Rookie right-hander Naoto Nishiguchi pitched 4⅓ innings in emergency relief to earn his first pro win as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles beat the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 3-2 in the Pacific League on Saturday.
The win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park pulled the Eagles into a tie for first place with a 35-29 record, the same as the Orix Buffaloes, who tied 3-3 with the Seibu Lions in Osaka.
Nishiguchi (1-0) took over with two outs in the first inning after starting pitcher Koichi Takada received an automatic ejection for hitting a batter in the head. Nishiguchi inherited two runners but ended the inning by retiring the first of seven straight hitters.
“From start to finish I was able to just focus on one batter at a time,” Nishiguchi said. “I may have been playing over my head today, but I’m glad to have got the job done.”
Eagles captain Eigoro Mogi drove in all three Eagles runs in the bottom half of the first. Hawks starter Nick Martinez (5-2) gave up a leadoff single, a one-out walk and loaded the bases by hitting a batter with two outs.
Mogi cleared the bases with a triple to give the Eagles a lead they would not surrender.
Nishiguchi walked one batter and struck out four. He allowed one hit, Japan Olympic team member Ryoya Kurihara’s ninth home run to lead off the fourth.
The Hawks opened the scoring in the first with the help of an error, but between Nishiguchi and four relievers, SoftBank was unable to turn the tide. Lefty Yuki Matsui sealed the Eagles’ win with his 20th save.
“I was pretty nervous the whole day, right up until the moment Matsui ended it,” Nishiguchi said. “That’s when it dawned on me that I was the winning pitcher.”
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Takahiro Okada’s second RBI single pulled the Orix Buffaloes even with the Saitama Seibu Lions in the seventh inning, but neither team allowed another run and the game ended in a 3-3 tie.
At Shizuoka’s Kusanagi Sports Complex, Daiki Iwashita (6-4) allowed a run over six innings to earn the win in the Chiba Lotte Marines’ 3-1 come-from-behind victory over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
At Koshien Stadium, Kosuke Sakaguchi (2-1) allowed a run over six innings and Masayuki Kuwahara hit a two-run home run as the Yokoyama DeNA BayStars beat the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers for the second straight day, 3-1.
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Japan Olympian Hayato Sakamoto singled in the first run in a four-run third-inning, breaking up a tie game and sparking the Yomiuri Giants to a 10-3 crushing of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Olympic team member Seiya Suzuki singled twice, homered, scored two runs and drove in two for the Hiroshima Carp in an 11-5 win over the Chunichi Dragons.
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