The first several weeks of the NPB season had many wondering how it was possible for the Hiroshima Carp to start off so slowly.
Now the question is this: How on earth can anyone slow them down?
Xavier Batista hit two home runs, Seiya Suzuki and Ryoma Nishikawa also went deep and the red-hot Carp extended their winning streak to 10 games with an 8-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.
“Everybody’s happy,” Batista said.
With a more than sizable contingent of red-clad Hiroshima fans among the 44,756 at the Big Egg, the first-place Carp lit up the scoreboard to improve to 27-18-1.
Batista had the biggest night, finishing 3-for-5 at the plate. He crushed his first home run of the game in fourth to break a 1-1 tie and give the Carp a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“It felt good,” Batista said. “That home run put us ahead.”
He was at it again in the eighth, connecting on a deep shot to left that banged off the Kirin Beer advertisement above the stands.
“It was perfect,” Batista said. “It’s a good feeling.”
That display of power earned him a prize of nearly $10,000 and a year’s supply of beer.
“That’s a gift for my mother,” he said of the prize money.
Batista might’ve had the best night, but it was a team effort that helped the Carp absorb a two-home run night by Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto, who hit solo homers to center in the first and fifth innings.
Suzuki went deep in the second, connecting on his 13th homer of the season and seventh this month, while Nishikawa hit his second of the year during the eighth.
Tsubasa Aizawa drove in a run with a double in the fourth, and scored on a wild pitch later in the inning, and Takayoshi Noma dropped down a squeeze bunt with two outs in the seventh. Hiroshima also scored on an error in the ninth.
All the run support helped prop up starter Hiroki Tokoda. The lefty allowed three runs in five innings and improved to 5-2.
The Carp haven’t lost since a 6-2 defeat against the Yokohama BayStars on May 10. They look nothing like the squad that dropped to 4-12 after losing to the Giants on April 16. The club has gone 23-6-1 since then.
“You never want to start a season off losing games,” said reliever Kyle Regnault, who threw an inning of relief on Friday. “But you’re going to lose games throughout the year, it’s a long season. We have some guys here, some leadership, that really understands that.
“Then you have some games where you come from behind and you win in the ninth inning and the offense comes alive after you give up a couple of runs. Those are the games that are turning points in the season. I think we’ve had a couple of those early on, and that’s big. It’s big for a team to show fight like that and believe you can come back. Because that’s half the battle.
“Every day is a new day, and you can’t hang on to the last win. So we’re out here just focusing on winning the next game.”
Former Giants star Hisayoshi Chono got the loudest ovation of the night when he came on to hit during the ninth. Chono spent 2010-2018 with Yomiuri before being claimed by the Carp as free agent compensation when the Giants signed Yoshihiro Maru, who was 0-for-4 Friday.
The game was Chono’s first back in Tokyo Dome this year, and he was cheered by fans of both teams. He singled in the at-bat.
As for his former teammates, Sakamoto finished 3-for-4 and hit his 14th and 15th homers of the season. Ginjiro Sumitani also went deep for the Kyojin.
Starter Taylor Jungmann was charged with the loss after allowing four runs in five innings. Jungmann (3-1) struck out three.
The teams will meet for the second of their three-game series on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
Lefty Kris Johnson (3-3) will try to help keep the Carp rolling, while C.C. Mercedes (4-2) will take the ball for the Giants.
Oyama lifts Tigers
Yokohama – Yusuke Oyama’s seventh-inning double drove in rookie Koji Chikamoto with the go-ahead run as the Hanshin Tigers came from two runs down to beat the Yokohama BayStars 3-2 on Friday night in the Central League.
Dragons 6, Swallows 1
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Chunichi rookie Akiyoshi Katsuno earned his first career win, allowing one run over 6-2/3 innings as Tokyo Yakult dropped its ninth straight game.
Eagles 3, Buffaloes 2
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, rookie Ryosuke Tatsumi brought Tohoku Rakuten from behind in the fifth inning, tying it 2-2 with an RBI triple and scoring the go-ahead run on a wild pitch against Orix.
Lions 10, Fighters 5
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Shuta Tonosaki doubled, tripled, homered, scored three runs and drove in four as Seibu hammered Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Hawks 6, Marines 3 (10)
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Alfredo Despaigne smacked his second two-run homer of the game in the 10th to lead Fukuoka SoftBank past Chiba Lotte.
Ikuhiro Kiyota’s ninth-inning homer off closer Yuito Mori (2-3) tied it at 3-3 and prevented Hawks starter Kodai Senga from winning his sixth straight start.