Career saves leader Hitoki Iwase stepped into the record books on Sunday when he closed out the Chunichi Dragons’ 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Yomiuri Giants.
Pitching in his 950th career game, the lefty surpassed the Nippon Professional Baseball record held by former Hankyu Braves ace and Hall of Famer Tetsuya Yoneda. The save, Iwase’s second of the season, extended his NPB record to 404.
“It doesn’t seem like something I’ve done. I did well to get this far,” he said after the game.
As fans at the Giants’ home park, Tokyo Dome, shouted “a thousand games,” Iwase said, “I’ll will do my utmost in No. 951.”
The 42-year-old came on in the ninth and overcame a one-out walk and a single with the help of a base-running blunder by the Giants.
When Hayato Sakamoto’s fly to center was caught for the second out, pinch runner Shinnosuke Shigenobu failed to retouch second en route back to first. The Dragons appealed, the umpires agreed and the game was over.
“I was more nervous than usual coming to the mound. I was less concerned about getting a save than winning and getting it done with,” Iwase said. “You’ve got to be kidding about the way this ended. But it’s better than if it ended by my getting beat.”
Giants skipper Yoshinobu Takahashi had harsher words for the game’s surprise ending.
“If you don’t do things right, it’s a problem,” he said of Shigenobu’s mistake. “If you’re a ballplayer, that’s an issue.”
The Dragons opened the scoring in the third on doubles by Yohei Oshima and Nobumasa Fukuda, but the Giants came back in a four-run fourth thanks to some poor infield play by Chunichi.
A Shuichi Murata single and a Hisayoshi Chono double set the table. An error by first baseman Dayan Viciedo brought in one run. Catcher Seiji Kobayashi squeezed in a run but was safe on a fielder’s choice. With two outs, Casey McGehee singled in two runs.
The Dragons tied it in the fifth, when Atsushi Fujii homered with Alex Guerrero and Fukuda on board, and took the lead against star reliever Scott Mathieson in the eighth. With two outs and a runner in scoring position, Mathieson missed with a high 0-1 fastball and rookie Yota Kyoda lined it just over the right-hander’s glove into center for an RBI single.
Tigers 6, Swallows 5
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Shunsuke Fujikawa went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI, while Hayata Ito’s three-run, pinch-hit home run overturned a one-run deficit as Hanshin came from behind to complete a three-game sweep of Tokyo Yakult.
The Swallows, who have won six CL pennants since 1992, fell 30 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 1982 season.
Carp 9, BayStars 4
At Yokohama Stadium, Akitake Okada (10-4) drove in two runs, while allowing three over five innings to earn the win and three Hiroshima home runs made for a one-sided win over Yokohama.
Buffaloes 5, Fighters 2
At Sapporo Dome, Yuki Nishi (5-5) allowed two runs over seven innings, Chris Marrero opened the scoring with his eighth home run, a two-run, third-inning shot, and Orix held off Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Marines 3, Eagles 1
At Kobo Park Miyagi, Chiba Lotte’s Kota Futaki (5-5) allowed a run over the distance, shutting down Tohoku Rakuten on four hits and a walk, while striking out nine.
Lions 6, Hawks 1
At MetLife Dome, Brian Wolfe (9-2) allowed a run in seven innings against a former team and Hotaka Yamakawa continued to swing a hot bat, hitting a three-run homer in Seibu’s win over Fukuoka SoftBank. Yamakawa has driven in 14 runs in his last five games.