Yangervis Solarte hasn’t even been in Japan that long and yet Hanshin Tigers fans already love him.
He made it hard not to in his first game.
Solarte made his NPB debut a memorable one on Friday night, hitting a towering, tiebreaking two-run homer in the top of the seventh to help the Tigers beat the rival Yomiuri Giants 4-2 in front of a crowd of 45,887 at Tokyo Dome.
“I’m really happy that the team won today,” Solarte said. “I want to build on this from today and make the most of the chances I get.”
Solarte had walked, struck out and flown out to left when he came up in the seventh, following a single by Koji Chikamoto, to face Yomiuri reliever Kazuto Taguchi. He fouled off a first-pitch slider, took the second for a ball and then sent the third into the balcony seats above the stands in left field.
“I able to see the same pitch again and I was just able to really adjust to a good pitch to hit,” he said.
Solarte, who said his nickname was “Sexy Time” during his introductory news conference on July 22, briefly admired his work before running around the bases at a brisk pace. He pointed upward, leapt into air and clapped his hands on the way down between third and home, celebrated with his teammates at the plate and in the dugout and then pointed to the Tigers fans in left field.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” he said.
He hopped in place when the fans chanted his name before the bottom of the inning and posed after making a catch in the field for the first out.
Solarte began the year with the San Francisco Giants, playing in 28 games for the NL West club. He signed a minor league deal with the Miami Marlins in June, but his stay there only lasted about a month, with the 31-year-old signing with Hanshin on July 7.
The Tigers put him in the thick of things on Friday, batting him second as the shortstop, and he delivered.
Hiroya Shimamoto (3-0) got two outs and earned the win in relief for Hanshin. Kyuji Fujikawa worked the ninth for his first save of the season. Taguchi (0-2) was charged with the loss.
Yusuke Oyama got Hanshin on the board with a sacrifice fly in the first. The Tigers added another when Jefry Marte came home from third after Seishiro Sakamoto hit into a double play in the second.
The Giants got their first run on an RBI single to right by Hayato Sakamoto in the fifth, then tied it in the sixth when pinch hitter Shinnosuke Abe drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth.
The score remained tied until Solarte’s big hit in the seventh.
BayStars win sixth straight
Kentaro Taira (3-2) allowed a run over 6-2/3 innings and singled and scored on Yoshitomo Tsutsugo’s 18th home run as the Yokohama BayStars won their sixth straight, beating the Chunichi Dragons 2-1 in the Centra League on Friday.
The loss was the Dragons’ seventh straight and equaled their longest losing streak in seven seasons.
Carp 12, Swallows 3
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Hiroshima racked up 18 hits, including three home runs, to crush Tokyo Yakult and win its seventh straight.
Buffaloes 6, Hawks 2
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Masataka Yoshida homered in his first two at-bats and drove in three runs as last-place Orix defeated PL-leading Fukuoka SoftBank.
Kohei “K” Suzuki went to the mound in the bottom of the first with a 2-0 lead after Yoshida homered in the first off SoftBank star Kodai Senga (9-4).
Suzuki (2-5) surrendered a leadoff homer in the bottom of the first to Taisei Makihara, but that was the only run he allowed over seven innings. Suzuki struck out four and walked one while allowing five hits.
Shuhei Fukuda opened the door for the Buffaloes with a leadoff single in the first. With one out, Senga tried to pitch away from the left-handed-hitting Yoshida with a 1-0 fastball but missed over the plate. The 173-cm slugger drove the low pitch over the wall in right for his 18th home run of the season.
“Senga is a good pitcher so I was looking to be aggressive at the plate,” Yoshida said. “I was looking to swing at the first strike. All I can do is focus on having good swings.”
With two outs in the third and Orix leading 2-1, Senga hung a first-pitch breaking ball high in the zone and Yoshida lofted it just over the fence and into the right-center field seats. With two outs, Steven Moya doubled and scored when Senga couldn’t handle a smash off the bat of Stefen Romero, who wound up at second on a throwing error by the pitcher.
Romero homered in the sixth, and Moya singled in another insurance run in the seventh, closing the book on Senga. The right-hander allowed six runs — five earned — on seven hits, two walks and a hit batsman. Senga, who leads both leagues in strikeouts, fanned eight.
Eagles 6, Marines 3
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Zelous Wheeler overturned a one-run, eighth-inning deficit with a three-run home run, helping Tohoku Rakuten triumph over Chiba Lotte.
Fighters 12, Lions 7
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Ryo Watanabe broke a 7-7 tie with a three-run, sixth-inning triple as Hokkaido Nippon Ham defeated Seibu.
The Lions came back from a 7-0 deficit on the back of two Takeya Nakamura homers.
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