Wladimir Balentien knocked in a pair of home runs, helping 21-year-old starter Keiji Takahashi pick up his first professional win as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows edged the Yokohama BayStars 3-2 on Tuesday night.
The result in front of 28,328 at Jingu Stadium erased Yokohama’s half-game lead over the Yomiuri Giants in the race for third place and a berth in the Central League Climax Series.
Slugger Balentien gave the Swallows the lead in the second with his 35th homer of the season, a two-run shot off BayStars starter Kentaro Taira.
After retiring leadoff man Tomotaka Sakaguchi and Norichika Aoki, Taira surrendered a ground ball single to Testsuto Yamada, bringing Balentien the plate.
Balentien, whose 60 home runs in 2013 remain the single-season benchmark in Japanese baseball, sent Taira’s first pitch, a 140-kph fastball, soaring to the opposite field.
Toshiro Miyazaki cut the lead to one when he hit a solo homer off Yakult lefty Takahashi in the top of the fifth.
In just his third game, Takashi retired Hiroki Minei and Takehiro Ishikawa before surrendering his only run when Miyazaki took a big cut at his first pitch, sending the 139-kph fastball into the left-field stands.
Balentien restored the lead the next inning with home run No. 36, this time sending Taira’s 1-0 pitch over the left-field wall.
After replacing Takahashi in the fifth, Yuma Oshita gave the Swallows 1-2/3 solid innings of relief before manager Junji Ogawa sent Yugo Umeno to the mound with two out in the seventh.
In an outing the 19-year-old right-hander would rather forget, he surrendered four walks and threw a wild pitch that allowed Tomo Otosaka to score on two stolen bases.
Former major leaguer David Huff steadied the ship after replacing Umeno in the eighth, getting three outs to set the stage for closer Taichi Ishiyama.
Ishiyama picked up his 32nd save of the season, getting the final out with runners at second and third.
Takahashi got his first win after striking out eight, with one earned run on three hits and three walks. Taira (5-3) took the loss.
Carp 1, Tigers 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Yoshihiro Maru based a solo homer in the sixth as Hiroshima topped Hanshin.
The home run was the 39th of the season for Maru.
Hawks 4, Marines 2
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Fukuoka SoftBank starter Nao Higashihama (6-5) went 7-2/3 innings deep, striking out six and allowing one run on five hits to beat Chiba Lotte.
The Hawks clubbed three home runs, including Yuki Yanagita’s 35th of the year.
Lions 3, Fighters 2
At Sapporo Dome, Seibu took the lead on Hideto Asamura’s two-run single in the second and stayed in front the rest of the way against Hokkaido Nippon Ham.