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Baseball: Wilkerson pitches Tigers past Giants

Aaron Wilkerson of the Hanshin Tigers pitches against the Yomiuri Giants in a Central League game at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, western Japan, on May 21, 2022. (Kyodo)

NISHINOMIYA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Aaron Wilkerson won a pitchers' duel against fellow new import Matt Shoemaker as the Hanshin Tigers earned a 2-1 victory on Saturday over the Yomiuri Giants, who dropped out of the Central League's top spot.

    Wilkerson (3-2) threw seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out five.

    "I had a pretty good mindset coming in, and I wanted to change speeds in the zone. It was a great ballgame," Wilkerson said. "I couldn't have done it without these teammates. They played their butts off all the way to the end."

    The Giants loss left them second behind the Yakult Swallows, 9-2 winners over the DeNA BayStars, with the Hiroshima Carp, who beat the Chunichi Dragons 10-1, third.

    Tigers leadoff man Koji Chikamoto put the hosts on the scoreboard first at historic Koshien Stadium outside Osaka. He singled to open the inning, stole second and scored on a Jefry Marte's single.

    Yoshio Itoi doubled and scored after an error and journeyman Kenya Nagasaka's squeeze.

    Shoemaker (1-3) worked five innings, giving up five hits and a walk while striking out three.

    One day after the Giants allowed the Tigers to tie Friday's game with two runs in the ninth, the visitors threatened to do the same.

    Reliever Suguru Iwazaki allowed three straight hits, with Adam Walker's RBI single making it a one-run game. The Giants, however, left the bases loaded, as Iwazaki got his sixth save.

    "I was on pins and needles," Tigers manager Akihiro Yano said. "Wilkerson's had good life on it, his changeup was quite good, and he established a great rhythm."

    In the Pacific League, the defending champion Orix Buffaloes moved into third place with a 6-0 win over the league-leading Rakuten Eagles.

    The Lotte Marines beat the SoftBank Hawks 4-2 on Leonys Martin's two-run eighth-inning homer, while Naoyuki Uwasawa (3-4) and two relievers combined on a two-hitter as the Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Seibu Lions 4-0.

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