Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Yuki Yanagita clinches nail-biting win for Hawks over Buffaloes

Kyodo

Yuki Yanagita capped a solid day at the plate with a tie-breaking, 12th-inning home run, lifting the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to a nail-biting 5-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes on Sunday.

Yanagita, who went 3-for-6, also belted two doubles. One was a booming shot off the center field wall to keep a rally alive, and the other a hustling effort in which he flashed his speed to set up a 10th-inning scoring opportunity. The home run was his 17th of the season.

“I really wanted to lock up this win as quickly as we could, so I was focused on getting to that next base,” Yanagita said. “I haven’t been getting many extra-base hits of late, so hopefully this is the start of something.”

The Buffaloes opened the scoring in the second through a series of great at-bats against Rick van den Hurk. Hiroyuki Nakajima and Masahiro Nishino each put a good swing on a tough pitch for back-to-back, one-out singles. No. 8 hitter Shuhei Kojima broke the ice in a gritty two-out at-bat. After falling behind 1-2, the left-handed hitter lined Van den Hurk’s 10th pitch over third base to make it 2-0. He then scored on Kenya Wakatsuki’s single.

Stefen Romero led off the Buffaloes’ fourth with his 11th home run of the season, belting a high first-pitch curve over the wall in center.

Alfredo Despaigne and Seiji Uebayashi teamed up to get the Hawks on the board in the fifth. Despaigne became SoftBank’s first base runner, when he singled with one out. Uebayashi followed with a liner into the right field gap that allowed Despaigne to lumber home from first on the triple.

Rookie lefty Daiki Tajima, Orix’s first pick in last autumn’s draft, pitched out of the two-on, one-out jam, and retired the first two men he faced in the sixth. But Hawks captain Seiichi Uchikawa hit an outside slider over the left-field wall for his fifth homer of the season.

Yanagita, the Hawks cleanup hitter, followed with a booming double. Despaigne doubled him home to drive Tajima from the mound. Uebayashi then continued his batting clinic, pulling a tough inside fastball from right-hander Yuta Kuroki for a single that scored Despaigne to tie it.

“I was actually pitching well, but when I started working with runners on base, I lost the plot,” said Tajima, who struck out seven without issuing a walk, but hit a batter and surrendered five hits.

Tajima, who threw 102 pitches, 22 to leadoff man Keizo Kawashima alone, crossed the 100-pitch mark during Despaigne’s at-bat, and Buffaloes’ manager Junichi Fukura thinks that contributed to the Hawks’ big inning.

“For one thing, his pitch count was up there, and I think he was gassed,” Fukura said.

With the game in the relievers’ hands after Van den Hurk went seven, neither offense mounted a threat until the Hawks challenged Buffaloes closer Hirotoshi Masui in the ninth. With one out and runners on second and third, the right-hander pitched himself out of trouble with some good fastballs and nasty splitters.

That was just the start of the drama, however, as one reliever after another kept their team alive. Although Yanagita put the Hawks in position to score in the 10th, Orix center fielder Kengo Takeda gunned him down at home to end the inning.

Yanagita, however, had the last laugh, homering off Tomoki Higa (0-1) with one out in the 12th. Hawks lefty Shinya Kayama, who escaped a two-on, one-out pickle in the 11th earned the win, while Akira Niho retired the Buffs in order in the 12th to earn his first career save.

Eagles 6, Fighters 5

At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Manabu Mima shook off five early runs to go six innings, combining with Tohoku Rakuten’s bullpen to retire Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s last 15 batters. Eagles rookie Kazuki Tanaka reached base four times, and broke a 5-5 tie with his eighth-inning RBI single.

Lions 8, Marines 5

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Tomoya Mori’ three-run home run and Shogo Saito’s two RBI doubles allowed Seibu to overcome a big day by Chiba Lotte’s Seiya Inoue. The rotund slugger singled, tripled, homered twice, scored three runs and drove in four.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

BayStars 6, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Yokohama blew open a 1-1 game in the ninth against Chunichi closer Shinji Tajima (0-3), who surrendered three-straight, one-out singles before Taiki Sekine’s three-run triple.

Swallows 3, Giants 2

At Tokyo Dome, Yasuhiro Ogawa (4-2) pitched 6⅓ scoreless innings to earn his fourth straight win after Naomichi Nishiura broke up a scoreless game with a three-run, seventh-inning triple as Tokyo Yakult ended a three-game losing streak with a win over Yomiuri.

Carp 11, Tigers 6

At Koshien Stadium, Seiya Suzuki scored twice and drove in five runs, including four when he broke open a close game with a ninth-inning grand slam as league-leading Hiroshima beat Hanshin.