Baseball: Japan’s ace Yamamoto throws Buffaloes past Marines

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Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Orix Buffaloes serves against the Lotte Marines in a Pacific League baseball game at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka on May 14, 2022. (Kyodo)

OSAKA (Kyodo) — Yoshinobu Yamamoto survived a series of scrapes to go through eight innings and earn the win as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Lotte Marines 1-0 in the Pacific League on Saturday.

Yamamoto (4-2), the ace of Japan’s Tokyo gold medalist, conceded five hits and three walks while hitting nine as he defended the Buffaloes’ lead in the first inning at the Kyocera Dome Osaka.

In his first outing since he was shot and disabled for seven carries on May 3, Yamamoto served up a few pitches that the Marines made good swings on, only to be beaten by last year’s PL Golden Glove winner Yuma Mune in third place to be denied.

“I’ve been in a lot of difficult spots, but the guys did a great job on the field side and that led to the win,” said Yamamoto, who had a big double play to finish eighth with the tie on third base .

“I tried to remain calm when pitching as much as possible.”

Lotte rookie Shoma Sato (0-1) allowed a six-inning run on his starting debut but ended up on the losing side.

Orix leadoff man Shuhei Fukuda doubled to open the home half of the first half and came around to score after Mune’s no-out single was misplayed down the middle.

Former MLB replica Yoshihisa Hirano went two shots in the ninth batter but made his 11th save when home plate umpire Hideto Fuke called a low 3-2 pitch against Adeiny Hechavarria a strike.

Hechavarria expressed his displeasure, as did Tadahito Iguchi, manager of the Marines and former Chicago White Sox World Series winner, who was ejected after the game ended.

The PL’s top two teams lost away on Saturday, with league-leading Rakuten Eagles losing 5-4 to Seibu Lions, while second-placed SoftBank Hawks were knocked out 2-0 by Nippon Ham for the second day in a row.

In the Central League, Sho Nakata’s Grand Slam led the Yomiuri Giants to a 7-6 win over the Chunichi Dragons, Munetaka Murakami scored twice while the Yakult Swallows beat Hiroshima Carp 5-3, and Takumu Nakano scored twice for the Hanshin Tigers in a 9-2 draw against the DeNA BayStars.

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