Baseball / Japanese Baseball

BayStars' Shota Imanaga works out of first-inning jam, earns first victory since June 10

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Yokohama BayStars manager Alex Ramirez has been asking to see pitcher Shota Imanaga’s fighting spirit all season. Once he saw the left-hander escape an early bases-loaded jam against the Yomiuri Giants on Thursday night, he felt like he was going to get his wish.

Imanaga kept the BayStars in control of the game early and was buoyed by another strong performance from the Yokohama hitters in a 6-4 victory over the Giants on Thursday night at Tokyo Dome.

“It was there,” Ramirez said. “It was there today. He (Imanaga) showed it right from the beginning. At the end, he was rushing a little bit and getting tired. But he came through. So yeah, it was there. I can see that now he can be the Imanaga everybody is expecting him to be, very consistent, very good.”

Imanaga (2-4) has gotten off to a very slow start this season, and it looked like things might go from bad to worse when he loaded the bases with one out in the first inning. He wrested the momentum back from the Kyojin by getting a called third strike against Hisayoshi Chono and inducing a weak grounder to third from Daikan Yoh to end the inning.

Imanaga made it through six frames, allowing three runs on four hits. He struck out seven and walked four and earned his first win since June 10. The win was also his first over a Central League team this season.

“Overall, I think he pitched a good game today,” Ramirez said. “Of course, six innings, 110 pitches, four walks … walks, that’s a little bit too much. I was expecting less of that. But overall, he kept us in the game. We were able to score early and it was a big help for him. It was good.”

Imanaga was an 11-game winner and finished with a 2.98 ERA last season as one of the key members of the BayStars’ run to the Japan Series. The club is hopeful he’s beginning to turn things around this year.

He pitched with the team for most of Thursday’s game, as the BayStars hitters picked up where they left off in Wednesday night’s win over the Giants. One night after recording 11 hits in an 8-4 win, the BayStars reached double-digits again, cranking out 14 on Thursday, including a 4-for-5 night by Masayuki Kuwahara.

Yasutaka Tobashira and Neftali Soto hit solo homers and Toshiro Miyazaki drove in runs in the first and third innings. Tomo Otosaka had an RBI groundout and Imanaga brought in a run with a sacrifice fly.

It all made for a long night for former Yokohama ace Shun Yamaguchi, who was facing his former team for the fourth time since leaving for Yomiuri as a free agent after the 2016 season.

Yamaguchi (6-6) allowed five runs on 10 hits over six innings, finishing with five strikeouts and walking two batters.

Yoh was the bright spot for the Giants at the plate, finishing 2-for-4 with his fourth home run of the season. Kazuma Okamoto, Hisayoshi Chono and Shinnosuke Abe also drove in runs for the Kyojin.

The BayStars have now won consecutive series after taking two of three from both the Hiroshima Carp and the Giants.

“I think the team overall is getting in a better condition,” Ramirez said. “Hiroshima, we beat them the first two games, but we lost the last game. This one, we lost the first game, but we were able to come back and win the last two. That’s very good, and better motivation for the next one.”

Tigers at Dragons — ppd.

Swallows at Carp — ppd.

Marines outplay Buffaloes

Osaka KYODO

Struggling right-hander Yuki Karakawa yielded two runs over six innings, allowing the Chiba Lotte Marines to come from behind and beat the Orix Buffaloes 5-2 in the Pacific League on Thursday.

Karakawa (1-3) was back on the mound for the first time since May 5, having allowed four-plus runs in each of his three other starts this season. He scattered five hits and three walks, while striking out two.

“Frankly I’m happy, considering I’ve pitched four games and this is my first win,” Karakawa said. “Until now, all I’ve done is cause us to fail. I wasn’t all that good tonight but the guys made great plays behind me and scored some runs.”

The Buffaloes opened the scoring in the second, when Masataka Yoshida walked, went to third on a Chris Marrero single and scored on Ryoichi Adachi’s sacrifice fly.

Starved for base runners through the first four innings against Taisuke Yamaoka (2-8), the Marines went to the bank against the second-year right-hander in a five-run fifth.

Seiya Inoue tied it 1-1 when he opened the inning with his 13th home run. Matt Dominguez doubled with one out and scored the go-ahead on Taiga Hirasawa’s single. Lotte leadoff man Takashi Ogino tripled in two runs, and came home on Shogo Nakamura’s two-out single.

Karakawa, who had pitched out of a one-out, two-on, fourth-inning jam, gave a run back in the sixth, on Yoshida’s 11th home run. A trio of Marines relievers — Tomohisa Otani, Naoya Masuda and closer Tatsuya Uchi — each pitched a scoreless inning to close it out.

Yamaoka allowed all five Marines runs on eight hits and three walks over seven innings. He cruised through the first four innings before things came crashing down on him.

“Everything came down to the fifth inning,” he said. “When I gave up the home run (to Inoue), my game fell apart and that was the game.”

Eagles 6, Hawks 5

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Japhet Amador sparked a five-run second inning with a leadoff home run off Fukuoka SoftBank starter Tadashi Settsu (2-2) and Hiroaki Shimauchi capped the rally with a three-run homer.

Shimauchi walked and scored a big insurance run in the seventh as last-place Tohoku Rakuten held on for the win.

Lions at Fighters — ppd.