Baseball: Nao Higashihama takes Hawks to 5,500. victory of the franchise

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SoftBank Hawks’ Nao Higashihama plays against Yomiuri Giants in their interleague game at Tokyo Dome on June 1, 2022. (kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Nao Higashihama, who threw a no-hitter last month, was another strike-throwing machine on Wednesday as he sent the SoftBank Hawks for the 5,500.

Higashihama (5-1) rarely fell behind on the counts and didn’t walk, but allowed three solo home runs in his seven innings for the Pacific League standings.

“My only thoughts were on keeping our opponents scoreless until my team-mates scored,” said Higashihama. “For that purpose, I just took it one inning at a time.”

“I’m so grateful for the running support from my teammates that brought me the win. I conceded three home runs so I have to deal with that.”

The win at the Tokyo Dome was the Hawks’ fifth straight win and saw them stay a half-game ahead of the Rakuten Eagles on a night when five of the PL teams won in the Central League parks.

The Hawks came on the board in a three-run fourth inning against rookie Yuji Akahoshi (2-3) with a double from Akira Nakamura RBI and a two-run single from Tatsuru Yanagimachi. Yuki Yanagita doubled in the fifth with three more.

The Giants’ runs came on Naoki Yoshikawa’s second homer in the fourth inning, Adam Walker’s tenth in the sixth, and rookie Riku Matsuda’s second in the seventh.

SoftBank became Japan’s second professional franchise after Yomiuri with 5,500 wins.

The bottom-placed Hanshin Tigers defeated the Seibu Lions 5-4, preventing the PL from winning all six games for the second time in four days.

Elsewhere, the Eagles beat the Chunichi Dragons 2-0 while the Lotte Marines overtook CL-leading Yakult Swallows 4-3 in a game in which each team hit three solo homers. The Orix Buffaloes beat the DeNA BayStars 5-1 and the Nippon Ham Fighters defeated the Hiroshima Carp by the same number of points.

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