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Baseball: Japan ace Yamamoto pitches Buffaloes past Marines

Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Orix Buffaloes pitches against the Lotte Marines in a Pacific League baseball game at Kyocera Dome in Osaka on May 14, 2022. (Kyodo)

OSAKA (Kyodo) -- Yoshinobu Yamamoto survived a series of scrapes to go eight innings and earn the win as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Lotte Marines 1-0 in the Pacific League on Saturday.

    The ace of Japan's gold medal-winning Tokyo Olympic team, Yamamoto (4-2) allowed five hits and three walks while striking out nine as he protected the Buffaloes' first-inning lead at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

    In his first outing since being shelled for seven runs on May 3 and being deactivated, Yamamoto served up some pitches that the Marines put good swings on, only to be denied by Yuma Mune, last year's PL Golden Glove winner at third.

    "I was in a lot of tough spots but the guys did a great job on the fielding side and that led to the victory," said Yamamoto, who got a big double play to end the eighth with the tying run on third base.

    "I was trying to keep calm while pitching as well as I could."

    Lotte rookie Shoma Sato (0-1) allowed a run over six innings in his starting debut but ended up on the losing end.

    Orix leadoff man Shuhei Fukuda doubled to open the home half of the first and came around to score after Mune's no-out single was misplayed in center.

    Former MLB reliever Yoshihisa Hirano walked two batters in the ninth but earned his 11th save when home plate umpire Hideto Fuke called a low 3-2 pitch to Adeiny Hechavarria a strike.

    Hechavarria voiced his displeasure, as did Marines manager and former Chicago White Sox World Series winner Tadahito Iguchi, who was ejected after the game was over.

    The PL's top two teams both lost on the road Saturday, the league-leading Rakuten Eagles falling 5-4 to the Seibu Lions, while the second-place SoftBank Hawks were shut out for the second straight day, 2-0 by the Nippon Ham Fighters.

    In the Central League, Sho Nakata's grand slam lifted the Yomiuri Giants to a 7-6 come-from-behind win over the Chunichi Dragons, Munetaka Murakami homered twice as the Yakult Swallows beat the Hiroshima Carp 5-3, and Takumu Nakano homered twice for the Hanshin Tigers in a 9-2 thumping of the DeNA BayStars.

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