Unheralded lefty Keiji Takahashi pitched and fielded his position well over eight innings for the Yakult Swallows in a 6-0 Central League win over the Hanshin Tigers on Thursday.
Takahashi (1-1) worked around a first-inning leadoff single by making a good defensive play to force the runner at second. He then picked off the runner at first and cruised until he had to work out of an eighth-inning jam.
Hanshin starter Shintaro Fujinami (0-2), a former No. 1 draft pick once considered Japan’s top pitching prospect, brought his good stuff to the game at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium. With a lively fastball over 150 km per hour, a good splitter, cut fastball and slider, the Swallows were fortunate to score off him.
Kotaro Yamasaki singled to open the second, was sacrificed to second and scored on a double by reserve infielder Taisei Yoshida. That was all Yakult managed against the right-hander until Tigers shortstop Fumiya Hojo had a nightmare two-error seventh inning.
Hojo bobbled a grounder to open the inning and dropped a fly in center when he collided with center fielder Koji Chikamoto. Between those two plays and three infield singles, Yakult was able to break the game open with three runs.
Takahashi struck out six, walked one and hit a batter while allowing three singles. Fujinami allowed four runs, one earned, on eight hits and a walk. He struck out 10.
“Today was like my Jingu Stadium Opening Day,” said Takahashi, whose first three starts had been on the road. “My target was to pitch a good game. I was able to repeat my delivery and accomplish that.”
At Tokyo Dome, Yokohama DeNA BayStars lefty Kenta Ishida pitched out of a two-on, no-out jam in the eighth inning to preserve a one-run lead in a 4-2 come-from-behind win over the Yomiuri Giants.
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, the Chunichi Dragons came from behind on Dayan Viciedo’s two-run seventh-inning RBI single and tied the Hiroshima Carp 4-4 when their game was called after the 10-inning limit.
In the Pacific League, Toshihiro Sugiura (3-1) allowed a run over 7⅓ innings and Taishi Ota homered and drove in three for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in their 7-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Sapporo Dome.
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, rookie submarine right-hander Kaito Yoza (2-2) worked five innings, while Tomoya Mori homered twice, drove in three runs and scored three for the Saitama Seibu Lions in their 6-0 win over the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Stefen Romero broke a 3-3 tie with a sixth-inning RBI single for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in a 4-3 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines.