FUKUOKA – Akira Nakamura opened the scoring with a two-run home run, and Alfredo Despaigne homered twice as the Pacific League-leading Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks rocked the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 5-1 on Wednesday night.
Hawks starting pitcher Ariel Miranda (7-4) allowed the first two Eagles to reach but stranded three runners in a scoreless first inning before the hosts put three on the board against Eagles right-hander Takahiro Norimoto (3-5).
Taisei Makihara singled to open the bottom of the first at Yafuoku Dome, and Nakamura punished a high mistake from Norimoto and launched it just over the dome’s low inner fence and into the home run terrace in right field for his third homer of the season.
“He’s one of Japan’s elite pitchers, so I thought it would be important to start off well against him, and we managed that,” said Nakamura, who like a lot of SoftBank’s veterans has been sidelined for much of the season. “Our young players have done a great job to get us this far, so we veterans need to match their efforts.”
With one out, Despaigne, who was activated Sunday after being out for 12 days with a back injury, went deep as well.
“After Akira’s home run, I wanted to be proactive in the batter’s box,” said Despaigne, who hit his 150th home run in the eighth inning to complete the scoring.
“I’m happy to be able to hit my 150th home run in front of our home fans,” Despaigne said. “I’m not 100 percent, I’m getting fitter, but having failed to carry my weight the past two weeks, I am eager to produce.”
Miranda allowed one run on three walks and four hits over six innings while striking out seven.
“Miranda had a little trouble at first but he got on track and the team came together and played good baseball,” Despaigne said of his Cuban compatriot.
Nobuhiro Matsuda also homered for the Hawks off Norimoto, who allowed four runs on six hits and a walk over six innings. He struck out seven.
Lions 10, Buffaloes 2
At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, Shuta Tonosaki homered twice and drove in four runs, while Takeya Nakamura had a sacrifice fly and an eighth-inning grand slam for Seibu.
Marines 4, Fighters 2
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, the Marines tied it 2-2 in the eighth inning with the help of an error, and Tatsuhiro Tamura’s two-run, walk-off homer sent Chiba Lotte to a win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Dragons 8, Giants 4
At Maebashi’s Shikishima Stadium, Yomiuri ace Tomoyuki Sugano (11-6) was plagued by poor control as Chunichi scored four second-inning runs off him to power a victory at Shikishima Stadium in Gunma Prefecture.
Swallows 11, Carp 7
At Jingu Stadium, Tetsuto Yamada hit a walk-off grand slam to lift Tokyo Yakult to a come-from-behind win over Hiroshima.
BayStars 5, Tigers 3 (10)
At Yokohama Stadium, BayStars slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo hit a sayonara two-run home run in the 10th to send second-place Yokohama to a win over Hanshin.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5