Tetsuto Yamada hit a two-run home run and stole his first base to lead the Yakult Swallows to a 6-2 Central League win over the Chunichi Dragons on Saturday afternoon.
Playing behind closed doors in a season that was delayed three months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Yamada has taken his first steps toward another historic milestone. The Swallows second baseman is the only player in Japanese pro baseball history to bat .300 with at least 30 homers and 30 steals in more than one season.
If Yamada manages it this year, when the regular season has been shortened from 143 games to 120, it will be the fourth “triple-three” season of his career.
He opened the scoring in the first at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium with a two-run home run, and 20-year-old slugger Munetaka Murakami added a solo shot to put Yakult up 3-0. Yasutaka Shiomi’s solo homer in the third made it 4-1.
Swallows starter Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa, whose nickname comes from his emulating the leg kick of Hall of Fame major league pitcher Nolan Ryan, allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win.
At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri Giants players celebrated Gerardo Parra’s first homer in Japan by doing the “Baby Shark” celebration he made famous last year with the Washington Nationals. Parra singled and homered in an eight-run seventh as the Giants buried the Hanshin Tigers 11-1.
In Yokohama, Seiya Suzuki homered twice to lead the Hiroshima Carp to a 10-5 victory over the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. Longtime minor leaguer Michael Peoples had a strong debut for DeNA, striking out seven and allowing one run, while two-time CL home run king Neftali Soto hit his first of the year for DeNA.
In the Pacific League, Sho Nakata doubled in two fourth-inning runs at MetLife Dome as the Hokkadio Nippon Ham Fighters came from behind to defeat the two-time defending PL champion Saitama Seibu Lions 2-1.
In Fukuoka, former New York Yankee Brandon Laird homered and singled in a run for the Chiba Lotte Marines in a 3-2 win over the Japan Series champion Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. Former Chicago Cubs lefty Tsuyoshi Wada struck out seven and allowed a run over 6⅓ innings but got no decision.
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Jabari Blash doubled and scored the tying run in the fourth inning for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, who won it in the 10th, beating the Orix Buffaloes 2-1.