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Not-so-royal treatment …

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Not-so-royal treatment …

Saito suffers 1st pro loss

This time out, the “Handkerchief Prince” had to swipe the smile from his face.

Nippon Ham Fighters starter Yuki Saito, making his first start since injuring an oblique muscle last month, went a season-high seven innings, but suffered his first pro loss in a 4-1 decision Wednesday that went to the Lotte Marines.

The rookie right-hander, nicknamed the Handkerchief Prince for wiping sweat from his brow while in the national high school baseball tournament at Koshien Stadium, had one bad inning, a four-run fifth, that cost him the game.

Saito (2-1) allowed seven hits, walking one and fanning four, but he surrendered four hits in the fifth inning of his first start since May 8. The effort was OK, but not enough to keep him on the first team. He was dropped to the farm to work on things after the game.

“The most important thing was to throw well enough to win,” Saito said. “I was coming back off an injury, so I wanted to all I could to win.”

He didn’t get much support from an offense that collected seven hits. Eiichi Koyano’s clutch single in the seventh got the Fighters on the scoreboard, but that was their final base runner of the night.

Shingo Ono (1-0) worked six innings, allowing a run in his final frame, and the bullpen whiffed six of the final nine batters. Yasuhiko Yabuta nailed it down with a perfect ninth for his 12th save.

Yoshifumi Okada had his first hit with runners in scoring position in 34 games, a bases-clearing triple, to help the defending Japan Series champs clinch the three-game set with one more to play.


Terrmel Sledge ripped a pinch-hit grand slam, the 70th player and 80th time a player has come off the bench to hit one out with the bases full, and Yokohama scored double digits in consecutive games for the first time in seven years in another home rout of Chunichi.

It was Sledge’s fourth career grand slam, and the first time the club has hit slams in back-to-back games since September 1985. Chunichi hadn’t allowed 10 or more runs in consecutive games since June 2005.


Akinori Iwamura, who on Tuesday came back from a stint on the farm, doubled in a pair of runs off SoftBank closer Takahiro Mahara (1-2) in the 10th inning to give Rakuten a walk-off win over the first-place Hawks.

The Hawks had taken a one-run lead in the top of the inning on a scoring fly ball by Nobuhiko Matsunaka, who batted third and had two hits.


Hiroyuki Nakajima slugged a two-run shot in the sixth and Takeya “Okawari-kun” Nakamura ripped his Japan-best 18th in the ninth as Seibu blanked Orix at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

Fumiya Nishiguchi (3-3) tossed six scoreless frames, scattering four hits and two walks, to earn his third straight win.


Bryan Bullington (7-3) scattered five hits and two walk with three Ks over eight innings, and Dennis Sarfate worked a perfect ninth for his 16th save as Hiroshima topped visiting Hanshin.

Soichiro Amaya had an RBI single in the second, and Kenta Kurihara’s run-scoring hit in the third was the difference in the game.


Alex Ramirez drove in the game-tying run in the seventh and the 210-minute rule ended the game between host Yomiuri and Yakult after 10 innings.


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