Nakamura powers Lions past Buffaloes

NAKAMURA POWERS LIONS PAST BUFFALOES

Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture – Takeya Nakamura had the last word on Monday as the Seibu Lions overcame their opponent’s impressive comeback to pull out a 10-6 victory against the Orix Buffaloes.

Nakamura’s first hit of the game was a big one. The Lions’ portly cleanup hitter delivered a two-out, three-run double in the eighth inning to break a 6-6 tie before a rocking full house of 31,898 at Saitama Prefecture’s Seibu Prince Dome. Orix had pulled even in the top of the inning but vaunted Buffaloes setup man Tatsuya Sato (1-3) could not keep it tied. In his second game back after a three week injury layoff, Sato issued two, two-out walks and hit a batter before Nakamura’s fly found the gap in right pushed across three runs.

Right fielder Yoshio Itoi, who has been playing the last two weeks with a bad wheel, nearly got a glove on it, but it fell in. Ryota Wakiya, who entered as a pinch runner in the seventh, singled in another run to cap the scoring. “The hit was big, but what was huge was the way the guys got on base ahead of me,” Nakamura said. “My plan was just to have a good compact swing.” Tomoya Mori’s fifth homer of the season, a second-inning solo shot, opened the scoring. “That was close to an ideal way of hitting one,” said the 19-year-old Mori of the opposite-field shot he hit off a low fastball.

Hideto Asamura added an RBI single in the third after Yuji Kaneko’s leadoff hit, which was a double by the time lumbering left fielder Naotaka Takehara got to it. Fumikazu Kimura did more damage with an RBI triple followed by Ginji Sumitani’s run-scoring single for a 4-0 lead in the fourth. Orix starter Shinya Nakayama allowed four runs on eight hits over 4⅓ innings. Right-hander Alessandro Maestri replaced him and was charged with two runs in 2⅓ innings. Francisco Caraballo put Orix on the scoreboard in a three-run seventh when he greeted Lions reliever Atsushi Okamoto, who inherited a first-and-third jam with one out from starter Yusei Kikuchi, with an RBI single that scored Ryoichi Adachi.

Takehara then found the gap in left with a double that scored two runs. But Asamura drew a one-out walk off Maestri in the home half and scored on Mejia’s two-out double. Lefty Tomoyuki Kaida entered but Mori hammered a low full-count slider for his third hit of the game, an RBI single that gave Seibu a 6-3 lead. The game was tied in the eighth after Wakiya’s error at first base gave Orix a leadoff runner. The inning was keyed by Itoi’s RBI double and Caraballo’s game-tying single off big right-hander Esmerling Vasquez (1-0).

Lefty Kikuchi allowed two runs over 6⅓ innings on three hits and a walk, while striking out six and dominated with his fastball until he appeared to tire. “His limit was around 100 pitches,” manager Norio Tanabe said of Kikuchi, who was pitching in just his second game of the season. “It’s a long season ahead, and this start bodes well for him.” Hawks 5, Marines 4 At Yafuoku Dome, Kenji Otonari (4-1) allowed two runs in seven innings, Lee Dae-ho had a two-run single and Dennis Sarfate saved his ninth game of the season and his 100th in Japan. Eagles 4, Fighters 1 At Sapporo Dome, Takahiro Shiomi (2-1) allowed a run in six innings to earn the win after Gaby Sanchez’s seventh-inning RBI single gave Tohoku Rakuten the lead for good against Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

BayStars 6, Swallows 1

At Yokohama Stadium, right-hander Yasutomo Kubo (2-2) threw a two-hitter over the distance and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs as Yokohama beat Tokyo Yakult to win its third straight. Dragons 9, Tigers 2 At Koshien Stadium, Chunichi manager-player Motonobu Tanishige extended his record for consecutive seasons with a home run to 27 with a three-run shot as the Dragons bombarded Hanshin with 16 hits.

Carp 3, Giants 2

At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima won in bizarre fashion when Yomiuri botched a bases-loaded infield fly with one out in the ninth. The batter was out automatically when the ball dropped near home. First baseman Juan Francisco picked up the ball and stepped on home plate, but pinch runner Takayoshi Noma ran home and was ruled safe because no tag was made.

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