An unlikely hero made the difference in Sunday’s game between the Central League-leading Swallows and Giants. Yakult entered with a magic number of four with a matching four-game winless streak.
We also had some news about the Fighters offseason management moves.
Swallows 6, Giants 4
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Juri Hara (3-1, 2.30) allowed three runs, two earned over 5-1/3 innings but also had a three-run double as Yakult snapped a four-game winless streak to cut its magic number to clinch to two.
Yomiuri’s Shosei Togo (9-8, 4.27) retired the first nine Swallows hitters before the first five reached in the fourth inning. Munetaka Murakami’s RBI single broke the ice, Domingo Santana’s single made it 3-0. After a sacrifice and a ground out, the Giants did opted to load the bases with an intentional walk to get out of the inning against Hara, who smashed a hard roller past third and into the corner to clear the bases.
A Yoshihiro Maru leadoff double opened the door for a four-run Giants sixth. A one-out Akihiro Wakabayashi single and a throwing error on Murakami at third made it 6-1. Takumi Oshiro singled, and Taichi Ishiyama entered and after striking out the first batter he faced, former teammate Taishi Hirooka blasted a three-run home run.
Three scoreless innings from Albert Suarez, Noboru Shimizu and Scott McGough, who got his 31st save ended it.
Tigers 7, Carp 2
At Mazda Stadium, Hanshin’s pitching and defense continued to deliver, holding an opponent to two runs or less for the ninth time in 10 games, while Teruaki Sato hit his 24th home run and his first since Aug. 19 with two men on in the third.
The Tigers’ non-magic magic number
Shogo Sakakura homered for the Carp in the home half. Rookie lefty Masashi Ito (10-7, 2.44) left with two outs and a man on in the sixth, but was rarely in any kind of trouble.
Carp right-hander Allen Kuri (12-9, 3.88) worked out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the sixth, but a one-out error and a single set the table for a Kento Itohara sac fly that made it 4-1.
Mel Rojas Jr., who singled and scored on Sato’s homer and walked in the fourth, singled to lead off Hanshin’s three-run eighth against Makoto Kemna, who retired only one of the four batters he faced.
Marines 3, Fighters 2
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa (6-3, 3.75) continued his impressive return from summer surgery with eight scoreless innings, 11 days after his last start, a six-hit complete game.
Kazuaki Tateno (4-3, 2.57), whose been a pleasant surprise for the Fighters this season, kept Lotte in check until Yudai Fujioka walked with one out in the fifth and scored on Tatsuhiro Tamura’s double. Brandon Laird reached in the sixth with one out on a dropped third strike and scored after singles by Adeiny Hechavarria and Hiromi Oka.
Laird made it 3-0, leading off the eighth with his 28th home run.
Naoya Masuda created most of the drama, en route to his 38th save in the ninth. He walked Haruki Nishikawa with one out. Three straight singles made it a 3-2 game put the tying run on secod and the go-ahead run at first before the right-hander got a groundout and his second strikeout.
After the game, Ishikawa did the first hero interview and was asked how he felt to pitch well in such a big game.
“I feel great. I pitched fantasic,” he said to laughter from the stadium. “But my fielders were even more fantastic.”
Hawks 6, Eagles 2
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, SoftBank locked the barn door after the horses escaped as Go Kamamoto hit a three-run homer, his first, and Ryoya Kurhihara hit his 20th, while Hideto Asamura hit his 18th for the playoff-bound Eagles.
Monday’s starting pitchers
It’s avian spoiler time on Monday when the Eagles’ Masahiro Tanaka gets a chance to face Japan’s next great ace, Yoshinobu Yamamoto with a chance to put a dent in Orix’s pennant hopes.
The flip side of that will be Hawks ace Kodai Senga, who will take on the Marines with a chance to do some damage when SoftBank has nothing to lose for a change.
Eagles vs Buffaloes: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Marines vs Hawks: Zozo Marine Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Active roster moves 10/24/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/3