HIROSHIMA – Tokyo Yakult Swallows rookie Munetaka Murakami crushed a fifth-inning grand slam Wednesday as the Central League cellar dwellers overpowered the Hiroshima Carp 6-2.
The blast against Hiroshima starter Casey Lawrence was No. 20 of the season for the 19-year-old Murakami, whose development has been a rare bright spot for the Swallows this year.
Murakami became the first NPB player since Hideki Matsui in 1994 to hit 20 home runs in his second year out of high school.
However, the Kumamoto native took just 78 games to reach the benchmark, compared to 130 for then-Yomiuri Giant Matsui, who went on to become a major league All-Star with the New York Yankees.
Hayato Terahara (2-1) got the win at Mazda Stadium after a five-inning start in which he struck out three, while giving up both Hiroshima runs on three hits and four walks.
Former major leaguer Lawrence (0-1) took the loss after surrendering all six Swallows runs over five innings.
Murakami finished 2-for-5 with a run and five RBIs. He drove in the opening run of the game with a first-inning single that scored Tetsuto Yamada.
With two out in the top of the fifth, Murakami came to the plate after Lawrence issued back-to-back walks to load the bases and score Yuhei Nakamura, respectively.
Following a swing and a miss, Murakami sent Lawrence’s 1-1 changeup over the right field wall for his first career grand slam.
“Like my first at-bat, I was aiming to hit it hard with a compact swing. I was happy to get the best possible result,” Murakami said.
“The batters ahead of me in the lineup put us in a good position. I wanted to get a hit no matter what.”
Despite equaling Matsui’s mark, Murakami bristled at comparisons to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Famer and fellow left-hander known as Godzilla.
“I’m not worthy of that. I just need to continue improving as much as I can,” he said.
Giants 7, Dragons 6
At Tokyo Dome, Akihiro Wakabayashi scored the winning run after a throwing error by Chunichi in the bottom of the ninth to give Yomiuri a sayonara victory.
Tigers 4, BayStars 3 (11)
Fighters 5, Lions 3
At Sapporo Dome, Haruki Nishikawa drove in the go-ahead run with a two-RBI double in the fourth and Nippon Ham held on for a victory over Seibu.
Marines 12, Buffaloes 6
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, the Marines scored seven runs in the third inning, including a three-run home run from Kazuya Katsuki, on the way to a road win over Orix.
Hawks 4, Eagles 1
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, first-place SoftBank beat second-place Rakuten thanks to a grand slam from Alfredo Despaigne in the seventh inning and seven scoreless frames from starter Tsuyoshi Wada.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5