Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Tomoyuki Sugano clubs solo homer to help his cause, lift Giants over BayStars

Star pitcher whacks first round-tripper of pro career

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Tomoyuki Sugano surrendered the lead on a slider. So it was only fitting the Yomiuri Giants ace used one to get it back.

Sugano allowed a game-tying home run in the top of the fifth inning, then took matters into his own hands with a tiebreaking solo shot in the bottom half to give the Kyojin a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in a 6-3 victory over the Yokohama BayStars on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.

“My pitching wasn’t so great, but I’m happy about the home run,” Sugano said.

With his control not quite as pinpoint as usual, Sugano wasn’t able to hang onto the one-run lead his teammates gave him, as Takayuki Kajitani pounced on a slider to make the score 3-3 in the fifth.

Sugano returned the favor in the next half-inning, when BayStars starter Kenta Ishida tried to sneak a slider past him. He instead sent the ball hurtling into the BayStars cheering section in left field.

“He underestimated Sugano in that situation,” said BayStars manager Alex Ramirez. “… In that kind of situation, you have to make better pitches against Sugano, especially in his second at-bat of the game.”

The home run was the first of Sugano’s career and came in his 320th NPB at-bat.

“I think it was a fluke, but I’ll do my best to keep my luck going,” Sugano said.

The home run helped Sugano (5-2) extend his run of winning decisions to five straight, but his scoreless innings streak came to an abrupt halt. The reigning Sawamura Award winner entered the game having not allowed a run in 27 innings. He tacked two more full frames onto his total and was an out away from matching his career-best of 30 when he allowed a two-run homer to Yoshitomo Tsutsugo.

Sugano allowed three runs on five hits on the mound — with seven strikeouts and two walks — and was 2-for-2 with an RBI at the plate.

“The fielders gave me a lot of help today,” Sugano said.

Shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, who was honored for his March-April Monthly MVP award before the game, also homered, connecting on a three-run blast in the third, his fifth of the season. Shinnosuke Abe, pinch-hitting for Sugano in the sixth, drove in Yomirui’s other runs with a two-run single.

“Tomoyuki isn’t always perfect,” Abe said. “I was thinking it was a good present to give him at a time like this.”

All of the BayStars’ offense came via the long ball. Tsutsugo got the team on the board with his two-run homer in the third, and Kajitani hit a solo drive off Sugano in the fifth.

“It was very positive,” Ramirez said. “Tsutsugo hit a home run. Kaji, leading off, got a home run. (Jose) Lopez and (Neftali) Soto got a couple of hits. We hit pretty good, we just didn’t hold onto the lead. That happens.”

The home run was Tsutsugo’s seventh of the season. Kajitani went deep for the second time.

“I was really just trying to put my own swing on it,” Tsutsugo said.

Ishida (1-4) pitched five innings in a losing effort for Yokohama. He allowed four runs on five hits. He struck out one and walked two batters.

The BayStars struck first, when Soto reached on a one-out single and Tsutsugo connected on his two-run homer.

Yomiuri struck back in the third. Hisayoshi Chono and Sugano hit singles and Sakamoto went deep off Ishida to make the score 3-2.

Yokohama tied it on Kajitani’s home run in the top of the fifth, before Yomiuri wrested away the lead on Sugano’s home run in the bottom half.

The Kyojin then added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth on Abe’s pinch-hit, two-run single.

The teams will meet for the second game of a three-game set on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo Dome. It’ll be a battle of lefties, with Kazuto Taguchi (2-2) on the mound for the Giants and Hauruhiro Hamaguchi, who doesn’t have a decision this year, getting the start for Yokohama.

Tigers edge Dragons

Nagoya KYODO

Rookie lefty Haruto Takahashi (2-1) allowed a run in 7-2/3 innings, and back-to-back, sixth-inning singles by Willen Rosario and Kento Itohara lifted the Hanshin Tigers to come-from-behind, 2-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons on Friday in the Central League.

Swallows at Carp — ppd.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Eagles 3, Fighters 0

At Sapporo Dome, Carlos Peguero hit his 10th home run, a fourth-inning solo shot, to reach double digits in homers for the third straight season, while Tohoku Rakuten’s Wataru Karashima and five relievers combined on a five-hit shutout of Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Marines 3, Hawks 2

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Hideaki Wakui (4-3) struck out seven and allowed two runs in seven innings, and Shogo Nakamura’s fifth-inning RBI single broke a 2-2 tie as Chiba Lotte defeated Fukuoka SoftBank.