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Baseball: Dragons' Mitsumata gets better of Japan ace in interleague win

The Chunichi Dragons' Taiki Mitsumata singles in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of the Central League club's 4-1 interleague win over the Pacific League's Orix Buffaloes at Kyocera Dome Osaka on May 28, 2022. (Kyodo)

OSAKA (Kyodo) -- Taiki Mitsumata won a David-vs-Goliath battle with Japan's Tokyo Olympic ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, singling in the go-ahead run in the Chunichi Dragons' 4-1 interleague win over the Orix Buffaloes on Saturday.

    The 30-year-old Mitsumata, who has spent the bulk of his 12 pro baseball seasons toiling in the minors, fouled off three 3-2 pitches from the Buffaloes ace and last year's Sawamura Award winner before breaking a 1-1 eighth-inning tie at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

    Yamamoto (5-3) struggled with his control but entered the eighth inning having allowed just one run on two third-inning hits. With two out and two on in the eighth, he surrendered the go-ahead run against Mitsumata, who began his career in the Pacific League with Orix.

    "Against Yamamoto, one of Japan's elite pitchers, my priority was just to hang in there and grind it out," Mitsumata said. "The manager told me to make a choice between going after his fastball and forkball."

    Yamamoto, however, broke with his usual pattern, and dropped in a 3-2 curve that Mitsumata managed to foul off.

    "That was a miracle," the career .196 hitter said of the foul that kept his at-bat alive and allowed him to come up with the big hit.

    "When I hit the ball, I tried to will it to get through the infield, and it managed to."

    The Dragons broke the game open in a two-run ninth.

    Reliever Yariel Rodriguez (2-1) earned the win, and Dragons closer Raidel Martinez nailed down his 12th save.

    The Dragons were among four Central League winners Saturday. The league-leading Yakult Swallows trounced the PL-leading Rakuten Eagles 11-4, while the second-place Yomiuri Giants beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 8-4 and the last-place Hanshin Tigers were 6-2 winners over the Lotte Marines.

    The SoftBank Hawks pulled to within half a game of first place in the PL by crushing the Hiroshima Carp 11-1, while the Seibu Lions pounded the CL's DeNA BayStars 10-5.

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