Tatsuhiro Shibata played a hero both on the field and on the plate on Saturday as the Yokohama DeNA BayStars scored a 7-2 Central League victory over the runner-up Yomiuri Giants.
Despite the defeat at Tokyo Dome, the Giants stayed 1½ games behind the league-leading Hanshin Tigers, who lost to the Chunichi Dragons.
Shibata, a bright infielder, made a good game in second place to prevent a leadoff single in the third and saved a run with a snappy double play in the sixth inning. He then broke a 1-1 draw with a sacrificial fly in the seventh inning and drove an insurance run in the eighth inning with his second home run.
With an out in seventh place and the second and third place, Giants right-hander Shosei Togo (8-5) prevailed against left-hander Shibata with 0-2. At that moment Giants manager Tatsunori Hara inexplicably changed the pitchers and asked the side arm left Ryusei Oe to end Shibata.
Oe’s first throw, however, was a lifeless slider in the pipe that Shibata drove into the middle to break the tie.
“I doubt it’s a situation he (Shibata) has ever been in before, but he kept his focus and brought the runner home,” said BayStars manager Daisuke Miura.
After this bizarre turn of events, the Giants collapsed. Oe passed the next batter and rookie Shugo Maki shot a three-way pinch-hit homer, his 13th, against Yohei Kagiya to make it 5-1.
The BayStars opened scoring in the second round of Neftali Soto’s 16th home run, but Togo held the guests in check before three baserunners reached the seventh.
Fernando Romero started for DeNA and lasted 5⅓ innings. Giants veteran Yoshiyuki Kamei chased him with an RBI single in the sixth inning. After a walk loaded the bases, Shibata prevented a run by turning a great double play on a hot shot that distracted pitcher Yoshiki Sunada’s glove.
Giants cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto drove a consolation run in his eighth run with his 30th home run.
In the Vantelin Dome Nagoya Tigers starter Akira Niho (1-1) allowed three runs in three innings in a 6-2 defeat against the Dragons.
At the Mazda Stadium in Hiroshima, Domingo Santana’s double home run brought the Yakult Swallows from behind as they beat the Hiroshima Carp 8-3 and moved into second place within half a game.
Left-handed Hiroya Miyagi (11-1) fought for control at Kyocera Dome Osaka, but still managed to throw seven innings, and Takahiro Okada drove in both races as Orix Buffaloes, leader of the Pacific League, with the Seibu Lions Defeated 2-0.
At the Sapporo Dome, Takayuki Kishi (6-6) scored nine over six goalless innings for the Rakuten Eagles, who were three games ahead of the Buffaloes with an 8-4 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, SoftBank Hawks reliever Sho Iwasaki (2-3) allowed three ninth inning runs for the third day in a row for third-placed Lotte Marines, who won 8-6 and were a full game ahead of the Hawks.
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