Sugano outduels local favorite Yamanaka in series opener

18 Apr


A little more than a year after earthquakes rocked Kumamoto, Tomoyuki Sugano had local fans rocking as he pitched the Yomiuri Giants to a 3-0 Central League win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Tuesday.

Submarine right-hander Hirofumi Yamanaka (0-1), a native of Kumamoto Prefecture, survived one jam after another, allowing just two runs in seven innings despite surrendering nine hits. But with Sugano in impressive form, his quality start was not enough.

Sugano (2-0) didn’t allow a hit until a leadoff infield single in the fifth. He surrendered three hits and two walks, while striking out six. Sugano also went 2-for-4 at the plate and scored a run before 13,276 at the city’s hilltop ballpark, Fujisakidai Stadium.

“I’m relieved. Honestly, I’m pretty happy. I had to be pulled out of my last game against Hiroshima and that got to me,” Sugano said. “So being able to go the distance was important.

“This is my first trip to Kumamoto, and based on tonight’s experience, I love it.”

Soichiro Tateoka, who is also from Kumamoto, set the table for the Giants, going 3-for-4 and breaking the ice when he scored from first on Shinnosuke Abe’s two-out single. Running on a 1-2 pitch from Yamanaka, Tateoka got a perfect read on Abe’s flare into center and burned it around third, catching the Swallows napping.

“I was so nervous, so many people I know came to see me,” Tateoka said. “It was the most nervous I’ve been this year.

“The amazing support I got from the crowd really helped. Being able to play a game here, being able even to play baseball, I feel is such a blessing.”

Singles by Sugano and Tateoka in the fifth, set up Abe’s second RBI single, and Hisayoshi Chono’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the eighth completed the scoring.

“That was some offense (from Tateoka) and it raised people’s spirits, so that was a good thing,” Yamanaka said. “Next time, I’ll shut him down.”

Tigers 3, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Hanshin’s Yuta Iwasada (1-1) outlasted Chunichi starter Raul Valdes, who allowed a run in six innings without a decision, when the Tigers scored two runs in the eighth off NPB career saves leader Hitoki Iwase (0-2).

The game was the 1,766th in a row played by Tigers infielder Takashi Toritani, who tied his manager, Tomoaki Kanemoto for second on Nippon Professional Baseball’s career list.

Hiroshima Carp Hall of Famer Sachio Kinugasa tops the chart with 2,215.

Carp 4, BayStars 3

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, after stranding runners all night, Hiroshima came from a run down in the ninth to beat Yokohama.

Brad Eldred’s RBI single tied it and reserve catcher Tsubasa Aizawa singled in the winning run after Takahiro Arai and Seiya Suzuki opened the inning with back-to-back singles.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hawks 10, Marines 3

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Alfredo Despaigne had a blast, delivering a three-run, tiebreaking homer, at his old ballpark to lift Fukuoka SoftBank past Chiba Lotte.

The Hawks’ Kodai Senga (2-1) allowed three runs in eight innings to get the win, while the visitors roughed up his World Baseball Classic teammate Ayumu Ishikawa (0-3) for six runs in five innings.

Eagles 2, Lions 0

At Omiya Park Baseball Stadium, lefty Wataru Karashima (2-0) struck out eight in six impressive innings, and Takero Okajima’s second-inning RBI single gave league-leading Rakuten the lead for good in a win over Seibu.

Buffaloes 3, Fighters 1

At Shizuoka’s Kusanagi Stadium, Brandon Dickson (3-0) allowed a run in six innings, while Stefen Romero hit a game-tying solo homer and then walked and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth.

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