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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Late rally helps BayStars earn tie against Swallows


Staff writer

The newly supercharged Yokohama BayStars were staging another rally at Jingu Stadium.

News photo
Clutch at-bat: Yokohama's Takehiro Ishikawa clubs a two-run single in the ninth inning against Tokyo Yakult on Saturday at Jingu Stadium. The game ended in a 6-6 tie. KYODO PHOTO

A new rule kept them from finishing it off.

Takehiro Ishikawa capped the BayStars' two-inning, four-run rally with a game-tying RBI single in the ninth and closer Shun Yamaguchi shut the door on the Tokyo Yakult Swallows with the winning run standing 90 feet (27 meters) away as the two teams played to a 6-6 tie on Saturday at Jingu Stadium.

"It just happened to be my turn in the lineup and I was able to get the job done," Ishikawa said. "I got jammed a little on the pitch, but I thought it would fall in. It's good we were able to come back and tie the game."

The game lasted 3 hours and 34 minutes and ended after nine innings. A new rule implemented this year prevents the start of a new inning, after the ninth, once a game has passed the 3-hour and 30-minute mark. The rule was put in place as an energy-saving measure in light of the power shortages in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Yokohama seemed to waste a bit of time in the bottom of the ninth, with manager Takao Obana taking his time making a pitching change and inserting a new left fielder at the last second.

The BayStars, who lost a NPB-high 95 games last year, showed heart in rallying from a 6-2 deficit in the eighth to earn the tie.

"It almost felt like last year," Yokohama slugger Terrmel Sledge said. "Like, 'we're down, so we'll take the loss.' But something happens, like (Shuichi) Murata hits a two-run home run (in the sixth with the team down 4-0), and you get some motivation."

Trailing by four runs in the eighth, the 'Stars put runners in scoring position with none out after a Shinji Ninuma single and an Ishikawa walk began the inning. Naoto Watanabe followed with an RBI single and Sledge bounced a run-scoring single over first baseman Shinichi Takeuchi to make the score 6-4.

"I was looking for something up in the zone and got it," Sledge said. "It was a forkball, I hooked it, and with this bouncy turf I just got lucky."

Murata then hit into a run-scoring double play before Swallows catcher Ryoji Aikawa picked off pinch runner Keijiro Matsumoto trying to steal second to end the inning.

In the ninth the BayStars again put their first two runners on, this time against closer Lim Chang Yong, eventually tying the game on Ishikawa's two-out RBI single to center.

Yokohama pitcher Shigeru Kaga gave up a single to Norichika Aoki to begin the bottom half of the ninth. Aoki then went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hiroyasu Tanaka and reached third on Takeuchi's groundout against Yamaguchi.

Yamaguchi hit the next batter, but struck out Aikawa to end the game.

Sledge continued his hot start to the year, going 2-for-3 with an RBI for Yokohama. Watanabe was 2-for-5 and Murata drove in a pair of runs with his homer in the fourth.

Wladimir Balentien homered for Yakult and Aikawa also drove in a pair of runs.

Swallows starter Kyohei Muranaka had the beginnings of a solid start, before running out of gas in the eighth. He threw seven-plus innings, allowing five runs — three earned — on eight hits and striking out nine.

BayStars 19-year-old lefty starter Takayuki Makka relied heavily on his curveball but struggled to locate it for much of the afternoon. Makka labored through 4? innings, walking four and allowing four runs — two earned — on four hits.

Neither starter factored into the decision.

Carp hold off Giants

Kyodo

Hiroshima — Eishin Soyogi delivered a tiebreaking RBI double with one out in the second inning and Jun Hirose added a two-out run-scoring single the same frame as the Hiroshima Carp bullpen held off the power-laden Yomiuri Giants in a 4-2 victory at Mazda Stadium on Saturday in the Central League.

Yomiuri slugger Alex Ramirez hit his third homer in as many games — a two-run drive in the top of the first.

Tigers 1, Dragons 1 (11)

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Eagles 2, Buffaloes 1

At Koshien Stadium, former Colorado Rockies second baseman Kazuo Matsui, now playing shortstop for Tohoku Rakuten, had a two-run double in the fifth and Ryan Speier got three strikeouts in the ninth for his second save of the season.

Takahiro Okada hit a solo blast for Orix.

Marines 7, Fighters 6

At Sapporo Dome, Japan Series MVP Toshiaki Imae hit a two-run go-ahead homer in the seventh as Chiba Lotte overcome a 6-5 deficit to beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Micah Hoffpauir went deep with a two-run drive in a four-run first for the Fighters.

Lions 9, Hawks 4

At Fukuoka's Yahoo Dome, Takeya Nakamura, the 2009 PL home run champion, hit a pair of three-run shots and drove in six runs for Seibu.



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