Surging Giants add to Tigers’ woes with fifth straight win

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Hayato Sakamoto took the lead from the Hanshin Tigers in the first inning. In the ninth round, he snagged her last chance to avoid having her name next to a record no team would want to own.

The Yomiuri captain hit the first of the team’s three home runs early in the contest and started a double at the end of the game to stamp out a ninth-inning rally as the Giants beat their Central League rival 5-4 to a 36.485 in Tokyo Dome on Saturday afternoon.

“Being able to take the lead in the early innings was great for us,” said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara.

Yomiuri won his fifth consecutive win, improving to 7-1 and staying hot at the start of the year. The Tigers are now officially off to a historically poor start.

Hanshin fell to 0–8 and tied the 1979 Yakult Swallows for the longest losing streak to start a season by a Central League team. The NPB record of 12 consecutive losses is shared between the 1955 Tombow Unions and the 1979 Seibu Lions.

The Tigers tried desperately to avoid the mark in the ninth. Hanshin went 5-3 into the innings but looked like a rally after Mel Rojas Jr. and Koji Chikamoto pulled walks to start the frame. Takumi Nakano brought the runners up a base with a sacrificial bunt.

Yoshio Itoi sent a wave of excitement through the Tigers fans in left field with a single in the middle riding in one run and reducing the deficit to one.

That put second-year hitter Teruaki Sato on the plate and had a chance to either level the score or give his team the lead. Sato instead hit a line drive to Sakamoto, who caught the ball and fired it at third to end the doubles play and end the game.

The Giants hit three home runs against the Tigers for the second straight night. Sakamoto pulled off a home win on Friday and hit a two-barrel shot in the first set on Saturday. Yoshihiro Maru added a solo explosion to set off the second while Gregory Polanco went deep in the third.

It was Polanco’s second home run in as many games and third in his last four contests.

Giants pitcher Natsuki Toda relieved starter Iori Yamasaki in fourth place and was credited with the first win of his career after 1⅓ innings scoreless relief.

“I wasn’t the starter, but I’m very happy about the win,” he said.

Toda, 21, was drafted into the 2020 draft as a development player after playing in the Shikoku Island League after high school.

“First of all, I want to tell my parents that I have my first win,” he said.

Rookie Taisei Ota, another young pitcher, earned the save after some tense moments in the ninth.

“I thought Ota would hold her for us,” Toda said of the ninth-inning jam. “So I just watched and believed.”

The 22-year-old Ota recorded six appearances and six saves in the Giants’ first eight games.

Tigers starter Ippei Ogawa allowed all five yomiuri runs in 4⅓ innings. Ogawa (0-2) was burdened with the loss.

The Tigers got off to a promising start, loading the bases with an out in the first after a leadoff single from Chikamoto, a pair of one-out walks drawn by Itoi and Sato. Yusuke Oyama put two runs on the board with a double to give Hanshin an early lead.

The benefit didn’t last very long.

Naoki Yoshikawa doubled to start bottom of the table and Sakamoto equalized with a home run to the left.

Yomiuri took the lead on Marus’ homer in the second, and Polanco extended the lead with his solo homer to start the third.

Tigers catcher Seishiro Sakamoto scored a one-out single in the fourth, his second hit of the game, and advanced with a sacrificial board. Chikamoto drove him in with a double while Hanshin reduced the deficit to one.

Yoshikawa played a singles and Sakamoto doubled to put fifth-place runners up for the Giants in second and third. Kazuma Okamoto was intentionally walked to load bases and Sho Nakata pulled a walk that restored Yomiuri’s two-run advantage.

The Giants will look for victory on Sunday with 22-year-old Yuji Akahoshi on the mound. Joe Gunkel is set to start for the Tigers.

“Akahoshi couldn’t win last time,” Hara said. “So I want to support him by shooting some runs early on.”

For other games:

Swallows 3, Bay Stars 2

Kite 4, Carp 3

Pacific League

Marines 8, Lions 1

Buffalo 7, Fighter 0

Hawks at Eagles — ppd.

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