The Central League led going into the final at-bat in two games but ended up losing both of them to fall to 2-3-1 on Friday despite winning both of the blowouts.
Hawks 3, Tigers 0
At Yafuoku Dome, Yurisbel Gracial broke up a scoreless game with a one-out, three-run, seventh-inning homer off Hanshin’s Haruto Takahashi (1-1), who lost a lefty duel with SoftBank’s Kotaro Otake (4-2).
Otake located his fastball and used his changeup a lot to get a slew of ground balls. Between the Tigers hitters getting few good swings against him and fielders making good plays behind him, he allowed two hits and a walk and struck out four over eight innings.
“I was careful to not let them focus on just one pitch, so I paid careful attention to their swings so I could mix up my pitches well,” Otake said.
Hawks closer Yuito Mori threw a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 18th save.
With his live fastball touching 150 kilometers (93.2 miles) per hour, Takahashi had allowed just an infield single and a walk through six innings. Kenta Imamiya led off with a good swing on a good pitch that got through the infield. A low flat fastball was smashed for another single.
Against Gracial, Takahashi got two swinging strikes on fastballs high out of the zone and then missed just outside with an 0-2 pitch that he wanted. He tried to go well inside with a 1-2 slider but left it low and in and Gracial hit it into the stands for his 14th home run.
“Our starter Otake pitched well, and their starter is a good pitcher, too, so I wanted to be aggressive,” Gracial said. “I expected him to come inside and that helped with the pitch I got.”
Takahashi allowed three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out six over seven innings.
“Takahashi is a heck of a pitcher and we did well to get three runs off him,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “Otake did all those things that he’s capable of and put together a great game. As a former pitcher, I was on the edge of my seat the whole game.”
Giants 8, Lions 2
At MetLife Dome, Ginjiro Sumitani, who left Seibu as a free agent last autumn after he’d been relegated to the team’s No. 2 catcher, belted a three-run home run for Yomiuri, and Toshiki Sakurai (3-1) allowed a run over seven innings to win his second straight start.
Marines 3, BayStars 1
At Zozo Marine Stadium, 20-year-old right-hander Atsuki Taneichi (4-1) struck out seven batters for the third straight game and Lotte scored twice in the first inning in their only good scoring opportunity of the game to beat DeNA.
The BayStars allowed just one hit after Daichi Suzuki’s second-inning RBI double, while the Marines bullpen supplied two perfect innings of relief with Naoya Masuda earning his 13th save.
Buffaloes 6, Dragons 5
At Kyocera Dome, Stefen Romero broke a 5-5, ninth-inning tie with a walk-off singe as both bullpens suffered late blow ups in Orix’s come-from-behind win over Chunichi.
With the Buffaloes trailing 3-0 after reliever Sachiya Yamasaki coughed up three runs in the top of the seventh, Romero homered to leadoff Orix’s three-run seventh.
After Buffaloes closer Hirotoshi Masui (1-1) walked the leadoff hitter in the ninth, Orix opted for an intentional walk to fill first base with two outs. But Nobumasa Fukuda, who had singled in two runs in the Dragons’ seventh, doubled home both runners to put the Buffaloes on the brink.
Dragons reliever Raidel Martinez (0-2) allowed two hits and two walks to push home one run with one out. They tying run scored on a ground out before Romero singled to left to end it.
Swallows 11, Eagles 3
At Rakuten Seimei Park, Shuhei Nakamura’s two-run, two-out, eighth-inning double broke a 3-3 tie before Yakult turned a tight game into a rout, wasting a strong effort from Rakuten starter Ryota Ishibashi.
Ishibashi allowed two runs, while striking out six over six innings, and Frank Herrmann, pitching in his first game since he allowed six runs total on May 11 and 12, struck out the side in the seventh. But Koji Aoyama left the mound with two outs, having allowed the tying run with two singles and a wild pitch. Shuhei Takanashi walked the bases loaded before surrendering Nakamura’s double.
Carp 2, Fighters 2, 12 innings
At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham’s Wang Po-jung doubled in Haruki NIshikawa with the tying run off Hiroshima’s Geronimo Franzua in the bottom of the 10th inning, and neither team could score again before the game was called a tie after 12 innings.
Yoshida debut a hit on Hokkaido TV
Kosei Yoshida’s winning pro debut for the Nippon Ham Fighters on Wednesday was a hit with Hokkaido’s viewers, with nearly 29 percent of the island’s viewers tuned in at 8:55 pm during Yoshida’s postgame “hero” interview, according to media consultants Video Research.
Yoshida, Wada sent down
A day after his strong pro debut, the Fighters deactivated right-hander Kosei Yoshida. Tsuyoshi Wada, who made his second start in two years for the SoftBank Hawks on Wednesday in a loss to the Hanshin Tigers, was deactivated.
Taking stock in the Tigers
One of the annual sources of humor in Japanese baseball is the general stockholders meeting of Hankyu Hanshin Holdings, the Hanshin Tigers’ parent company. At Thursday’s meeting, one shareholder blamed Hanshin’s lack of pennants on its poor drafts, while another praised the one-coin beer night at Koshien Stadium (where a 500-yen coin (about $4.50) can get you a beer.
Van den Hurk heading back to States for checkup
SoftBank Hawks right-hander Rick van den Hurk, will return to the United States on Friday to have his right elbow examined, the club said. He made his season debut on June 4, and looked exceedingly sharp through the first three innings, but allowed four runs over 5-1/3. The 34-year-old was deactivated the following day.