Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Dragons bullpen blows lead as Daisuke Matsuzaka misses chance to win back-to-back starts

Kyodo

Looking to win back-to-back starts for the first time in nearly four years, Daisuke Matsuzaka was denied the chance when the Orix Buffaloes pounded the Chunichi Dragons’ bullpen in a 5-1 interleague win on Wednesday.

Lacking the location and command he had a week ago, when he earned his first NPB win in 12 years, Matsuzaka struggled and survived for six innings of one-hit ball. The 37-year-old walked four but struck out nine, leaning heavily on his cutter and occasionally sniping away with a fastball that maxed out at 143 kph.

Orix ace Chihiro Kaneko (2-4) surrendered a first-inning run at Nagoya Dome when Yohei Oshima tripled with one out and scored on Zoilo Almonte’s sacrifice fly.

Matsuzaka walked two in the first inning, but looked a little more relaxed with a lead.

Kaneko, the 2014 Sawamura Award winner and Pacific League MVP, was untouchable after the first, allowing a run on four hits in seven innings. He struck out four without issuing a walk and earned the win after the Buffaloes erupted for four runs in the eighth off Chunichi’s third pitcher, Hiroshi Suzuki.

Suzuki, the Dragons’ top draft pick in last autumn’s amateur draft, got two outs before a walk, a Stefen Romero single and another walk loaded the bases. Takahiro Okada grounded a single through the box that Suzuki just missed and two runs scored. Ryoichi Adachi doubled in two more to put the game away.

“In the eighth inning, everyone kept that inning alive for me,” Okada said. “When I hit I asked it to get through for a hit and it did. We all wanted to score earlier to make things easier on Kaneko, but I’m glad we could get Kaneko a win.”

Matsuzaka is 2-3 this season with the Dragons after pitching only one game the past three seasons with the PL powerhouse SoftBank Hawks. He fell behind in nearly every count until the fifth, when he seemed to find a second wind. He retired the last seven batters he faced, striking out four. But having labored through the first four innings, he had nothing left.

“I gave us a chance to win, but I badly wanted to go another inning,” said Matsuzaka, who threw 114 pitches.

Hawks 6, Tigers 3

At Koshien Stadium, career minor leaguer Masayoshi Tsukada broke a 3-3, sixth-inning tie with a pinch-hit solo homer and Fukuoka SoftBank shortstop Kenta Imamiya went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in a win over Hanshin.

Giants 9, Fighters 8

At Tokyo Dome, Naoyuki Uwasawa (5-2), who threw shutouts in his two previous starts, was hammered for eight runs in three innings, digging a hole Hokkaido Nippon Ham was unable to climb out of in a loss to Yomiuri.

Swallows 4, Marines 1

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, David Huff allowed a run in six innings, and Wladimir Balentien went 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs, and a tie-breaking, seventh-inning home run as Tokyo Yakult beat Chiba Lotte.

Carp 8, Lions 7 (10)

Eagles at BayStars — ppd.