NISHINOMIYA, HYOGO PREF. - The third time proved to be the charm for rookie Katsuki Azuma, who threw his first shutout on Wednesday in the Yokohama BayStars’ 5-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers.
The BayStars’ top draft pick last autumn, Azuma (3-2) produced bad swings and lots of soft contact. The lefty struck out eight and walked three, and took a one-hitter into the ninth, when he had to pitch out of a two-on, no-out pickle.
“I pushed the thought of a shutout out of my mind, and focused on getting out of the inning,” Azuma said after the game at Hanshin’s historic Koshien Stadium.
“I was able to get outs with my off-speed pitches, and I finally beat them. I hadn’t won this month and I really wanted to contribute to a win. But I was able to ignore all the distractions and just focus on what I needed to do.”
The BayStars opened the scoring with a run in the first off lefty Yuta Iwasada (2-1), who gave up four runs, two earned, over five innings. Leadoff hitter Masayuki Kuwahara doubled and went to third when right fielder Yoshio Itoi fumbled the ball. Jose Lopez then smashed a grounder through Iwasada’s legs for an RBI single.
Neftali Soto, who has been pounding Central League pitchers since he was called up a week ago, homered in the third and doubled and scored on a Lopez single in the seventh.
An error and a Hiroyasu Tanaka single made it 3-0 in the fourth, while doubles by former Tiger Yamato Maeda and Lopez led to another run in the fifth.
Dragons 5, Carp 2
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi’s Yuya Yanagi (2-3) struck out nine and allowed two runs in 7⅓ innings, while Dragons’ leadoff man Yohei Oshima scored twice in the win over the league-leading Carp.
Giants 12, Swallows 4
Fighters 1, Lions 0
At Tokyo Dome, Naoyuki Uwasawa (4-1) threw a four-hitter for his first shutout in four years, and Hokkaido Nippon Ham scored its seventh-inning run with the help of an error against Seibu starter Ken Togame (2-5).
Hawks 12, Eagles 4