Baseball: Buffaloes ace Yamamoto scrapes past Marines

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Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Orix Buffaloes plays against the Lotte Marines in a Pacific League game at Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba, near Tokyo on April 9, 2022. (kyodo)

CHIBA, Japan (Kyodo) — Kodai Sano’s triple home run made a winner out of Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto in Orix’s 4-2 Pacific League win over the Lotte Marines on Saturday.

Yamamoto (3-0), last year’s MVP and Sawamura Award winner, allowed just two runs despite giving up nine hits in seven innings.

The right-hander hit nine as he brought his personal streak of consecutive winning decisions to 18, despite walking five batters and hitting one.

The Marines loaded the bases at Zozo Marine Stadium outside of Tokyo with an out in the first inning but managed just one run on Leonys Martin’s sacrificial fly.

Yamamoto pinned three runners in the third and two more in the fourth before an error opened the door for the defending PL champions in the fifth. With two ons and one out, Sano got a hard pitch from Lotte’s left-back Kazuya Ojima (0:1) just over the fence to lead 3:1.

“I gave up the first run… and they took a lot of hits from me, but I was able to extend that (streak) because I got a lot of support from the position players,” Yamamoto said.

“I’ve been in cucumber after cucumber so I focused on having good arm action to prevent more runs from scoring.”

Brandon Laird shot a Yamamoto fastball in the seventh for his 200th home run in the stands in his eighth Japanese season, but the Buffaloes hit an insurance run in the eighth and Yoshihisa Hirano made a scoreless ninth with his third save.

Elsewhere, the Rakuten Eagles beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 8-5 while the Seibu Lions and SoftBank Hawks played to a 12-inning scoreless tie.

In the Central League, the Yomiuri Giants defeated the Yakult Swallows 3-2 in the 10th inning and the Hiroshima Carp beat the Hanshin Tigers 9-1 to give them their 12th loss in 13 decisions.

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