Japanese Baseball

Hawks' Rick van den Hurk and Wladimir Balentien bag Lions

Kyodo

Rick van den Hurk took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and Wladimir Balentien homered twice to lead the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to a 4-2 win over the defending Pacific League champion Saitama Seibu Lions on Thursday.

Balentien, who joined the Hawks this season after nine years with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, hit solo homers off Keisuke Honda (0-1) in the second and fourth. Keizo Kawashima homered to open the sixth off rookie reliever Shota Hamaya.

Van den Hurk (1-0) struck out seven and walked one. He allowed two runs on two hits after two-time PL home run king Hotaka Yamakawa reached on an infield single to open the eighth. Takeya Nakamura doubled and van den Hurk was pulled after the Lions scored on a ground out.

"I was able to attack with the fastball, and get ahead and try to pitch to contact as much as possible. I was able to get quick outs on first pitches," van den Hurk said.

"I was aware of it (the possible no-hitter)…but especially with this (Lions) lineup I was just thinking of one hitter at a time and one pitch at a time and keep going like that until the game is over or they take me from the mound."

Hawks lefty Livan Moinelo surrendered an RBI single but got out of the inning, while the Hawks added on a run in the ninth against rookie Tetsu Miyagawa. SoftBank closer Yuito Mori worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save.

Afterward, van den Hurk thanked Balentien, who played with him for the Netherlands in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

"I want to thank my boy Coco for doing what he did tonight," van den Hurk said. "Before the game he said 'Let's go, the Kingdom of the Netherlands boys, let's put a good game together.'"

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Shogo Nakamura hit a grand slam while Daiki Iwashita (1-0) and four relievers combined on a shutout as the Chiba Lotte Marines beat the Orix Buffaloes 5-0 for their first five-game winning streak in four years.

At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Taishi Ota homered and drove in three runs, while former Detroit Tigers pitcher Drew VerHagen (1-0) allowed a run over six innings to win his Japan debut as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 8-5.

In the Central League, Yokohama DeNA BayStars lefty Yuya Sakamoto (1-0) allowed one hit over six scoreless innings to win his pro debut in a 10-2 victory over the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.

At Tokyo's Jingu Stadium, Naomichi Nishiura hit a pinch-hit, three-run home run off veteran closer Kyuji Fujikawa (0-1) in the Swallows' 3-1 walk-off win over the Hanshin Tigers.

At Tokyo Dome, Kazuma Okamoto of the Yomiuri Giants tied the game against the Hiroshima Carp at 5-5 with an eighth-inning home run and the game ended in a 10-inning tie. Nippon Professional Baseball is limiting games to 10 innings this season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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