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Baseball: Fighters' Uwasawa outshines Eagles' Tanaka again in PL

Naoyuki Uwasawa of the Nippon Ham Fighters pitches against the Rakuten Eagles in their Pacific League game at Sapporo Dome on May 8, 2021. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Naoyuki Uwasawa allowed a run over seven innings to beat former New York Yankees star Masahiro Tanaka for the second time this season in the Nippon Ham Fighters' 4-1 Pacific League victory over the Rakuten Eagles on Saturday.

    The win was the Fighters' second straight since a four-game hiatus after testing revealed a cluster of coronavirus infections the previous Saturday. Due to the infections, the Fighters were unable to practice for much of the past week and had to call up a number of reserves from their minor league team.

    Matching up against Tanaka for the second time since the former Yankee returned to Japan after seven seasons in the major leagues, Uwasawa (3-2) allowed four hits and two walks while striking out four at Sapporo Dome.

    Tanaka (2-2) couldn't locate his splitter and though his fastball was hard, the Fighters hitters were able to hit it with authority. Tanaka gave up four runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out five.

    "The team's situation is very tough due to the coronavirus, but I was able to pitch well," Uwasawa said. "We were not able to practice, but we're so grateful we were able to play at all, and we played for all we were worth."

    "(Tanaka) is such an amazing pitcher. Before I took the mound I was intent on working as hard as I could to keep them from scoring first. When we scored off him early, that was huge for me."

    Uwasawa faced just three batters in the top of the first before Tanaka let the game get away in the home half of the inning.

    Three hard-hit balls put two runs on the board in the first inning. Kenshi Sugiya smoked a 1-0 fastball for a one-out single, stole second and scored when Kensuke Kondo lined a 3-2 fastball off the center field wall for a double.

    Wang Po-jung, who has largely been a disappointment since he arrived in a posting deal from Taiwan in 2019, had one of his better games. He hammered a high slider for another double off the center field wall. His fourth-inning double put two on with no outs as Nippon Ham tacked on a run.

    Eigoro Mogi accounted for Rakuten's run with a fifth-inning leadoff home run, but that was canceled out by Kondo's one-out solo shot on a good Tanaka curveball which completed the scoring in the bottom of the inning.

    At Chiba's Zozo Marine Stadium, Yuma Tongu opened the scoring with a two-run second-inning home run and the Orix Buffaloes held on to beat the Lotte Marines 5-2.

    At Fukuoka's PayPay Dome, Wataru Matsumoto (2-3) allowed five hits over six innings and three Seibu Lions relievers completed the 2-0 shutout of the SoftBank Hawks.

    At Yokohama Stadium, pitcher Masahi Ito (3-0) allowed a run over eight innings and fellow Hanshin Tigers rookie Teruaki Sato drove in two runs with a pair of RBI singles to lift the Central League leaders to a 4-1 win over the DeNA BayStars.

    At Nagoya's Vantelin Dome, rookie closer Ryoji Kuribayashi inherited a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning and recorded five outs to earn his ninth save and remain unscored upon in 15 games as the Hiroshima Carp held off the Chunichi Dragons 4-3.

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