YOKOHAMA – Takayuki Kajitani got caught sleeping at the wheel in the outfield during the sixth inning.
When he came to the plate in the seventh, however, the Yokohama BayStars veteran was locked in 100 percent.
Kajitani hit a tiebreaking two-out single to right to give his team its first lead and the BayStars held on for an important 4-2 win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Thursday night in front of a crowd of 32,159 Yokohama Stadium.
Kajitani pumped his fist at first base after his hit.
“Lately I’ve been really happy whenever I get a hit,” he said. “So it was just kind of natural for me to do a guts pose.
The BayStars swept the three-game series against the Swallows and have won four straight and five out of their last six.
“It was a very good game,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said. “I’m very happy. Especially after we lost three games in Jingu the last time (Aug. 12-14). We wanted to get them back this time. It was a total team effort.”
The victory also allowed to BayStars to put a little breathing room between themselves and the Hiroshima Carp, who were routed 12-4 by the Yomiuri Giants earlier in the night, in Central League standings.
The second-place BayStars are 2½ games ahead of the third-place Carp heading into this weekend’s three-game series in Hiroshima.
Yokohama’s Tatsuhiro Shibata finished with a pair of doubles on a 3-for-4 night for the home team. His other hit was a two-run single that tied the game in the sixth.
That hit was even sweeter since it was his error that allowed Tetsuto Yamada to reach base in the fourth inning before eventually scoring for Yakult.
“The run was due to my error, so I went up to bat thinking there was a chance to get it back,” he said. “So I’m happy I could bring those runs in.”
Yamada reached base twice without getting a hit, via a walk and an error, and stole two bases to reach 31 for the season. He also extended his record for consecutive successful attempts to 36. This is his fourth season with at least 30 stolen bases.
His first steal came in the fourth inning and he was later driven home on a single by Yuhei Takai to make the score 1-0.
Yamada drew a walk to get on base with one out in the sixth and proceeded to steal second again. He went to third on a single by Wladimir Balentien and scored when Takai grounded out to second.
Keita Sano led off the home half of the sixth with a single and Kajitani drew a walk. Yasutaka Tobashira laid down a bunt to move the runners over and ended up safe himself after a high throw by third baseman Kengo Ota.
The BayStars had stranded six runners by that point in the game but finally cashed in on Shibata’s game-tying single.
The Swallows put the pressure on in the seventh, getting runners on second and third with one out. Ramirez called for an intentional walk of pinch hitter Takahiro Araki. The move paid off when Aoki hit into a 1-2-3 inning-ending double play.
A two-out single by Neftali Soto and pinch hitter Jose Lopez being hit with a pitch set up Kajitani in a big spot in the seventh inning of a 2-2 game. He worked the count to 3-2 against reliever Koshiro Sakamoto before sending a slider into right field to score Soto from second.
An inning earlier, Kajitani fielded a single by Balentein in left and seemed to lose his focus as he jogged in and tossed to ball to third, allowing Balentien to take an extra base. Balentien was stranded later in the inning.
After Kajitani broke the deadlock in the seventh, Kazuki Kamizato singled in an insurance run in the eighth.
Giants crush Carp
The league-leading Yomiuri Giants scored 10 runs off Hiroshima Carp starter Daichi Osera (8-3) in a 12-4 win at Tokyo Dome on Thursday in the Central League.
Dragons at Tigers — ppd.
Lions 5, Fighters 2
At Hokkaido’s Obihiro Stadium, Keisuke Honda allowed two runs over six-plus innings and the bullpen came up big as Seibu completed a sweep of Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Honda (6-5) allowed six hits but no walks while striking out six. The right-hander was coming off a loss to the Fighters in his previous start.
“We lost my last game, so I wanted to win this one, no matter what,” said Honda, whose last win came on July 17. “Overall, the best thing about today was my control. I’m really happy because it’s been a while since I last won.”
He left the mound in the seventh after allowing back-to-back singles. Lefty Ryuya Ogawa got two outs but allowed one runner to score before Lions middle reliever Katsunori Hirai saved the day.
Hirai got Seibu out of the bases-loaded jam, and worked a 1-2-3 eighth. Closer Tatsushi Masuda retired the side in order in the ninth to earn his 22nd save. The win moved the second-place Lions to within two games of the league-leading Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
Seibu slugger Takeya Nakamura continued to torment Nippon Ham, singling in two third-inning runs to open the scoring for the second straight day.
A one-out single, an error and a two-out walk by Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura (2-4) loaded the bases for Nakamura, who homered twice with five RBIs in Wednesday’s game. The slugger lined a first-pitch fastball low and outside into right for a two-run Lions lead.
Sugiura, pitching in his hometown, allowed four runs — two earned — over six innings to take the loss.
Shuta Tonosaki added a run in the fourth, when he singled, stole second and scored on Hotaka Yamakawa’s single. Tomoya Mori homered for the Lions in the fifth to make it 4-1, and Yamakawa hit his NPB-best 38th home run to open the ninth inning.
Taishi Ota homered off Honda in the fourth for the Fighters.
Marines 5, Eagles 4 (10)
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Seiya Inoue slugged a 10th-inning home run, lifting Chiba Lotte past Tohoku Rakuten.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5