NISHINOMIYA, HYOGO PREFECTURE – Tomoyuki Sugano threw a two-hit shutout on Wednesday as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Hanshin Tigers 2-0 and moved within a hair of third place in the Central League.
Sugano (16-5) faced just one batter over the minimum in a 110-pitch effort. He struck out six without a walk as a lot of Tigers hitters tried to jump on his first pitches.
“In my last outing (also against Hanshin), I surrendered runs early and so I was extra careful at the start tonight,” Sugano said after the victory at historic Koshien Stadium outside Osaka. “It’s not that different from the way other teams approach me. I tend to challenge batters with the first pitch.”
The right-hander took the mound in the bottom of the first with a one-run lead after Casey McGehee homered in the top of the inning off Tigers lefty Takumi Akiyama (12-6).
McGehee, who had energized the Giants offense since being dropped into the No. 2 spot normally reserved in Japan for light-hitting bunters, was shifted out of that spot for the first time since July 11. Batting third, McGehee launched a high hanging forkball over the distant left-field fence for his 17th homer of the season.
Shuichi Murata opened the Giants’ second with an infield single and scored after a Yoshiyuki Kamei double and a single by Hisayoshi Chono.
Akiyama scattered five hits and a walk over six innings to take the tough loss.
The defeat left second-place Hanshin five games ahead of the third-place Yokohama BayStars and the fourth-place Giants. The three teams are jockeying for the remaining two spots in the playoffs behind the league champion Hiroshima Carp.
The Tigers have 11 games remaining, the BayStars 10 and the Giants nine.
Dragons 6, Swallows 1
At Jingu Stadium, Chunichi’s Yudai Ono (7-8) allowed a run on two hits over seven innings to outlast Tokyo Yakult’s Juri Hara (3-10), who allowed three runs over eight innings.
Hawks 4, Fighters 1
At Sapporo Dome, Rick van den Hurk (13-7) pitched out of early trouble to allow a run over six innings and minor league slugger Masayoshi Tsukada broke a 1-1 tie with a seventh-inning, pinch-hit home run as SoftBank beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham to win for the first time since clinching the pennant on Saturday.
Marines 3, Lions 1
At Saitama’s MetLife Dome, backup catcher Yuta Yoshida hit a tie-breaking, two-run home run and Tomohito Sakai (4-1) went the distance as Chiba Lotte beat Seibu for the second straight night.
Buffaloes 8, Eagles 4