The Hiroshima Carp look like a team that’s not quite ready to give up the Central League pennant they’ve held onto for the past three seasons — at least not without a fight.
They also don’t look likely to relinquish the hold they have on the Yomiuri Giants anytime soon.
Yusuke Nomura threw six strong innings, the Carp broke open a tie game in a four-run seventh and the defending league champions continued their post-All-Star surge with an 8-2 win over the Kyojin in front of 44,708 at Tokyo Dome.
“I didn’t have the best start, but I think I was able to pitch well in the end,” said Nomura.
The right-hander allowed an RBI double against former teammate Yoshihiro Maru in the first inning and shut down the Giants over the next five. Nomura (5-3) allowed four hits, struck three and walked two.
He also got plenty of help.
Early on, it was Ryuhei Matsuyama making a nice play in left field in the first inning to save a run and then hitting a tying solo homer in the fourth. Later, it was Carp batters exploding for seven runs over the final three innings. The Carp outhit Yomiuri 15-6 overall, a total that includes a 3-for-3 performance by Alejandro Mejia.
“They always give me a lot of support and I’m grateful,” Nomura said.
The Carp improved to 12-3 since the All-Star break and moved within a half-game of the second-place Yokohama BayStars in the CL standings. The league-leading Giants are another 3½ games further ahead.
“We’re just going to take it one game at a time,” Nomura said.
After the throng of red-clad Carp fans on the left side of the Big Egg had sung the team song to usher in the seventh inning of a 1-1 affair, Mejia led off the frame with a double.
The Carp then benefited from a little luck. Kosuke Tanaka popped the ball up while attempting a sacrifice bunt, but reached base anyway when it wasn’t caught and fell in fair territory. Pinch hitter Yoshitaka Isomura showed bunt during his plate appearance but pulled the bat back and swung, connecting on an RBI single to make it 2-1.
Ryoma Nishikawa then bunted his way on to bring up Ryosuke Kikuchi with the bases loaded. Kikuchi singled to drive in another run to make it 3-1. The bases were still loaded for Seiya Suzuki, who drove in two more runs with a single to center.
“They were in three straight bunting situations and everyone ended up safe, that was a miss by us,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.
Hiroshima was in position to take the lead largely due to the efforts of Nomura, whose night ended when Isomura hit for him in the seventh.
“I didn’t want to give up any more runs, so I’m glad I was able to hang in there,” Nomura said.
The Carp padded the lead some more in the ninth.
Yomiuri intentionally walked Suzuki with Nishikawa on third, a strategy that backfired when Shogo Sakakura connected on the first home run of his career to give Hiroshima an 8-2 lead.
As up-and-down as the Carp have been this season, the one constant has been their dominance against the Kyojin. Hiroshima improved to 11-5-1 against Yomiuri this season (including 4-2 at Tokyo Dome) and is 46-19-2 in the series since 2017.
Former Carp star Maru, who won the past two CL MVP awards while with the team, drove in both of the Giants’ runs. Maru connected on an RBI double to get Yomiuri on the board in the first inning and hit another in the eighth.
Giants starter C.C. Mercedes was charged with the loss. He was tagged for four runs in six innings and fell to 6-6.
Swallows prevail against BayStars
Hiroki Yamada (4-0) allowed two runs over six innings, and Tokyo Yakult catcher Yuhei Nakamura singled in the Swallows’ last two runs in a 4-2 win over the Yokohama BayStars on Thursday in the Central League.
The BayStars remain 3-1/2 games back in second place.
Tigers 3, Dragons 2
At Koshien Stadium, one-time Hanshin phenomenon Shintaro Fujinami made his first-team season debut and allowed just a run over 4-1/3 innings despite walking six and hitting a pair of batters in a victory over Chunichi.
Eagles 3, Fighters 1
At Sapporo Dome, Eigoro Mogi scored the opening run and hit a tiebreaking single in the third as Tohoku Rakuten defeated Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Hawks 11, Lions 10
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Alfredo Despaigne’s 25th home run, his second two-run home run of the game, broke a seventh-inning tie and helped PL-leading Fukuoka SoftBank down Seibu and avoid a three-game sweep.
Buffaloes at Marines — late