Baseball: Dragons’ Mitsumata beats Japanese ace in Interleague win

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The Chunichi Dragons’ Taiki Mitsumata singles in the starting eighth inning of the Central League club’s 4-1 interleague win over the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes on May 28, 2022 at the Kyocera Dome Osaka. (kyodo)

OSAKA (Kyodo) — Taiki Mitsumata won a David vs Goliath match with Japan’s Tokyo Olympic ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto by starting Saturday’s Chunichi Dragons 4-1 interleague win over the Orix Buffaloes.

Mitsumata, 30, who has spent most of his 12 pro baseball seasons working in the minors, fouled three 3-2 pitches against the Buffaloes ace and last year’s Sawamura Award winner before he a 1-1 in the eighth inning broke the tie at the Kyocera Dome Osaka.

Yamamoto (5-3) struggled with his control but went into the eighth inning after allowing just one run on two hits in the third inning. With two outs and two ons in eighth place, he gave up the go against Mitsumata, who began his Pacific League career with Orix.

“Against Yamamoto, one of Japan’s elite pitchers, my priority was just to keep at it and grind it,” Mitsumata said. “The manager told me to make a choice between going after his fastball or his forkball.”

However, Yamamoto broke his usual pattern and fell behind in a 3-2 turn that was able to foul Mitsumata.

“It was a miracle,” the .196 career hitter said of the foul that kept his shot alive and allowed him to land the big hit.

“When I hit the ball, I tried to get it to come through infield and he succeeded.”

The Dragons broke the game up in a two-run ninth run.

Reliever Yariel Rodriguez (2-1) secured the win, and Dragon’s closer Raidel Martinez made his 12th save.

The Dragons were among the four winners of the Central League on Saturday. League-leading Yakult Swallows beat PL-leaders Rakuten Eagles 11-4, while second-placed Yomiuri Giants defeated Nippon Ham Fighters 8-4 and last-place Hanshin Tigers beat Lotte Marines 6-2 .

The SoftBank Hawks moved within a half-game of first place in the PL by defeating the Hiroshima Carp 11-1, while the Seibu Lions defeated the CL’s DeNA BayStars 10-5.

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