FUKUOKA – Kodai Senga threw the 91st regular season no-hitter in NPB history on Friday in the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ 2-0 victory over the Chiba Lotte Marines.
The 26-year-old right-hander struck out 12, while walking three and hitting another to win a pitchers’ duel against Lotte’s Mike Bolsinger, who only surrendered two unearned runs.
Relying on an electric fastball that touched 159 kph and mixing in his trademark splitter more and more as the game went on, Senga (12-7) survived a few bad pitches and two walks to open the ninth inning.
Three outs away from being no-hit, the Marines’ Tatsuhiro Tamura drew a six-pitch leadoff walk, and Hiromi Oka walked on five pitches. Daichi Suzuki hit into a forceout, and Senga popped up Shogo Nakamura on the next pitch.
By that time, Senga, had regained his poise. He set up slugger Seiya Inoue with an inside fastball before striking him out to end the game.
“With two runners on base, the only thing I was thinking was that if I give up a home run, we’d be trailing 3-2,” said Senga, who had lost his three previous starts, allowing 16 runs over a total of 17-1/3 innings.
“It was good, perhaps, that I had that to think about (instead of the no-hitter).”
The no-hitter was the 29th in Pacific League history and the Hawks’ first since Hall of Famer Takehiko Bessho’s 1943 gem. It was Japan’s first no-no since last year, when the Yomiuri Giants’ Shun Yamaguchi no-hit the Chunichi Dragons on July 27.
“At the end of the sixth inning, I glanced up and saw that zero (hits) and thought if I would go all out and try and shut them down the remaining four innings,” Senga said.
SoftBank broke through in the fifth inning with a run that center fielder Leonys Martin had two chances to prevent. After Bolsinger (4-5) hit the leadoff man, Martin dropped a routine fly ball to put runners on first and second with no outs. After a sacrifice, Martin came within inches of making a sliding catch on Takuya Kai’s two-strike RBI single.
Martin missed another routine catch in the fifth. With two outs, Yurisbel Gracial scored from first on a fly that should have been the final out but hit off the heel of Martin’s glove.
Bolsinger allowed only four hits. He struck out three batters over seven innings and hit one to take the tough loss.
Fighters 6, Buffaloes 2
At Sapporo Dome, Toshihiro Sugiura (3-4) threw six scoreless innings, and Haruki Nishikawa belted a three-run triple to lead Hokkaido Nippon Ham past Orix.
The Fighters snapped an eight-game losing streak.
Lions 5, Eagles 4
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, league-RBI leader Takeya Nakamura extended his record for career grand slams with his 20th, and Seibu held on to beat Tohoku Rakuten.
Swallows 5, Giants 2
At Tokyo Dome, Masanori Ishikawa (7-5) allowed a run over six innings, and Wladimir Balentien hit a two-run first-inning home run as Tokyo Yakult defeated CL-leading Yomiuri.
The Giants dropped their sixth straight.
Carp 6, Tigers 3
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Tsubasa Aizawa homered and drove in three runs as Hiroshima pounded Hanshin starter Haruto Takahashi (3-7).
Dragons 8, BayStars 4
At Nagoya Dome, Dayan Viciedo bashed a tiebreaking homer, reached base four times, scored twice and drove in three runs in Chunichi’s victory over Yokohama.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5