Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Tigers pounce on Giants' Tanioka in rookie's first career start

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Hanshin Tigers came to Tokyo expecting to face Tomoyuki Sugano in the second game of their series with the Yomiuri Giants

Instead it was rookie Tappei Tanioka on the mound for his first career start, and Hanshin took full advantage.

Yoshio Itoi’s three-run homer and Jason Rogers’ two-run double powered a five-run second inning, as Hanshin went on to an 8-4 win over the Kyojin in front of a crowd of 45,185 on Saturday night at Tokyo Dome.

“Nomi gave us five strong innings and we gave him some runs,” Rogers said, referring to Hanshin starter Atsushi Nomi. “We scored early, which helped out, and we kept scoring. So it was a good team win, everybody contributed.”

Nomi (4-6) allowed three runs over five innings but still picked up his first win since July 1. He was 0-3 in his previous six starts. He struck out six and walked one.

“Because we scored early on, I was able to pitch aggressively,” Nomi said. “I was really able to throw my fastball and make good use of my breaking balls, but I had to tough it out in the fourth (when the Giants scored three runs).”

Rogers is also hoping to get back on track after a rough couple of weeks. The first baseman, who joined the team in July, finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs. He was hitting .185 in August entering the contest.

“I kind of developed a bad habit a little bit,” Rogers said. “I corrected it, and we’ll go from there. It was just mechanics-wise, a little body issue. So we fixed it, and I think we’ll be alright.”

Rookie Yusuke Oyama drove in two runs and Fumiya Hojo also had an RBI for the Tigers, who finished with 10 hits.

Hanshin also put a little more distance between itself and the Yokohama BayStars, who lost to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Saturday, in the Central League standings. The second-place Tigers are 3 1/2 games ahead of Yokohama.

“It’s getting toward the end of the season, guys are getting tired,” Rogers said. “But we’re trying to grind through it. We’ll be all right.”

Sugano began to feel unwell during practice on Friday and the decision was made for him to be scratched from the start (but kept on the active roster), with Tanioka tapped to take over.

Tanioka (0-1) lasted just three innings, allowing five runs on six hits in the loss. He struck out four and walked three.

Before the game, Yomiuri held a small ceremony to honor Shinnosuke Abe, who earlier this month became the 49th player in NPB history to reach 2,000 career hits. Abe also received his Meikyukai (Golden Player’s Club) blazer from NPB legend Shigeo Nagashima, his first pro manager, during the ceremony.

Abe is the fifth player to reach the milestone having collected all 2,000 hits with the Giants. The others are Tetsuharu Kawakami, Sadaharu Oh, Nagashima and Isao Shibata.

He finished 2-for-4 with an RBI in Saturday’s game. Shuichi Murata also drove in a run, while Shingo Ishikawa contributed a two-run double.

Casey McGehee finished 1-for-4, collecting his 1,000th career hit combined between MLB and NPB.

Tanioka was shaky in the first inning, but got out of it unscathed. He wasn’t so lucky in the second.

Itoi got things going with his three-run shot, his 11th of the year, to give his team the early advantage.

“Because it was our first chance, my thought was to get the runner in by any means,” Itoi said. “I’m glad I got a good result.”

Rogers added to the lead with his two-run double later in the inning.

The Kyojin began their counterattack in the bottom of the fourth.

McGehee drew a walk and Abe hit a one-out single to put runners on first and second. Murata doubled in one run and Ishikawa drove in two more with a two-bagger later in the frame to make the score 5-3.

Hojo made it 6-3 for Hanshin with an RBI hit in the seventh, and Oyama plated two more in the eighth with a bases-loaded single that was a few feet away from being a grand slam.

Abe singled in a run for Yomiuri in the eighth, the last bit of offense the Giants could muster.

Yabuta collects 12th win

Hiroshima KYODO

Kazuki Yabuta (12-3) allowed two runs over seven innings and Kosuke Tanaka delivered a second-inning grand slam as the Hiroshima Carp topped the Chunichi Dragons 6-2 in the Central League on Saturday.

Swallows 5, BayStars 4

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Carlos Rivero hit a tiebreaking, sixth-inning home run and Yasuhiro Ogawa (7-6) allowed three runs in 7-2/3 innings as Tokyo Yakult edged Yokohama.

The Swallows snapped a three-game losing streak.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Fighters 5, Eagles 4

At Sendai’s Kobo Park Miyagi, Go Matsumoto broke a 3-3 tie with a fifth-inning RBI double and Hokkaido Nippon Ham scored four unearned runs in a 5-4 win over slumping Tohoku Rakuten.

Three-time Pacific League strikeout king Takahiro Norimoto (11-5) allowed five hits and two walks and struck out seven over eight innings, but was charged with all five runs as the Eagles lost their fourth straight and the Fighters won their third in a row.

Before 27,105 at sunny Kobo Park Miyagi, the errors came early and often for the home team. First baseman Ginji Akaminai gave the visitors a leadoff runner in the first inning when he threw behind Norimoto as the pitcher was running to cover first.

Singles by Matsumoto and Shohei Otani put Nippon Ham in front. Shortstop Eigoro Mogi got in front of a solid grounder to his right, but it went under his glove for a run-scoring error before a groundout made it 3-0.

In keeping with the spirit of the occasion, the Fighters gave away the tying run in the bottom of the first. A single by Mogi, a two-out walk and a scratch infield single loaded the bases for Japhet Amador, who singled in two.

Kazuo Matsui hit a grounder down the line that third baseman Brandon Laird stooped for but failed to backhand, allowing in the tying run.

Norimoto appeared to find his rhythm after the Eagles’ first-inning eyesore, but leadoff hitter Haruki Nishikawa’s one-out triple in the fifth sparked a two-run inning.

Matsumoto doubled in Nishikawa, and a two-out throwing error by Mogi made it 5-3.

“The game was tied and I had a runner on base so I went into the batter’s box to drive him in,” Matsumoto said. “I was looking to swing from the first pitch and right off the bat he (Norimoto) threw me something I could handle.”

Fighters lefty Takayuki Kato (5-5) pitched out of one jam after another, and left after the fifth inning, when he stranded three runners. He allowed eight hits and issued three walks while striking out eight.

The only blemish on the Fighters bullpen scorecard came in the ninth, when closer Hirotoshi Masui surrendered a leadoff homer to Louis Okoye. Masui allowed another hit and a walk but escaped with his 19th save.

Buffaloes 9, Lions 0

At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, rookie Taisuke Yamaoka (6-8) allowed nine hits but no walks, while striking out 10 in his first career shutout and Chris Marrero hit two of Orix’s five homers in a 14-hit demolition of Seibu.

Marines 6, Hawks 3

At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Katsuya Kakunaka belted a two-run, second-inning home run, Wily Mo Pena homered off his former team for the second straight night and Hideaki Wakui (4-9) allowed a run over five innings as last-place Chiba Lotte defeated Fukuoka SoftBank to post its first four-game win streak of the season.

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