With eight home runs through the first four games of interleague, the SoftBank Hawks entered Saturday undefeated against the Central League this season with an NPB-high 79 home runs. Kris Johnson kept them in the park on Saturday only for the Japan Series champs to turn the tied with the help of a couple of fifth-inning bunts.
With five wins in six road games on Saturday the PL, which hasn’t lost a Japan Series since 2012, improved to 19-10 after four days of interleague competition.
Hawks 4, Carp 2
At Mazda Stadium, Seiichi Uchikawa doubled in the tie-breaking run in the fifth inning after two bunts, resulting in an error and a sacrifice, put the go-ahead run on second with one out against Kris Johnson (5-4).
Rei Takahashi (6-1) bounced back from allowing a career-high six runs in his previous start to allow two innings over seven innings. After a scoreless inning from Shota Takeda, the Hawks turned to Livan Moinelo in the ninth inning instead of Yuito Mori, who had pitched the previous four games.
Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 inning to record his second save.
Fighters 10, Tigers 5
At Koshien Stadium, former Orix Buffaloes ace Chihiro Kaneko left after throwing six scoreless innings for the first time in his career. The right-hander gave up three hits and a walk, while striking out four.
Kotaro Kiyomiya singled in Taishi Ota as the Fighters took the lead against Minoru Iwata in a two-run fourth. Ryo Watanabe highlighted Nippon Ham’s seven-run seventh with a grand slam. Iwata allowed eight runs, 10 hits, two walks and a hit batsman.
Eagles 2, Dragons 1
At Nagoya Dome, Takayuki Kishi (2-0) continued to impress in his third game since coming back from an Opening Day hamstring injury. The right-hander allowed a run on six hits over seven innings and improved to 8-1 in his career against the Dragons.
Chunichi’s Enny Romero (3-5) struck out 10 over seven innings but took the loss after rookie Ryosuke Tatsumi doubled to open the seventh and scored as a result of back-to-back sacrifices. Tatsumi went 2-for-4, his second-inning single helping set up the Eagles’ first run.
BayStars 7, Lions 3
At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA starter Shoichi Ino (3-2) allowed two quick runs, but ended up stealing the show. The right-hander allowed no more runs over six innings, drove in the tying run and scored the go-ahead run in the win over Seibu.
Edwin Escobar, Spencer Patton and Yasuaki Yamasaki held the potent Lions offense to a run over three innings, while the BayStars hitters bludgeoned lefty Daiki Enokida (2-2) for four runs on nine hits in 2-1/3 innings.
Buffaloes 5, Swallows 4
Tetsuto Yamada homered off Buffaloes starter Taisuke Yamaoka (5-2) to tie it in the first, but once he had the lead again, the right-hander allowed one run over his last three innings, and four relievers shut down Yakult the rest of the way.
Marines 6, Giants 5
At Tokyo Dome, Lotte handed new Yomiuri closer Kota Nakagawa (2-1) his first loss as a pro, scoring four times in the ninth to overcome a 3-2 deficit.
Nakagawa surrendered the tying run on a leadoff double and a one-out Daichi Suzuki RBI single. With two outs, he was pulled after allowing another single. Right-hander Seiji Tahara, however gave up an RBI single to Shogo Nakamura, and a two-run double to Tsuyoshi Sugano.
Sugano to return Sunday
Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano will be activated on Sunday to pitch against the Lotte Marines in his first action since May 15 after feeling discomfort in his lower back during practice five days later. Sugano, who has won the last two Sawamura Awards is 5-3 with a 4.36 ERA.
Yanagita not close to coming back
Yanagita is one of only two players in NPB history along with Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh to lead his league in on-base percentage and slugging average in four straight seasons.
He was hurt on April 7. Although he was originally expected to be out only a few weeks, a second opinion suggested he take his rehab far more slowly. He only recently resumed jogging and is doing some light work off a tee.
The Hawks started the season without left fielder Yurisbel Gracial and fourth outfielder Akira Nakamura. Although both have since returned to duty, regular right fielder Seiji Uebayashi is now out with injury.