Facing the Yomiuri Giants for the first time in eight years, Hiroki Kuroda cruised through eight innings. But what looked like a sure shutout for the Hiroshima Carp right-hander suddenly turned into a shocking loss.
The Giants rallied for two runs in the ninth inning, capped by Yoshiyuki Kamei’s sacrifice fly, to defeat Kuroda and the Carp 2-1 on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.
Kuroda (6-3), who had held the Giants to three hits over eight scoreless innings, gave up that many in the ninth to take the loss. It was at Kuroda’s urging that he remained in the game, in which he threw a season high-tying 118 pitches.
“Up to the end, there was no problem with how he was throwing,” Carp pitching coach Tatsumi Une said. “He pitched a great game.”
Kuroda, who spent the past seven seasons in the major leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, struck out nine and walked one. He did not speak with the media after the game.
The Carp broke a long deadlock on Yoshihiro Maru’s solo homer in the eighth off starter Hayato Takagi. Scott Mathieson (2-4), who struck out two in a perfect ninth, earned the win.
In the bottom of the ninth, No. 1 hitter Hisayoshi Chono, who had one of the Giants’ three hits up that point, led off with a single to right field. In what seemed a sacrifice situation, the Giants let Soichiro Tateoka hit away, as he has speed and had one of the other hits.
Although Tateoka struck out swinging, the boldness of the strategy seemed to fire up the heart of the order. Hayato Sakamoto followed with a single to center, then Shinnosuke Abe, who struck out in his first two at-bats, tied the game with a single to right.
Kamei then lofted the first pitch he saw into left field for the game-winning sacrifice fly.
“When I was behind in the count, he came at me with tough pitches to hit,” Abe said. “His control hasn’t changed [from before he went to the majors].”
With the win, the Giants moved back to .500 and cut the Hanshin Tigers’ lead in the tight Central League standings to one game.
“We played well when the pressure was on,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “When the cleanup hitters [Sakamoto, Abe, Kamei] are doing well, it lifts the mood on the team.”