The Heisei Era is over for the Chunichi Dragons and the club finished it off in style.
With Yudai Ono on the mound and in dominant form against the period’s top Central League club.
Ono shook off a shaky start to pitch seven strong innings, Nobumasa Fukuda hit a three-run homer and the Dragons beat the Yomiuri Giants 3-1 on Tuesday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
“I’m happy,” Ono said. “I threw today and won. I grew up during the Heisei Era (Ono was born in 1988), so the last day brings up kind of a special feeling.”
The three-decade Heisei Era ended Tuesday with Emperor Akihito’s abdication. The Giants won 12 league pennants and six Japan Series titles during the period, which began Jan. 8, 1989.
The era may have belonged to the Kyojin, but this game was the property of the Dragons and their starting pitcher.
Ono (2-1), though, didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts. He allowed a run, three hits and walked a batter in the first inning and gave up another hit with two outs in the second.
“To some extent, I thought I’d be OK,” he said, noting that his confidence didn’t waver early on.
The lefty then proceeded to retire the next 14 Giants in order. Ono allowed just one run on the afternoon and finished with eight strikeouts.
“He pitched really well,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.
Ono struck out 11 Giants in their last meeting, on April 9 in Nagoya, but didn’t get enough run support and took the loss.
The Dragons didn’t do a whole lot against the Yomiuri pitchers this time either, but they did enough.
Ryosuke Hirata and Toshiki Abe drew walks against rookie pitcher Yuki Takahashi to start the second inning, with Chunichi trailing 1-0. Fukuda followed them to the plate and got enough of a 126-kph slider to get it over the wall in left near the foul pole.
“We were born in the same year,” Fukuda told reporters when asked about Ono. “I know he was doing his best, so I’m really happy.”
The home run was Fukuda’s third of the year and gave the Dragons a 3-1 advantage. From there it was all Ono, and he limited the Kyojin to Yasuhiro Yamamoto’s seventh-inning double and a walk drawn by Hiroyuki Nakajima in the same frame.
“As usual, I gave up the first run,” Ono said. “I’m really happy Fukuda gave us that three-run home run.”
Hiroshi Suzuki kept the Giants off the board in the ninth to earn ninth save of the year.
Chunichi finished with six hits overall, with two coming from Yota Kyoda.
Takahashi (2-1) lasted seven innings for Yomiuri, allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out five and walked four.
“He held them to just the three runs, I think he pitched well,” Hara said. “He really hung in there.”
Yomiuri scored its only run on a single up the middle by Kazuma Okamoto in the bottom of the first. Three of the team’s five hits came during the first inning.
The clubs will meet in the second game of their three-game series on Wednesday at the Big Egg, in what will be their first game of the new Reiwa Era.
“We’re going to fight and make sure there are a lot of Dragons wins during the Reiwa Era,” Ono said.
Veteran Daisuke Yamai will take the mound for the Dragons against Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano.
Araki lifts Swallows in 10th
Takahiro Araki gave the Tokyo Yakult Swallows a 10th-inning lead with a pinch-hit RBI double in their 9-8 win over the Yokohama BayStars after the visitors had blown an early 7-0 advantage on Tuesday in the Central League.
Tigers 8, Carp 3
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin rang out the Heisei Era by routing Hiroshima.
Fans attending the game received special gifts commemorating the occasion and watched as Takumi Akiyama (1-1) threw seven scoreless innings. The Carp’s Xavier Batista hit a three-run consolation blast in the eighth inning that proved to be the final home run of the era.