Yokohama – The only two teams without a win in the Central League were both looking for the same thing Tuesday night at Yokohama Stadium.
The Tokyo Yakult Swallows were the ones who found it.
Yasutaka Shiomi hit a game-tying two-run double in the eighth and Shingo Kawabata followed it up with a tiebreaking RBI double that put the Swallows ahead for good in a 5-4 win over the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.
“I wasn’t thinking about anything (in the batter’s box), I was just focused on the at-bat,” Kawabata said.
The Swallows picked up their first win of the year after being swept at home by the Hanshin Tigers to start the season.
“We were swept in our opening series at Jingu and we just wanted to do what we could to win,” Kawabata said. “We played until the end without giving up and we got a good result.”
The hit probably had extra meaning for Kawabata, a veteran in his 16th season who has battled injuries late in his career. He appeared in 39 games last year after playing in 37 in 2019.
Shiomi finished the opening series with three hits — one in each game — and matched that in one night against DeNA. He connected on a single, a home run and his big two-run double in four at bats, finishing with three RBIs.
The loss leaves the BayStars as one of two NPB clubs without a win — the Pacific League’s Chiba Lotte Marines are the other — and means new manager Daisuke Miura also has wait a little longer for his first.
“It’s a tough loss,” Miura said.
Yakult fell behind 2-0 in the first inning and didn’t score until Shiomi hit a solo homer off starter Shinichi Onuki in the seventh.
After being held in check by Onuki for most of the night, the Swallows rallied against the DeNA bullpen.
Kotaro Yamasaki drew a walk against Kenta Ishida to start the eighth and Munetaka Murakami drew another with two outs. Former BayStars star Seiichi Uchikawa then made the score 4-2 with a single into center.
Shiomi stepped to the plate against Yasuaki Yamasaki and doubled into left to bring in two runs. Kawabata pinch-hit for Naomichi Nishiura and hit a ball deep to right that brought in the tiebreaking run.
The BayStars got the potential tying run to third against Swallows closer Taichi Ishiyama in the ninth, but couldn’t get the last hit they needed.
Onuki had left the mound in line for the win but ended up with no decision after allowing just a run over seven innings.
Yakult’s Hiroki Hasegawa, whose throwing error allowed a run to score in the seventh, was credited with the win in relief. Yamasaki took the loss.
The game ended in Yakult’s favor, but everything went DeNA’s way at the start.
The BayStars loaded the bases in the bottom of the first and went ahead on a single by Toshiro Miyazaki. Shunta Tanaka followed with an RBI groundout, already his seventh RBI of the season, to make the score 2-0.
Keita Sano, last season’s CL batting champion, set up DeNA with a two-out double in the third and Miyazaki delivered again, connecting on a double to make the score 3-0.
“I’m glad I was able to add on another run because Onuki was giving his all,” Miyazaki said.
After Shiomi’s homer in the top of the seventh, Masayuki Kuwahara doubled for the BayStars to start the bottom half. Daiki Sekine laid down a bunt to move him to third, and he came home when Hasegawa sailed his throw to first over Uchikawa’s head.
That made the score 4-1, before Yakult erased the deficit with its four-run eighth inning.
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