Rookie right-hander Masashi Ito worked seven innings, and two relievers completed the four-hit shutout, as the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers beat the Hiroshima Carp 5-0 on Saturday.
At rainy Mazda Stadium in Hiroshima, Ito (5-4) allowed four hits, walked two and hit a batter while striking out two. With the Tigers leading 1-0 in the fifth, Ito was bailed out of a tight spot by a double play from shortstop Takumu Nakano.
With runners on the corners and no outs, Nakano fielded a chopper up the middle, and after assessing the situation, went to step on second for the force before firing home to nail the runner trying to score from third.
“I was able to get out of tight spots today, thanks to Nakano’s defense for one thing,” Ito said.
Jefry Marte drove in three runs for the visitors. His bases-loaded groundout opened the scoring in the third, and his 14th homer made it 2-0 in the seventh.
Ito allowed the Carp to load the bases with two outs in the seventh, but made his escape after a visit to the mound by Tigers skipper Akihiro Yano.
“He said, ‘I’m going for it by leaving this in your hands,'” Ito said. “Just those few words from the skipper really got me focused, and I’m glad I was able to meet his expectations.”
Marte added an RBI single in a three-run eighth as the Tigers pulled away.
Carp rookie Haruki Omichi (3-2) took the loss after allowing a run over five innings.
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Cristopher Mercedes (4-1) worked 5⅔ scoreless innings in the second-place Yomiuri Giants’ 3-1 win over the Yokoyama DeNA BayStars. Three Giants hit solo home runs, including Kazuma Okamoto, who pulled into a tie for the league lead with his 24th.
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, Yasuhiro Ogawa (7-3) threw a five-hitter and reserve catcher Yudai Koga had four hits and drove in three runs as the third-place Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Chunichi Dragons 5-1 to remain four games back of Hanshin.
At MetLife Dome, Sachiya Yamasaki (4-5) worked seven innings, and leadoff hitter Shuhei Fukuda homered and drove in four runs as the Orix Buffaloes thrashed the Saitama Seibu Lions 8-0 to increase their Pacific League lead to three games over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Shogo Nakamura’s two-run, eighth-inning home run brought the Chiba Lotte Marines from behind in a 5-3 win over the Eagles.
At Naha’s Okinawa Cellular Field, Nick Martinez (6-2) allowed a run over eight-plus innings as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 7-1.
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