The Pacific League improved to 11-7 at home at the end of the season’s first interleague series, with the SoftBank Hawks, the all-time leaders in interleague wins completing a three-game sweep of the Chunichi Dragons.
At Rakuten Seimei Park, Yomiuri right-hander Toshiki Sakurai (2-1) overcame a fourth inning in which he walked three and allowed a single, to give up just one run on three hits and three walks over 6-2/3 innings. The 25-year-old struck out five.
Lefty Kota Nakagawa, who was handed the Giants’ closer role on May 8, struck out the side in the ninth, saved his sixth game.
Lions 9, Carp 2
At MetLife Dome, NPB’s home run leader, Hotaka Yamakawa, hit Nos. 24 and 25, the first one a miss-hit opposite-field shot that glanced off the dome’s ceiling covering as Seibu gave Hiroshima rookie Sho Yamaguchi (1-1) an interleague reality check.
Yamaguchi was coming off an impressive starting debut against Yakult. His good fastball and split were on display, but he missed too many sliders, and the Lions appeared to be waiting for those.
Kuo Chun-lin (1-0), who pitched in just three games last season for the Lions, allowed two runs over five innings. He gave up three hits, walked two and hit one, while striking out five.
The Lions hit five homers, while the bullpen easily kept the Carp in check over the final three innings. Hiroshima’s Ryoma Nishikawa had a sac fly in the Carp’s two-run first but failed to extend his hitting streak to 28 games.
Buffaloes 3, BayStars 2
At Kyocera Dome, rookie Tsubasa Sakakibara (3-3) scattered eight hits and three walks, allowing one run over seven innings, while striking out two. Shuhei Fukuda singled and scored a run in the third to open the scoring, and broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth with an RBI double.
Lefty Katsuki Azuma (3-2) allowed three runs, two earned, on eight hits and two walks in a brief 3-1/3 inning start in which he still threw 84 pitches. After Yoshitomo Tsutsugo homered to make it a 3-2 game in the eighth, the BayStars failed to bring the tying run in from scoring position against closer Hirotoshi Masui, who saved his 16th game.
Hawks 6, Dragons 4
At Yafuoku Dome, Yurisbel Gracial broke a 4-4, eighth-inning tie with a two-out, two-run single to lift SoftBank past Chunichi to a home series sweep. Gracial opened the scoring by homering for the third straight game. He went deep for two off the oldest pitcher in Japan, Chunichi’s Daisuke Yamai in the first inning.
Cuban compatriot Alfredo Despaigne homered for the second-straight game to make it 3-0 in the third, but Hawks starter Kotaro Otake (3-2) couldn’t hold the lead. The lefty, however, allowed four runs on eight hits, while striking out five over eight innings to get the win.
The Buffaloes should have taken a one-run lead in the eighth, when Yohei Oshima came home on a fly off the wall in right. He just barely slid home under the tag at home, and umpires declined to overturn the out call upon review.
Yuito Mori overcame a leadoff infield single in the top of the ninth to nail down his 16th save.
Fighters 3, Swallows 1
At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham’s Takayuki Kato (3-4) allowed a run on four hits and no walks over five innings, and four relievers kept Yakult off the board the rest of the way. Fighters closer Ryo Akiyoshi earned the save against his former team.
Wang Po-jung went 3-for-4 with a first-inning RBI single off Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-8), who scattered eight and a walk over six innings to allow just three runs, two earned, and keep Yakult close. Wang
Tigers 4, Marines 3, 10 innings
At Zozo Marine Stadium, Ikuhiro Kiyota tied the game in the ninth with a two-out, full-count RBI single off Hanshin closer Rafael Dolis (3-1), but Lotte’s Naoya Masuda (2-4) surrendered three-straight singles in the 10th to let in the decisive run.
Jefry Marte put the Tigers in the driver’s seat with a two-run, first-inning single and a third-inning sacrifice fly.
As the Tigers did the night before when their potential tying run was doubled off third to end the game, the Marines wasted a chance to tie it late in the game. With two outs in the eighth, Hiromi Oka took off for third, but stopped when catcher Ryutaro Umeno blocked a pitch from Kyuji Fujikawa in the dirt. Oka tried to get back to second, but Umenon threw him out easily to end the inning. When Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi came out to make some lineup changes, he could barely keep a straight face while talking to the umpire.
Norimoto throws 4th bullpen since surgery
Sankei Sports reported Thursday that Takahiro Norimoto, who had endoscopic surgery to clean out his right elbow on March 12, threw a 121-pitch bullpen on Wednesday, and touched 140 kilometers per hour. Through four sessions since his surgery, the right-hander has now thrown a total of 329 pitches.
Van den Hurk deactivated
The SoftBank Hawks deactivated Rick van den Hurk on Thursday, following the right-hander’s season debut on Tuesday, when he overpowered the Chunichi Dragons for the first four innings of a 5-1/3-inning start in which he allowed four runs on three hits but struck out eight without issuing a walk.