Swallows pry top spot from Dragons
The Chunichi Dragons were only warm at the start, and they got burned in the end.
Lastings Milledge belted a two-run homer to give Yakult the lead in the third inning and four relieves helped Kyohei Muranaka (3-0) pick up the win as the Swallows climbed back atop the Central League with a 4-2 win at Jingu Stadium on Thursday night.
The Swallows, who took two of the three games [with a tie in the middle] from Chunichi and have won five straight decisions, hold a one-game lead on the two-time defending CL-champion Dragons.
The Swallows touched up last year’s CL ERA leader Kazuki Yoshimi (3-2) for three runs over the first three innings. The righty settled in and didn’t allow another run until the eighth, but the Chunichi offense sputtered by hitting into two double plays and stranding 11 runners between the third and eighth innings.
Yakult led the CL much of last, but collapsed in the second half. The Swallows hope to avoid crashing out again this time.
“It’s a great feeling, but there’s a long way to go,” Balentien said about taking over the top spot during the hero interview. “I’m glad we’ve ended up in that position, and it’s [going to take] a lot more to get it done, and I hope late in the season we will still be in the same position and we’ll try to win the Central League.”
Tony Barnette allowed a hit, but got a double play and a flyout to record his Japan-leading ninth save and make it 13 straight scoreless appearances. Shinya Miyamoto had a hit for the Swallows, bringing him to within seven of the 2,000 mark.
TIGERS 1, CARP 0, 11 INNINGS
Keiichi Hirano singled off Hiroshima closer Dennis Sarfate (0-2) as Hanshin outlasted Hiroshima in extra frames at Koshien Stadium.
Hirano, who leads the CL in hits, singled to center to plate Shunsuke Fujiwara [pinch-runner for Matt Murton who had reached on an error] for the winning run.
GIANTS 15, BAYSTARS 3
Hayato Sakamoto had two hits and five RBIs, Shinnosuke Abe homered and singled for three RBIs, and Hisayoshi Chono added three hits and drove in two as Yomiuri scored a Japan-high 15 runs and snapped a five-game skid in romping past visiting Yokohama in Kagoshima.
D.J. Houlton (1-2) wobbled early but put in a quality start, holding Yokohama to three runs on four hits, a walk and hit batter for his first win since joining the Giants.
LIONS 5, HAWKS 3
Tomohito Yoneno, a 13th-year outfielder, cracked a two-out, ninth-inning grand slam off Brian Falkenborg (0-1) to bring visiting Seibu back from what seemed like certain death for a dramatic win over SoftBank at FYJ Dome.
It was the first career grand slam for Yoneno, who spent most of his time on the Yakult farm team, hadn’t homered in five seasons. The runs were the first allowed by Falkenborg this season in eight appearances.
The Hawks walked Takeya Nakamura to face Yoneno, who came on in the eighth as the designated hitter. He drove a fastball into the seats in left to give the Lions a two-run lead.
FIGHTERS 2, MARINES 1
Atsunori Inaba moved one hit away from the 2,000 plateau by slugging a sixth-inning solo blast as Nippon Ham topped Lotte in a home game at Tokyo Dome.
Micah Hoffpauir smacked his first longball of the year in the fourth to back Brian Wolfe (2-11), who tossed six innings of one-run ball to win his fourth straight career decision at the Big Egg.
BUFFALOES 5, EAGLES 4
Pinch-hitter Mitsutaka Goto plated the go-ahead run with a single to help Orix edge Rakuten at The Kleenex Box.
Orix, which blew a 3-0 lead and trailed by a run in the eighth, got even on a wild pitch before Goto’s game-winning hit to center.