Tomoyuki Sugano had a week to stew over his poor performance in his last game against the Hiroshima Carp.
When he got another shot at them, the Yomiuri Giants ace showed the best team in the Central League why he’s the best pitcher in Japan.
Sugano struck out 11 over eight shutout frames, Hayato Sakamoto broke a scoreless tie with a two-run home run in the sixth and the Giants rolled to a 4-0 victory over the Carp on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.
For Sugano (9-5) it was a complete turnaround from the last time he faced Hiroshima, when he allowed four runs in five innings in a losing effort.
“Because my pitching was so bad last time, today I just wanted to win and pitched with all my heart,” Sugano said.
The victory snapped the Giants’ four-game losing streak against the Carp, who are in first place in the CL by 6 1/2 games and are the only team currently above .500.
“It’s important,” said Yomiuri third baseman Casey McGehee. “They’re kind of out in front right now. Anytime you play them, the quickest way to reel them back in is to try and play well against them. We know that just because we won this game doesn’t mean they’re going to roll over for us. We have to try to finish strong going into the All-Star break.”
Sugano kept the Giants pointed in that direction. He wasn’t perfect against the Carp, but he also didn’t give the league’s top offense much to work with. When an error allowed a Hiroshima baserunner to reach third with two outs in the sixth, Sugano struck out the next batter. When the Carp’s Ryoma Nishikawa led off the seventh with a triple, the Yomiuri ace retired three straight to strand him at third.
Sugano allowed six hits and walked one batter during his 119 pitch outing.
“I allowed a lot of runners, but my only thought was to not let them reach home, I pitched with that feeling until the end,” he said.
Sakamoto drove in the first runs of the game with a home run to center, after Sugano had reached on an error in the sixth. The homer was his 12th of the year.
“Tomoyuki had a good tempo and was pitching well, so I stood in the batter’s box wanting to do whatever I could to get a hit,” Sakamoto said.
McGehee tacked on two insurance runs with a single in the eighth.
“Sakamoto’s home run was really big because of the way that Sugano was pitching, and (Daichi) Osera was pretty much matching him inning for inning,” McGehee said. “So to get the two runs felt like a lot because of the way Sugano was pitching. Then it was nice to be able to add a couple more at the end.”
The contest was tied most of the way as Osera held up his end of the expected pitcher’s duel. His lone mistake came in the sixth, when he threw Sakamoto a high fastball over the plate, with Sugano already on first after an error by shortstop Kosuke Tanaka, that turned into a home run. Osera (10-4) made it through six innings, allowing two runs — one earned — on three hits. He struck out three and walked two. He also had one of the Carp’s six hits at the plate.
“He had really good control of his slider,” McGehee said. “He was mixing his pitches really well. We didn’t hit a whole lot of balls hard, but thankfully the couple we did hit, we made count.”
The teams will meet in the second game of their series on Saturday night at Tokyo Dome. Tetsuya Utsumi (2-0) will start for the Giants against the Carp’s Yusuke Nomura (3-2).
“I think the team can gain some momentum because of today’s win,” Sugano said. “Since Utsumi-san is pitching tomorrow, I think we’ll surely get a win.”
Swallows at Dragons — ppd.
BayStars at Tigers — ppd.
Fighters, Marines play to 1-1 tie
Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s Oswaldo Arcia opened the scoring off Hideaki Wakui with a fifth-inning solo home run, and Chiba Lotte tied it in the eighth on Tatsuhiro Tamura’s RBI triple at Zozo Marine Stadium on Friday night in the Pacific League.
The game was ruled a tie after 12 innings.
Fighters lefty Naoki Miyanishi pitched a scoreless 10th inning to set an NPB record with his 274th career hold. He had been tied for the previous record with Giants lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi.
Marines 1, Fighters 1 (12)
Lions at Eagles — ppd.