Nishinomiya, Hyogo Pref. – Rookie Masashi Ito hurled seven innings of four-hit ball Monday as the Hanshin Tigers edged the Hiroshima Carp 2-1 to move within 2½ games of the Central League lead.
Ito (9-7) struck out five without issuing a walk in a 90-pitch effort at Koshien Stadium as the Tigers edged closer to the CL-leading Yakult Swallows, who they face from Tuesday in a two-game series.
“It was a game we couldn’t lose, but I concentrated on my pitching,” said the left-hander after winning a pitching duel with Allen Kuri (12-8), who allowed two runs, one earned, both on sacrifice flies.
Ito had a perfect first four innings before getting out of a one-out, two-on jam in the fifth. He had Seiya Suzuki to deal with in the seventh after opening the frame giving up a single but had the cleanup hitting into a double-play with a breaking ball.
The Tigers took the lead in the third after another rookie, Teruaki Sato, opened by finally ending his two-month drought of an extra-base hit with a double, reaching third on a Suzuki error before coming home on a Seishiro Sakamoto fly.
Pinch-hitting Yoshio Itoi plated the decisive run with one out in the seventh with a bases-loaded fly to left that chased Kuri, who fanned 11 while allowing six hits and a walk during his 121-pitch outing.
Hisayoshi Chono had a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth for the Carp, but their three-game winning run came to an end.
At MetLife Dome, Brandon Laird broke a tie with an RBI single in the seventh as the Chiba Lotte Marines moved back up to the top of the Pacific League with a 2-1 win over the Saitama Seibu Lions, trimming the magic number to six.
At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Takayuki Kato (5-7) had a three-hit shutout as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters eased to a 5-0 win over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
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