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Baseball: Eagles' Masahiro Tanaka takes loss against Tigers on Koshien return

Masahiro Tanaka of the Pacific League's Rakuten Eagles pitches against the Central League's Hanshin Tigers in their interleague game at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, western Japan, on May 24, 2022. (Kyodo)

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo (Kyodo) -- The Hanshin Tigers spoiled Masahiro Tanaka's return to the iconic Koshien Stadium outside Osaka on Tuesday as the Central League's bottom club beat the Pacific League-leading Rakuten Eagles 1-0 in the interleague action opener.

    Former New York Yankee Tanaka (4-3) became a household name in 2006 when he guided Komazawa University Tomakomai High School to a runner-up finish at the national championship at the ballpark. He last pitched at Koshien in 2013 before his move to the majors.

    The Rakuten right-hander gave up a double in the first and a triple in the fourth to open each inning without giving up a run, and he also kept the home team off the board in the fifth after allowing two straight singles.

    But there was no escape in the sixth after Takumu Nakano reached on an infield single with no out. He stole second with two outs and Yusuke Oyama lined a fat 2-2 cutter to the center field to plate the decisive run.

    "I was pitching well," said Tanaka, who received a warm welcome from home fans as he took the mound at the start of the game.

    "I'm so frustrated (on allowing the run). I wasn't intending to throw one there after getting ahead in the count...That was the only moment."

    Tanaka allowed a run on six hits and a walk while striking out five over six innings as he came out on a losing side in a pitching duel with Hanshin's Yuki Nishi (3-3), who also had an unconvincing but productive six innings.

    Nishi allowed a hit bar one inning with the biggest jam arriving in the third when he walked, gave up a single and hit a batter with one out before retiring the next two to come away unscathed.

    The right-hander gave up eight hits, a walk and a hit batsman while striking out six, throwing 101 pitches to Tanaka's 87 to earn his first win in four starts.

    Hanshin won its third straight game, while Rakuten remains top in the PL despite losing its fourth straight.

    Elsewhere, the Yomiuri Giants beat the Orix Buffaloes 4-2 and the DeNA BayStars won 4-3 against the SoftBank Hawks to join Hanshin in the list of CL winners on the night. The CL-leading Yakult Swallows also won 3-1 after 11 innings against the Nippon Ham Fighters.

    The Seibu Lions beat the Chunichi Dragons 8-5 and the Lotte Marines eased to a 7-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp for the PL.

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