Baseball might be a young man’s game, but it was old-timer’s night at Tokyo Dome on Thursday.
Yomiuri Giants veteran Shinnosuke Abe hit a three-run home run in the third inning that held up and helped make a winner out of veteran pitcher Tetsuya Utsumi as the Kyojin earned a 4-2 victory over the Hanshin Tigers in front of a crowd of 43,164.
“Old man’s power,” the 39-year-old Abe responded when asked about the homer.
Utsumi probably had a little of that going himself. The 36-year-old left-hander, in his 14th season, was making his first appearance of the year on the top team and gave Yomiuri a solid outing.
“I’m really happy,” Utsumi said. “I had to come a long way to make it onto the mound tonight. I carried the feeling of wanting to make it back here while I was practicing (with the farm team).”
Utsumi has now won at least one game in 14 straight seasons, tying him with Masaki Saito for third-most in franchise history. Hiromi Makihara holds the record with 17 straight seasons.
Utsumi was charged with two runs on five hits in 5⅓ innings. He struck out six and hit a batter.
“I was pretty nervous because it had been awhile (to pitch at Tokyo Dome),” Utsumi said.
The Giants, who also won Wednesday’s game, took two of three in a series that pitted the team that has scored the most runs and has the best batting average in the Central League (Yomiuri) against the squad with the fewest runs allowed and best ERA.
With runners on first and second and one out in the third, Yomiuri slugger Alex Guerrero hit a ball to foul territory in right field. Hanshin’s Yoshio Itoi made a leaping grab against the wall for one out as the runners tagged up. Itoi fired the ball to second, and Naoki Yoshikawa made it to the bag before the tag to keep the inning alive.
Abe didn’t waste the opportunity, sending the second pitch he saw into the stands in right to give Yomiuri a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers made the score 3-2 on a two-run single by Kosuke Fukudome, another seasoned veteran, in the sixth, but would get no closer.
Yomiuri tacked on an insurance run in the eighth to make the score 4-2.
Rookie pitcher Masaki Tanigawa got the first start of his career for the Tigers after being chosen in last fall’s draft. Tanigawa (0-1) only lasted four innings, allowing three runs on five hits. He finished with five strikeouts and hit one batter. Four of the hits Tanigawa allowed came during the third inning.
“I was a little nervous, but I was able to relax after getting the three outs in the first inning,” Tanigawa said. “I was able to throw the type of pitches I wanted and was able to hit the spots I wanted for the most part, but I gave up runs on a bad pitch Abe was able to hit.”
Fukudome drove in all of Hanshin’s runs, while Itoi finished 3-for-4.
Buffaloes win on 12th-inning error
An errant throw on a two-out pitch allowed the Orix Buffaloes to beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham, 2-1 in 12 innings, in bizarre fashion on Thursday night in the Pacific League.
Ryoichi Adachi tried to score when Hiroshi Urano’s pitch bounced. Catcher Shinya Tsuruoka got to the ball quickly, but his throw to Urano at the plate bounced off batter Yuya Oda’s legs for an error.
Fighters rookie Kotaro Kiyomiya went 0-for-4, going hitless for the first time in eight games as a pro.
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