SAPPORO – Bryan Rodriguez allowed one run over five innings, and Haruki Nishikawa put Hokkaido Nippon Ham ahead with a two-run double as the Fighters beat the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 4-3 in the Pacific League on Sunday.
The win lifted the second-place Fighters to within 2½ games of the Hawks, who had taken the first two games of their series at Sapporo Dome.
Mizuki Hori pitched a 1-2-3 first as the Fighters’ first “opener” of the season, before Rodriguez (6-2) took the mound in the second to pitch the bulk of the game. Although the right-hander surrendered a second-inning homer to Nobuhiro Matsuda, he allowed only two more hits and no runs, while striking out three.
“Coming to the mound in the second inning, my only thought was on giving 100 percent to give the team a chance to win,” Rodriguez said. “I gave up a home run in my first inning. After that, the pitching coach just told me to concentrate and I’d be fine, and I took confidence from that.”
The Fighters managed just two hits and a walk against Hawks starter Akira Niho (1-3) through the first four innings, but that changed in the fifth.
Kazunari Ishii beat out a leadoff infield single before a sacrifice and a Takuya Nakashima single put runners on the corners for Nishikawa. On a 3-0 pitch, Niho hung a two-seam fastball in the middle of the zone, and Nishikawa drilled it off the base of the wall in left-center for a two-run double.
“The manager always gives me the take sign there, but this time he gave me the green light (to swing), and I swung for all I was worth,” the Fighters’ leadoff man said. “When I got back to the bench, everyone was ribbing me, saying I had no power.”
Taishi Ota doubled Nishikawa home and scored on a two-out Kensuke Kondo single.
The Hawks scored twice in the seventh off left-handed relief stalwart Naoki Miyanishi, but Naoya Ishikawa and Ryo Akiyoshi shut the Hawks down over the final two innings to close it out.
Lions 5, Buffaloes 4
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Seibu’s Shogo Akiyama led off the game with a home run, and capped the scoring with a tiebreaking, seventh-inning triple that lifted the Lions to a win over Orix.
Marines 11, Eagles 2
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Atsuki Taneichi (6-1) struck out 10 over seven scoreless innings, while Leonys Martin, Katsuya Kakunaka and Ikuhiro Kiyota each drove in three runs for Chiba Lotte.
BayStars 3, Giants 2
At Yokohama Stadium, five BayStars pitchers scattered eight hits and three walks as second-place Yokohama completed a three-game sweep of league-leading Yomiuri to move within a half-game of first place.
Carp 10, Tigers 5
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Tsubasa Aizawa went 4-for-4 with three RBIs, while Carp pitcher Aren Kuri (6-5) held Hanshin to two runs over six innings.
Swallows 7, Dragons 2
At Jingu Stadium, Yakult lefty Keiji Takahashi (3-4) allowed two runs over six innings, while 20-year-old rookie Munetaka Murakami hit his 23rd home run of the season.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5