FUKUOKA - Kodai Senga outdueled Yusei Kikuchi, pitching the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to a 3-2 series-opening win over the Seibu Lions on Friday.
The win at Yafuoku Dome moved the second-place Hawks to within seven games of the Pacific League leaders.
Senga (10-4) struck out 12 and scattered three hits and four walks, allowing two runs over 6-2/3 innings. Three relievers held the Lions to one hit the rest of the way.
Kikuchi (9-4) allowed three runs on four hits and two walks over eight innings. The lefty struck out 10 but saw his career record against SoftBank drop to 0-13 in 18 starts.
After Senga retired the Lions in order in the top of the first, Kenta Imamiya blasted Kikuchi’s first pitch of the game well back into the left-field stands for his seventh home run.
Seibu captain Hideto Asamura made Senga pay for a pair of walks in the third inning with a two-out RBI single to tie it 1-1.
The Hawks, however, regained the lead in the third inning. Yurisbel Gracial’s second single of the game set the table for cleanup hitter Yuki Yanagita, who smacked his 27th home run of the season.
The Lions made it a one-run game in the fourth on Takeya Nakamura’s 22nd home run but could not pull ahead. With a runner on and two outs in the seventh, Shinya Kayama came on in place of Senga and retired leadoff hitter Shogo Akiyama, who homered the last time the two faced each other.
With two outs in the ninth and the potential tying run on second after Nakamura doubled, Hawks closer Yuito Mori pounded his glove after striking out veteran Takumi Kuriyama to end it and record his 21st save.
Fighters 7, Eagles 1
At Sapporo Dome, rookie Mizuki Hori (2-1) allowed a run over seven innings and Brandon Laird drove in three runs for Hokkaido Nippon Ham, which routed Tohoku Rakuten and snapped a five-game losing streak.
Buffaloes 3, Marines 1
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Brandon Dickson (4-5) gave up one run on the only hit he permitted over seven innings, and Hiroyuki Nakajima’s two-run, eighth-inning single brought Orix from behind in a win over Chiba Lotte.
Giants 2, Tigers 0
At Tokyo Dome, Christopher Mercedes (4-2) struck out seven in his first shutout in Japan and doubled in Yomiuri’s second run against Hanshin.
BayStars 6, Swallows 3
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Tatsuya Shibata’s two-run, second-inning double broke a 1-1 tie, while Neftali Soto and Jose Lopez each drove in another run in the inning as Yokohama defeated Tokyo Yakult.
Dragons 5, Carp 3
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Zoilo Almonte and Shuhei Fukuda each drove in a pair of runs, while Shotaro Kasahara (3-3) allowed two runs over six innings in Chunichi’s triumph over league-leading Hiroshima.