CHIBA – The Chiba Lotte Marines invited the band from nearby Narashino High School to sit in left field and power their cheering section on Friday night.
Turns out, the kids ended up helping to provide the perfect soundtrack for an entertaining pitcher’s duel between 20-somethings Yuya Yanagi and Kota Futaki.
The Chunichi Dragons’ Yanagi went the distance in a 13-strikeout gem, Dayan Viciedo made the Chiba Lotte Marines pay dearly for a ninth-inning error with a tiebreaking single and the Dragons earned a 4-1 win at a sold-out Zozo Marine Stadium.
“Our relievers are great and I could see they caught a tough break yesterday,” Yanagi said. “So today, I had a strong feeling that I wanted to go until the end.”
The right-hander tossed the second complete game of his career in the victory. He limited the Marines to four singles, a double and Brandon Laird’s leadoff home run in the seventh to improve to 7-2 and lower his ERA to 3.29. Yanagi hit one batter and walked one.
“I think I got a big push because I was following Kato’s lead and he was really guiding me well,” Yanagi said, referring to catcher Takumi Kato.
Futaki (4-5) was just as good through eight, before allowing three runs in the ninth. He gave up four runs — three earned — overall in the losing effort, striking out 10 and walking a batter over 8 1/3.
With the two starters dealing, there wasn’t much offense to go around.
The Dragons got their first run off Futaki on an RBI double by Shuhei Takahashi in the fourth.
The Marines tied the score on Laird’s homer in the seventh, his 150th in Japan.
“I finally hit 150,” Laird said. “The weather forecast for tomorrow is bad and my parents are going home the day after tomorrow, so it was probably my last game where they could see me hit a home run, so I’m glad I was able to do it.”
The game was knotted at 1-1 in the ninth when Chunichi’s Yohei Oshima drew a walk. He attempted to steal second and ended up on third when catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura’s throw went into the outfield.
That sliver of daylight was enough for the Dragons.
Viciedo followed with his single to left to score Oshima and Takahashi, the Central League’s Monthly MVP for May for hitters, homered to tack on a pair of insurance runs.
Yanagi struck out Laird and retired Shogo Nakamura and Yudai Fujioka in the bottom half to end it.
The Dragons improved to 4-6 in interleague play, while the Marines dropped to 3-7.
The clubs will return to Zozo Marine Stadium for the second game of their three-game set on Saturday afternoon. Enny Romero will get the start for the Dragons, with Mike Bolsinger scheduled to get the ball for the Marines.
Wang sparks Fighters
Taiwanese star Wang Po-jung broke a 3-3 tie with his third home run, and Kohei Arihara worked eight innings as the Pacific League-leading Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters rallied to beat the Yomiuri Giants 5-4 in interleague play on Friday.
Arihara (8-2) struck out nine, while allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks over eight innings.
Wang, who twice hit over .400 in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League and joined the Fighters as the first player to be posted from his homeland, went 3-for-4. His sixth-inning single contributed to Nippon Ham’s two-run sixth against Giants starter Cristopher Mercedes, who worked five-plus innings.
In the seventh, Haruki Nishikawa reached on a leadoff infield single against lefty Kyosuke Takagi (2-1) and stole second. He scored on Sho Nakata’s two-out single.
“When I came to the plate, Nakata had already tied it and my thinking was to bring him around, too,” said Wang of his first home run at Sapporo Dome.
Takagi’s loss was the first of his career. He was pitching in his 165th pro game.
Right-hander Bryan Rodriguez allowed a run on a pair of doubles but hung on for his first save thanks to two strikeouts and a great play by second baseman Ryo Watanabe to retire the first Giants batter of the inning.
Eagles 11, Carp 2
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Hideto Asamura scored three runs and hit two of Tohoku Rakuten’ sseven home runs in a rout of Hiroshima.
Lefty Wataru Karashima (5-3) pitched seven solid innings for the Eagles.
Lions 11, Swallows 1
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Takeya Nakamura singled in a first-inning run and hit a fourth-inning grand slam as Seibu hammered Tokyo Yakult, scoring all of its runs off starter David Buchanan (1-4).
Buffaloes 6, Tigers 4
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Tyler Eppler (1-2) pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the eighth, and Orix broke through for four runs in the bottom of the inning, handing Hanshin starter and former teammate Yuki Nishi (3-6) the loss.
BayStars 5, Hawks 4
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Neftali Soto’s 19th home run, a sixth-inning grand slam, broke up a 1-1 tie and Yokohama held on to beat Fukuoka SoftBank.