying to get him out, like I do every batter. I was happy to get out of that inning,” said Moinelo, who had struck Otani out in both of their previous encounters.
Dennis Sarfate worked around a two-out walk by striking out pesky Takuya Nakashima in a 10-pitch at-bat to end the game and earn his 33rd save.