FUKUOKA – Kodai Senga returned to the mound for the first time in two weeks on Friday, and worked into the sixth inning for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in a 6-2 interleague win over the Yokohama BayStars.
Senga (4-1) looked rusty at the start but found his rhythm before exiting, having allowed two runs in 5-2/3 pitches. The right-hander allowed five hits, a walk and a hit batsman before a full house at Yafuoku Dome. He struck out five in a battle between last year’s Japan Series teams.
The defending Pacific League champion Hawks entered this series after opening interleague with a three-game sweep on the road. Senga, who hadn’t pitched since May 15 due to forearm stiffness, had also missed much of April with elbow stiffness.
“Yesterday, I watched our relievers do an outstanding job, and I wanted to work as deep as I could, but I didn’t do a good job of that,” Senga said. “It was frustrating that I really didn’t have anything tonight. But the batters scored behind me and made this win possible.
“The very best thing was being able to pitch in a real game.”
Relying mostly on his fastball early on, Senga was falling behind in counts and surrendered the first run, when rookie Keita Sano hit his first career home run on a 2-0 fastball.
But the Hawks seized the lead in the bottom of the inning on a three-run homer by Seiji Uebayashi and a Takuya Kai solo home run off lefty Shota Imanaga (0-3). Yuki Yanagita opened with a single and Masayoshi Tsukada doubled with one out.
The left-handed-hitting Uebayashi connected with the second straight slider he saw from Ienaga and pulled it out to right for his fourth home run.
“In the three games we won, I didn’t hit at all, so this feels good,” said the 22-year-old Uebayashi. “I laid off a first-pitch slider, guessed he’d throw another one, and I was right.”
Yanagita made it a 6-1 game in the third. With a runner on, he blasted a lazy Imanaga fastball for his 13th home run.
The lefty, who tormented SoftBank last autumn, when the underdog BayStars lost the Japan Series in a fierce six-game battle, allowed six runs on five hits and two walks, while striking out two.
Although Senga gave the visitors trouble when he unleashed his trademark splitter from the third inning, Yokohama battled back in the sixth. Cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo fouled off three two-strike pitches before singling in a run, but the visitors could do no more.
Lions 2, Tigers 0
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Seibu lefty Yusei Kikuchi (6-0), out for nearly a month due to shoulder stiffness, struck out nine over six innings and four relievers completed the five-hit shutout.
Yuta Iwasada (3-2) surrendered a first-inning leadoff home run to Shogo Akiyama and suffered a complete-game loss.
Fighters 13, Dragons 2
At Sapporo Dome, Hirotoshi Takanashi (4-2) allowed two runs in eight innings, and Kensuke Kondo homered and drove in four of Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s season-high 13 runs in a win over Chunichi.
Giants 3, Buffaloes 1
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Tomoyuki Sugano (6-2) allowed a run in seven innings and pitched out of a second-inning, bases-loaded pickle, allowing Yomiuri to rally past Orix.
Carp 6, Marines 4
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Yoshihiro Maru scored three runs and drove in two, as every member of Hiroshima’s starting lineup had a hit in the Central League-leader’s win over Chiba Lotte.
Maru’s fifth-inning home run tied it 4-4, and Seiya Suzuki’s seventh-inning RBI double put the visitors ahead for good.
Swallows 5, Eagles 2
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, David Buchanan (5-3) allowed a run in seven innings and Norichika Aoki’s two-run, seventh-inning single broke a 1-1 tie as Tokyo Yakult beat Tohoku Rakuten in a battle of last-place teams.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5