Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Taishi Ota, Oswaldo Arcia power Fighters past Marines

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters have been working hard to put up good results over the past several days. So they’re not about to take their feet off the gas now just because it’s Golden Week.

Taishi Ota sent two balls into the stands, Oswaldo Arcia sent one over the roof and the Fighters are going into the spring holidays with a lot of momentum after a 5-2 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines on a windy Saturday afternoon at Zozo Marine Stadium.

Ota has been swinging the bat particularly well for Nippon Ham as of late. The outfielder, who was 2-for-5 with three RBIs on Saturday, has had two hits in three of his last four games and also had a two-homer contest against the Orix Buffaloes on Tuesday.

“I’ve been trying to keep my timing at the plate and trying to hit the ball in the air,” Ota said.

Ota hit his fifth home run of the season in the first inning against Lotte starter Yuki Karakawa, sending a slider into the stands in left field to give his team a 1-0 lead. When he stepped to the plate in the third, the Fighters trailed 2-1. With Haruki Nishikawa standing on first, Ota connected again to give Nippon Ham a one-run advantage with his sixth home run of the season.

“I think I was able to get a really good ball to hit and I didn’t miss it,” he said of his second blast. “Plus Arihara was in a tight spot and the lineup wanted to give him some cover.”

Arica connected on a mammoth shot in the sixth that Lotte right fielder Taiga Hirasawa could only watch sail high over his head.

“I was able to hit it so well because I was able to put a good swing on it,” said Arcia, who has two homers this year.

It was such good contact the ball went over the roof in right field, though Arcia wasn’t really able to admire his handiwork.

“It was too bright,” he said. “All I could see was white where the fans were sitting. So I really didn’t see it.”

The Fighters have won five straight and six of their last seven. Their lone loss was a 10-0 drubbing at the hands of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, a defeat they repaid with an 11-2 win the very next night.

“I think we’re playing good,” said Brandon Laird, who was 1-for-3. “The lineup is doing good, we’re doing things we need to do. We’re hitting, we’re bunting guys over, we’re playing good defense. Everybody is doing their part.

“All the foreign guys are stepping up. Now we have (Kohei) Arihara back, so that’s a big help. So I just figure if we continue to do what we do, play our game and have fun, I think we’re going to be just fine.”

Arihara (2-1) gave up a pair of runs early but kept the Marines off the board from the third inning on to pick up the win. He allowed just the two runs over seven innings, striking out two while issuing one walk and hitting a batter. Michael Tonkin worked the ninth for his fifth save of the season.

Karakawa (0-2) was charged with the loss after allowing four runs on five hits in his six innings. He struck out six and walked one.

“It was a wasteful performance,” he lamented afterward.

Seiya Inoue got the Marines on the board with a game-tying RBI single in the first and Yudai Fujioka gave the home team a brief 2-1 lead with a run-scoring hit in the second.

Lions tame Eagles

Tokorozawa Saitama Pref. KYODO

Seibu’s Yusei Kikuchi allowed three hits over six scoreless innings and improved to 5-0 and Hideto Asamura went 4-for-4 with four RBIs, three of which were on his seventh-inning home run on the 127th pitch thrown by Tohoku Rakuten’s Takahiro Norimoto, in the Lions’ 7-3 win over the Eagles on Saturday at MetLife Dome.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Giants 3, Swallows 0

At Tokyo Dome, Tomoyuki Sugano fired a two-hitter as Yomiuri topped Tokyo Yakult.

The right-hander, winner of the Sawamura Award last season as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher, opened the season with two bad losses but has since improved with each start. On Saturday, he allowed two singles and struck out five. Sugano has not walked a batter in his last two starts, both complete games.

“My form is getting better and I want to keep pitching in the belief it’s going to get better still,” Sugano said.

Sugano (3-2) outdueled David Buchanan (2-1), who pitched out of trouble to hold the Giants to two runs over seven innings. The win was the Giants’ sixth straight.

Yomiuri opened the scoring with two runs in the first. Naoki Yoshikawa singled with one out. Alex Guerrero scored him with a double and then scored on a Casey McGehee double. The hosts manufactured a run in the eighth against Swallows reliever Matt Carasiti on a single, a wild pickoff throw and a groundout.

A critical moment for Sugano came in the seventh, when he faced Yakult slugger Tetsuto Yamada with one out and none on, but with Wladimir Balentien — the holder of Japan’s single-season home-run record — on deck.

Yamada fouled off three straight 3-2 pitches, the last two a curve and a slider, but popped up a 152-kph fastball inside.

“That was the big point. I didn’t want to face Balentien with a man on base,” Sugano said.

Buchanan, who only managed a single 1-2-3 inning, allowed seven hits and walked four, while striking out four.

BayStars 6, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Kenta Ishida allowed a run in six innings before Yokohama’s bullpen slammed the door, with the BayStars beating Chunichi to snap a four-game losing streak.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo broke a 1-1, eighth-inning tie with a three-run double and Jose Lopez followed with a two-run homer.

Carp 7, Tigers 5

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Seiya Suzuki homered, doubled and drove in five runs as Hiroshima earned its fourth straight win by beating Hanshin in a slugfest.

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