The Central League-leading Yakult Swallows, coming off a three-game sweep of the third-place Yomiuri Giants, opened a three-game set against the second-place Hanshin Tigers at Jingu Stadium, while the Giants, nearly out of the running for a home series in the playoffs, find themselves needing to win a few games to prevent the Hiroshima Carp from sneaking into the postseason.
In the Pacific League, the second-place Lotte Marines are at the last-place Nippon Ham Fighters, while the fourth-place SoftBank Hawks approached Friday’s game having lost six straight and will spend Saturday and Sunday at home against the league-leading Orix Buffaloes, taking on Yoshinobu Yamamoto in Saturday’s game.
Fighters 9, Marines 0
At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham rookie Kazuaki Tateno (4-1, 2.30) struck out seven while walking one and allowing three hits over six innings and three relievers completed a four-hit shutout, while Ronny Rodriguez doubled twice, hit his sixth home run, drove in two of the Fighters’ first four runs and rapped in Spanish after the game.
Lotte’s Daiki Iwashita (8-8, 4.35) allowed six runs over six innings. And while the result won’t be among the Marines’ season highlights. This catch by Adeiny Hechavarria will be.
Lions 6, Hawks 2
At MetLife Dome, rookie lefty reliever Yuto Furuya (0-1) allowed four eighth-inning runs as the Seibu Lions snapped a 2-2 tie and hand the Hawks their first seven-game losing streak since 2012. Seibu starter Tatsuya Imai allowed a run over seven innings in which he struck out nine. Taisei Nakamura made it a 2-1 game in the seventh with his fourth home run, off Imai, while former closer Tatsushi Masuda surrendered a game-tying homer in the eighth to Akira Nakamura, his sixth.
Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa was off the hook after allowing two runs, one earned, over six innings. Furuya walked the leadoff hitter, Takumi Kuriyama, and hit a batter with one out. Reserve infielder Haruka Yamada, who entered the game for defense and started an inning-ending double play in the top of the eighth, doubled in the tie-breaking run.
A two-out error allowed a run to score and prolonged the inning, allowing two more to score.
Ishikawa’s third walk of the game came back to bite him. Sosuke Genda walked to open Seibu’s third was sacrificed to second and scored on a single by Tomoya Mori, who singled with one down in the fifth and scored after an error and a Takumi Kuriyama double.
Swallows 4, Tigers 1
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, 20-year-old Yakult rookie Yasunobu Okugawa (9-3, 3.02) struggled without his best stuff but managed to hold onto the lead thanks in part to one of umpire Naoto Shikita’s numerous misses coming at a particularly crucial juncture.
Hanshin lefty Haruto Takahashi (3-2, 2.38) allowed four runs over five innings as the Swallows snapped his 27-inning scoreless streak in the first. He has now allowed 10 runs in nine innings against Yakult, and none in the other 26 in his three wins against the Giants and Dragons.
The Swallows opened the scoring on a Norichika Aoki single and a two-out Munetaka Murakami double, with Tetsuto Yamada safe at the plate despite a replay that looked to show otherwise.
Yakult made it 2-0 in the second when Naomichi Nishiura lined his fifth home run off the left-field fair pole. Yusuke Oyama halved the Swallows’ lead in the fourth when he homered for the second straight night with his 21st on a 3-2 pitch after Okugawa fell behind 3-0.
Singles by Nishiura and Domingo Santana and a sacrifice by the pitcher brought the Tigers infield in and Yasutaka Shiomi lashed a single through the hole vacated by the second baseman to make it 4-1.
Okugawa entered the game having not walked a batter over 47-2/3 consecutive innings. After Oyama helped keep that streak alive with his home run on what could have been Ball 4, it ended in the seventh on four pitches to reserve outfielder Kairi Shimada, at 54-1/3 innings. Left-handed-hitting Yoshio Itoi pinch-hit, ending Okugawa’s night, and lefty Kazuto Taguchi lucked out on a low 2-2 pitch that Itoi checked but Shikita rang him up.
The animated Swallows southpaw pumped his fist, probably because a fist bump with the umpire would have been considered bad form.
Noboru Shimizu worked a 1-2-3 eighth for his Japan-best 44th hold, and Scott McGough worked around a two-out single in the ninth, fittingly on a called third strike, out of the zone, to Mel Rojas Jr. to end it with his 27th save.
The win pushed the Swallows’ record against Hanshin to 7-11-3, while outscoring the Tigers 99-88.
BayStars 9, Dragons 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Keita Sano hit his 15th and 16th home runs, the second a second-inning grand slam as DeNA pulled to within a half-game of the fifth-place Dragons. BayStars starter Taiga Kamichatani (1-3, 8.04) allowed three runs over seven on four hits and a walk while striking out five.
Shotaro Kasahara (0-2, 6.30) allowed seven runs over four innings to take the loss, while Nobumasa Fukuda doubled in two runs in the first for Chunichi and tripled to set up the Dragons’ third run.
Carp 6, Giants 2
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Shogo Sakakura made just enough contact to get the ball through the infield as his done-out bases-loaded single in the fifth drove in two and snapped a 2-2 tie. Tomohiro Abe drove in three with a pair of RBI singles as Hiroshima came from behind to beat Yomiuri and move to within eight games of third place. The Giants, losers of four straight and winless in their last five, fell 9-1/2 games out of first place.
Hiroshima ace Daichi Osera (8-5, 3.02) gave up the lead on his first pitch as Seiya Matsubara snapped Yomiuri’s scoreless streak at 18 innings opened the game with his 12th home run. A Hiroyuki Nakajima single, a groundout, and a Zelous Wheeler single made it 2-0 Giants in the second, but Osera went seven, while Shun Yamaguchi (2-8, 3.93) let the game get away in Hiroshima’s four-run fifth.
Saturday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Lions vs Eagles: MetLife Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Hawks vs Buffaloes: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Swallows vs Tigers: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Carp vs Giants: Mazda Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Active roster moves 10/8/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/18