SENDAI – Journeyman right-hander Yuya Kubo got a pair of big strikeouts to preserve the lead as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles held off the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 6-5 on Wednesday night.
With runners on second and third, the 37-year-old Kubo found an extra gear to bail the Pacific League-leading Eagles out of a tough spot before 26,886 at Kobo Park Miyagi.
“I’m really not a strikeout pitcher, but considering the situation I thought I’d change my style a little tonight and go for strikeouts,” said the 15-year veteran. “I was kind of getting goose bumps with the crowd cheering me on.”
The Eagles had to overcome a solid night from Fighters cleanup hitter Shohei Otani, who went 3-for-5. Otani reached on a two-out RBI infield single in the first to open the scoring and drove in another big run in the seventh.
Fighters starter Kohei Arihara, allowed a leadoff homer to Eigoro Mogi in the first, but really collapsed with two out and none on in the third. A walk and a Hiroaki Shimauchi single set the table for Zelous Wheeler, who doubled in both runners to make it a 3-1 game.
Until that point, the right-hander had been executing most of his pitches, but he missed up and over the middle with a first-pitch fastball, and Wheeler barreled it up. With first base open, Arihara walked hot-hitting slugger Japhet Amador.
But that backfired when light-hitting Ryo Hijirisawa hammered a lazy cutter into the right field stands for his first homer of the season.
The Fighters, however, bounced back in the top of the fourth off starter Takahiro Shiomi. With two outs, and Otani on deck with two on, Shiomi tried to fool Brandon Laird with a 3-2 curveball. But Laird was all over it, driving it over the center field wall for his 25th home run of the season.
Shiomi got out of the inning by retiring Otani for the first time in the game, but the Fighters cleanup hitter made up for that in the seventh. After taking a pair of quality pitches for strikes and falling behind 1-2, he stayed on a borderline forkball from reliever Yasunori Kikuchi and knocked it into the outfield for an RBI single.
But that was as far as the Fighters would get, with Otani on second as the potential go-ahead run as Kubo struck out Kensuke Tanaka and Yadir Drake to get out of the inning.
Lions 8, Buffaloes 4
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, with the game tied 4-4 with two outs and none on in the fifth inning, a two-out error by Orix’s Eiichi Koyano put a runner on and Shogo Akiyama’s RBI triple broke the tie.
Seibu piled on the damage with RBI doubles from Sosuke Genda and Hideto Asamura.
Hawks 3, Marines 2
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, four-straight, extra-base hits in a three-run third made a loser out of Chiba Lotte’s Jason Standridge (3-5), while Fukuoka SoftBank’s Rick van den Hurk (10-5) surrendered two runs, one earned, over seven innings to earn the win.
Dragons 7, Carp 1
At Nagoya Dome, Yota Kyoda went 5-for-5 with three RBIs to spark Chunichi to a one-sided win over league-leading Hiroshima and hand Daichi Osera (7-1) his first loss of the season.
Tigers 5, Giants 4
At Tokyo Dome, Kosuke Fukudome and Jason Rogers each drove in two runs, including one in the ninth off closer Arquimedes Caminero (1-5), as Hanshin won a see-saw game against Yomiuri.
BayStars 7, Swallows 2
At Jingu Stadium, Joe Wieland (6-2) allowed a run in six innings to earn the win, and Yokohama scored five runs in three innings off 18-year-old Yakult rookie Yugo Umeno (0-1) in his pro debut.