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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Red-hot Buffaloes top Itokazu, Nippon Ham


Staff writer

A number of players made contributions to the Orix Buffaloes' victory over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

News photo
Celebrating touch: Orix's Takahiro Okada is congratulated by coach Hideaki Matsuyama after hitting a third-inning solo home run against Nippon Ham on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome. Orix won 8-4. KYODO PHOTO

Surprisingly enough, Fighters starter Keisaku Itokazu was chief among them.

Itokazu walked in the Buffaloes' first two runs, and Shogo Akada and Takahiro Okada took care of the rest as Orix earned a 8-4 victory on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.

"We only have two games here," Buffaloes manager Akinobu Okada said. "So obviously it's big that we won the first game."

The Buffaloes improved to 6-1 with the win, continuing their strong start under their new manager. Orix has outscored opponents 41-20 through its first seven games.

"Today is over," designated hitter Greg LaRocca said. "We have to come out and jump on them early again tomorrow. When you're winning, you want to keep it going. Winning is fun."

The Buffaloes recorded a pair of two-out singles in the second inning, then got a little help when Itokazu hit Takeshi Hidaka to load the bases. Itokazu walked the next two batters to give Orix a 2-0 lead.

Akada struck later in the inning, clearing the bases with a three-run double to make the score 5-0.

It was a stunning reversal of fortune for Itokazu, who gave up just four runs in 24 innings against the Buffaloes last season.

Okada finished 3-for-4 with a homer, while Keiji Obiki drove in a pair of runs on a 1-for-3 night and Tomotaka Sakaguchi went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

"I hit it off the end of the bat, but I was still able to hit a home run because this is Tokyo Dome," Okada said, referring to the high rate of homers hit at the Big Egg.

Buffaloes starter Mamoru Kishida ran into a few rough patches, but pitched well enough to record his second win. Kishida (2-0) allowed four runs on seven hits and struck out five over 6 2/3 innings.

Itokazu lasted seven innings, allowing seven runs on six hits and striking out two. Itokazu (0-1) finished with three walks and hit two batters.

The Fighters trailed 5-0 when Eiichi Koyano led off the second with a double and Sho Nakata followed with a single to put runners on the corners. The next batter, Shinya Tsuruoka, hit into a run-scoring fielder's choice to put Nippon Ham on the board.

Okada pushed the lead back to five runs in the third with a solo homer to right, his first of the season. He played a part in extending the lead again in the fifth, hitting into a run-scoring fielder's choice.

The Fighters attempted to rally in the seventh, trimming the lead to 7-4 on a three-run shot from Takayuki Takaguchi.

Obiki padded Orix's advantage in the eighth, with an RBI single up the middle that made the score 8-4.

The two teams will meet in the second game of their two-game series on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome with the first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.

Shogo Yamamoto will get the start for Orix with the Fighters sending Buddy Carlyle to the mound.

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.

Karakawa shines

CHIBA (Kyodo) Yuki Karakawa came within two outs of a shutout and Shoitsu Omatsu doubled in two runs, leading the Chiba Lotte Marines to a 6-1 rout of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Pacific League action on Tuesday.

Karakawa (2-0) allowed one run and seven hits in 8 1/3 innings, striking out nine and walking one.

Omatsu's two-run double pushed the Marines' lead to 3-0 in the sixth. Rookie center fielder Takashi Ogino went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.

The Eagles' Satoshi Nagai (0-2) gave up five runs in seven innings.

Lions 3, Hawks 2

At Saitama's Seibu Dome, Takayuki Kishi took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Hiroyuki Nakajima drove in two runs as Seibu edged Fukuoka Softbank.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Giants 4, BayStars 3

At Yokohama Stadium, Hayato Sakamoto hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth inning as the Giants rallied to beat Yokohama.

Sakamoto's fly ball to left plated pinch-runner Takayuki Suzuki after Yomiuri loaded the bases with one out on a single, a walk and a hit batter at Yokohama Stadium.

Jose Castillo hit a three-run homer to put the BayStars ahead 3-1 in the seventh, but Yomiuri came right back to tie the game in the eighth on Michihiro Ogasawara's RBI groundout and Alex Ramirez's broken-bat sac fly.

Swallows 5, Dragons 2

At Tokyo's Jingu Stadium, Norichika Aoki and Atsushi Fujimoto each drove in two runs and rookie Masato Nakazawa earned his first career win as Yakult beat Chunichi for its third straight win.

Tigers 6, Carp 3

At Mazda Stadium, Craig Brazell hit a pair of solo home runs, Matt Murton also cleared the fence in a four-hit performance and Hanshin pounded out 16 hits to beat Hiroshima.



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