HIROSHIMA – The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks took a step toward their seventh interleague title on Friday, overcoming Yoshihiro Maru’s three home runs to beat the Hiroshima Carp 5-3.
Rick van den Hurk (7-3) allowed eight hits and a walk over seven innings, while striking out nine to earn the win at Mazda Stadium.
Reliever Sho Iwasaki retired Maru for the first time all evening in a scoreless eighth, and former Carp Dennis Sarfate worked a 1-2-3 ninth against the defending Central League champs to record his 20th save.
Kris Johnson (1-2) struggled with his location early and surrendered back-to-back singles in the top of the first. A wild pitch brought in one run and Yuki Yanagita singled in another.
Maru’s homer in the bottom of the first cut the Hawks’ lead in half, but Yanagita drew a leadoff walk in the third and scored on utility infielder Keizo Kawashima’s second homer of the season.
“Basically, I was just trying to make contact and bring Yanagita home,” Kawashima said. “That’s how we approach every inning, move the runner over, bring him home, and that’s how we made the most of our chances tonight.
“I was swinging aggressively from the first pitch tonight, because the opposing guy, Johnson, is such a good pitcher. I wanted something before I get behind, because if you get behind him, you don’t have a chance.”
SoftBank tacked on a manufactured run in the fourth. Takuya Kai drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on van den Hurk’s sac bunt, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a grounder to third.
Maru homered in the fourth and again in the sixth, becoming the first Carp with three homers in a game since Nick Stavinoha did it in Niigata on May 8, 2012. Maru is also the first Carp to hit three in Hiroshima since Mazda Stadium opened in 2009.
The only other player to hit three at Mazda Stadium was current Yokohama BayStars manager Alex Ramirez, who accomplished the feat on June 29, 2010, for the Yomiuri Giants.
Johnson left after five innings. He allowed five runs on five hits and three walks. He struck out two.
With two games remaining on the 18-game interleague calendar, the Hawks’ win pulled them into a two-way tie with the Carp for the interleague lead at 11-5.
Lions 9, Dragons 1
At Nagoya Dome, Yusei Kikuchi (7-2) allowed a run in eight innings, while Ernesto Mejia and Shogo Akiyama each homered twice as Seibu blasted Chunichi.
Tigers 4, Eagles 2
At Koshien Stadium, a night after hitting a walk-off single, Fumihito Haraguchi belted a second-inning two-run homer, and Hanshin’s Yuta Iwasada (3-4) outdueled Tohoku Rakuten rookie Shoma Fujihira (0-1).
Fujihara made his pro debut on the same mound where he rose to fame last summer in high school.
BayStars 6, Buffaloes 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Yasutaka Tobashira’s tie-breaking three-run home run in the eighth inning lifted Yokohama past Orix, which lost its fifth straight.
Swallows 8, Fighters 5
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Kenji Yano’s two-run, pinch-hit double broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth for Hokkaido Nippon Ham. However, Tokyo Yakult’s Yuhei Takai tied it with a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth, and Takahiro Arai’s three-run, pinch-hit homer sealed the Swallows’ third straight win.
Giants 8, Marines 0
At Tokyo Dome, Miles Mikolas (6-3) allowed two hits in eight innings and Casey McGehee doubled, tripled, homered and drove in five runs to power Yomiuri past PL cellar-dweller Chiba Lotte.