The Yokohama BayStars led from just about start to finish on Friday night at Jingu Stadium.
No comebacks needed this time.
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo hit a two-run double in the third inning, and the BayStars exploded for six runs in the seventh before holding off a late charge by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in an 8-6 win.
“We were able to score six runs there and build an 8-1 lead,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said. “Our relievers did a good job. We gave up a couple of runs, but overall it was good.”
The BayStars extended their current winning streak to four with the victory. Although this one didn’t look anything like the previous three, when Yokohama rallied late against the Hiroshima Carp for three consecutive walk-off wins, something the franchise hadn’t done since 1960.
This time, Yokohama led nearly the entire way, with Tsutsugo opening the scoring with his double in the third.
Still, it a was close contest as BayStars hurler Shoichi Ino and Swallows starter David Buchanan battled on the mound.
Tomotaka Sakaguchi pulled a run back for Yakult with a single in the fifth that made it 2-1. Then the floodgates opened.
Two of the first three BayStars to come to the plate in the seventh drew walks as Buchanan began to waver. Masayuki Kuwahara then drove in a run with a one-out single, and Tatsuhiro Shibata added another with an RBI double to make the score 4-1.
That spelled the end of Buchanan’s night on the mound, but his book wasn’t closed until Tsutsugo drove in two with a double off reliever Masato Nakazawa to make it 6-1. Hiroki Minei put two more on the board with a double off pitcher Taichi Ishiyama.
The Swallows then attempted to turn the tables on the BayStars with some late-inning fireworks of their own.
Sakaguchi and Nobuyuki Okumura drove in runs in the seventh; Takahiro Araki hit a two-run homer in the eighth; and Wladimir Balentien went deep in the ninth to make it 8-6. But that was as close as the Swallows would get.
Ino earned the win to improve to 5-7 on the season. He allowed one run on five hits with four strikeouts and a walk over six innings.
Ramirez had said he wanted Ino to step up his game, and the pitcher responded with a solid outing.
“He always pitches pretty good in the first couple of innings,” Ramirez said. “Today was just like that. I didn’t want to take a chance with him going back out there (for the seventh), but the relievers came in and did a really good job.”
Yasuaki Yamasaki gave up Balentien’s homer in the ninth but closed out the game for his 20th save of the year. Yamasaki has now recorded at least 20 saves in each of his first three pro seasons.
“I think he’s been very good after he came back as a closer,” Ramirez said. “Early in the year, he kind of struggled a little bit, but he was able to get his position back. He’s done a very good job and I’m not surprised by what he has done.”
Tsutsugo had a big night at the plate for Yokohama, finishing 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and four RBIs.
“He had a good approach and he was able to get good results,” Ramirez said.
The Swallows put up a fight late, but lost for the sixth time in nine games.
Sakaguchi was 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs. Araki’s home run was his sixth of the season, while Balentien connected on his 29th. Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura also had three hits, including his fourth triple of the season.
Buchanan’s night fell apart in the seventh. He was charged with six runs on nine hits in 6⅓ innings. Buchanan (6-11) struck out two walked three, and took the loss.
The teams return to Jingu for the second game of the series on Saturday. Kenta Ishida (4-5, 4.06 ERA) will try to keep the Yokohama win streak alive, while Yasuhiro Ogawa (6-6, 2.84) will toe the rubber for Yakult.
In Other Games
Giants 6, Tigers 3
Carp 9, Dragons 1
Lions 8, Buffaloes 0
Marines 10, Hawks 3
Fighters at Eagles — late