Baseball: Wilkerson throws Tigers past Giants

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Aaron Wilkerson of Hanshin Tigers serves against Yomiuri Giants in a Central League match at Koshien Stadium on May 21, 2022 in Nishinomiya, western Japan. (kyodo)

NISHINOMIYA, Japan (Kyodo) — Aaron Wilkerson won a pitcher duel over fellow new importer Matt Shoemaker as the Hanshin Tigers earned a 2-1 win over the Yomiuri Giants, who had lost the top spot in the Central League, on Saturday.

Wilkerson (3-2) threw seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out five.

“I had a pretty good attitude coming in and I wanted to change the pace in the zone. It was a great ball game,” Wilkerson said. “I couldn’t have done it without these teammates. They worked their ass off to the end.”

The Giants’ loss kept them in second place behind the Yakult Swallows, who beat the DeNA BayStars 9-2, while the Hiroshima Carp, who beat the Chunichi Dragons 10-1, finished third.

Tigers leader Koji Chikamoto put the hosts in first place at historic Koshien Stadium outside of Osaka. He opened the inning with a single, stole second place and hit with a single from Jeffry Marte.

Yoshio Itoi doubled and scored after a miss and a squeeze from journeyman Kenya Nagasaka.

Shoemaker (1-3) worked five innings, giving up five hits and a walk while striking out three.

A day after the Giants allowed the Tigers to level Friday’s game with two runs in the ninth, the visitors threatened to do the same.

Reliever Suguru Iwazaki allowed three straight hits, with Adam Walker’s RBI single making it a one-run play. However, the Giants kept the bases loaded when Iwazaki made his sixth save.

“I was on needles and needles,” said Tigers manager Akihiro Yano. “Wilkerson has had a good life, his transition has been pretty good and he’s developed a great rhythm.”

In the Pacific League, defending champions Orix Buffaloes moved up to third place with a 6-0 win over leaders Rakuten Eagles.

The Lotte Marines defeated the SoftBank Hawks 4-2 on Leonys Martin’s eighth homer from two runs while Naoyuki Uwasawa (3-4) and two relievers hit a two-hitter as the Nippon Ham Fighters defeated the Seibu Lions 4-0 .

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