Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Giants hitters give ace Tomoyuki Sugano a big boost in series-opening win over Swallows

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Tomoyuki Sugano said his pitching was just “so-so.”

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows and their red-hot lineup might beg to differ.

The Yomiuri Giants ace held the Swallows in check for the better part of seven innings, his teammates reminded everyone they’re pretty good at the plate, too, and the Kyojin earned a 6-1 win over their crosstown rivals in front of a crowd of 46,650 at Tokyo Dome on Friday night.

“I was just so-so,” Sugano said. “I’m not really satisfied. I was able to get this kind of result because the hitters scored a lot of runs for me.”

Sugano (2-1) didn’t allow more than one hit in any single inning, with Tetsuto Yamada’s first-inning solo homer the only blemish of his night. Sugano struck out nine and walked one in seven innings of one-run ball.

“Seiji succeeded in pulling me through it,” Sugano said, expressing gratitude to his catcher, Seiji Kobayashi.

The closest he came to losing control was in the fourth, when he gave up single to Yamada and walked Wladimir Balentien to start the inning. He responded by striking out the next three batters.

While Sugano didn’t throw a no-hitter like he did the last time the teams met, during the 2018 Climax Series, he still mostly silenced a Yakult lineup that outscored the Hiroshima Carp 31-6 in its previous three games.

“It’s because of Seiji,” Sugano said. “I gave up the home run to Tetsuto, but after that, as a battery, we tried to stay on the offensive.”

He also got plenty of help from the Yomiuri lineup.

Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto hit his third home run of the season and Yoshiyuki Kamei connected on his second, as Yomiuri beat Swallows starter Yasuhiro Ogawa in a regular-season game for the first time since March 25, 2016.

Ogawa had won his previous eight decisions against Yomiuri during the regular season.

Sakamoto, who also had an RBI double, finished 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. Yoshihiro Maru also had a pair of hits.

It was a rough night for Ogawa, who gave up six runs on eight hits in five innings. He struck out three, walked three and fell to 0-1 on the year.

Yakult, which had scored at least four runs in eight of its previous nine games, managed just four hits and one run on Friday.

Fatigue may have been a factor. After long games in Hiroshima on Wednesday and Thursday, the Birds had an early wakeup call and a long ride on the shinkansen to get to Tokyo Dome on Friday.

“And we had to face Sugano,” Balentien said. “There’s no excuse, but we were probably kind of tired.”

Balentien, though, felt like the Swallows made Sugano, who threw 119 pitches, work for everything.

“We made him tired today,” Balentien said. “He was looking exhausted. I think that’s the key, just make him throw a lot of balls.”

Yamada had two of Yakult’s four hits, including his second home run of the year. Munetaka Murakami had the other two.

After Yamada put Yakult ahead in the top of the first, Kazuma Okamoto evened the score in the bottom half, driving a single up the middle that brought Sakamoto in from second.

The Giants tacked on two more runs on solo homers by Sakamoto in the third and Kamei in the fourth.

Sakamoto doubled in another run in the fifth and Shinnosuke Abe made the score 6-1 with a pinch-hit, two-run double to right later in the inning.

The two clubs will meet in the second game of their series on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.

Taylor Jungmann (1-0) will take the mound for the Giants, with Masanori Ishikawa (0-1) getting the call for the Swallows.

While Sugano said that Giants were going for a three-game sweep, the Swallows will be looking to get back to winning after having their three-game streak snapped.

“We’re pitching well, and we’re hitting when we have to hit,” Balentien said. “So far, we’re doing alright.”

BayStars hammer struggling Carp

KYODO

Shota Imanaga and the Yokohama BayStars piled more misery on the Hiroshima Carp on Friday with a 6-0 win over the three-time defending Central League champs.

Imanaga allowed one hit, while walking one, hitting one and striking out nine on 105 pitches as the Carp lost their fifth straight game.

The BayStars opened the scoring against Carp right-hander Daichi Osera (1-2) in the third on back-to-back one-out doubles by Kazuki Kamizato and Taishi Kusumoto. Yokohama catcher Hikaru Ito singled in a run in the fourth and added a two-run homer in the sixth.

Neftali Soto, last year’s CL home run champ, hit a two-run homer, his fifth, in the seventh to ice the game.

“I hit it (my home run) well, but watching Soto’s impressive home run later made me realize how little power I have,” said Ito, who was acquired in a trade last summer from the Orix Buffaloes.

The one-hit shutout was the BayStars’ second in three games after Haruhiro Hamaguchi’s gem on Wednesday and lifted Yokohama to its third straight win.

“If we don’t win tough games, the team won’t get on a good roll. I’m relieved I could win,” Imanaga said of his first shutout at hitter-friendly Yokohama Stadium. “That (home shutout) gives me confidence, but the big thing was a picture-perfect game called by Hikaru.”

Dragons 9, Tigers 4

At Koshien Stadium, Shotaro Kasahara (1-0) worked six innings and Dayan Viciedo homered twice in Chunichis’ win over Hanshin Tigers.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Lions 1, Buffaloes 0

At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Seibu edged Orix behind nine innings from Shinsaburo Tawata (1-1), scoring the game’s only run on a ninth-inning throwing error.

Fighters 4, Marines 1

At Sapporo Dome, Hokkaido Nippon Ham defeated Chiba Lotte, breaking the game open against Kota Futaki (1-1) in a three-run sixth inning.

Eagles 4, Hawks 2

At Sendai’s Seimei Park, Jabari Blash went 2-for-3 with a walk, drove in a run and set up the go-ahead run with an eighth-inning leadoff double as Tohoku Rakuten downed Fukuoka SoftBank.

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