The Chunichi Dragons are still piecing together a rotation that doesn't really have an ace.
Skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai, though, played his cards right on Sunday, going with fifth-year pro Yudai Kawai. The left-hander shut down the two-time reigning Central League champion Yomiuri Giants over five innings in an 8-0 win in the finale of a three-game set before 42,020 at Tokyo Dome.
Chunichi pounded out 16 hits, with Atsushi Fujii collecting three--two of them doubles. Masahiro Araki and Tony Blanco were among five other Dragons who had at least two hits, and the duo also added a pair of RBIs.
It was the first shutout loss of the season for Yomiuri, and it came in a game pitting two-time CL wins leader Seth Greisinger (3-2) against a pitcher who had only won one game before, back on April 16, 2008 when he beat the Giants.
Kawai said more than Greisinger, he was focused on keeping his pitches down.
"I thought if I stayed low in the zone, I could get some ground balls, and I was sure the defense would get the job done," said Kawai, who posted his first win since beating the Giants last April 16 at Nagoya Dome.
Kawai put runners on in every inning, but battled around five hits and a walk with the help of three strikeouts and a couple of defensive gems behind him.
"This was my first start of the season so I just wanted to throw the ball where my catcher [Keiji] Oyama set up," he said.
"The guys behind me really did the job. I was also able to get the leadoff batter out in every inning, and that helped me settle into a rhythm."
The Dragons got an early lead, scoring three times in the first. But Chunichi, 2-4 against Yomiuri, had late leads in all four losses to the Giants this year.
"We've scored three runs in the first inning four times this year, but this is first time we've won one of those games," Ochiai said.
Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara, who sent Greisinger to the mound on four days' rest, stopped just short of calling the effort embarrassing.
"This was our first one-sided loss and it's a shame we had to do it in front of our home fans. I hope we don't do it again," said Hara, whose team seemed to have a letdown after a walk-off three-run homer by pinch-hitter Yoshiyuki Kamei won it for the Giants on Saturday night.
Greisinger allowed four runs on nine hits, while fanning just one and walking none.
"He's human so he's going to have good days and bad days," Hara said of his ace.
Kawai, who changed his first name from Susumu to Yudai this season, came out for a pinch-hitter with two on and no outs in the top of the sixth inning.
The Dragons pushed across the two runs and used six relievers to close out the game.
"That sixth inning was everything," said Ochiai, who saw Yomiuri load the bases in the bottom of the sixth.
"It was a matter of which team scored runs and who didn't."