Not many were laughing at after a game filled with a comedy of errors. In fact, the winners wore an awkward smile Tuesday night at Seibu Dome.
The Saitama Seibu Lions edged the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 5-4 in a game that gave the 16,151 onlookers everything from wild pitches and wild throws to burly sluggers stealing bases and nearly a half-dozen errors.
In the end, the reigning Japan Series champions won the first of nine games in as many days, working past the mistakes and starter Takayuki Kishi, who managed to win without his best stuff.
"He struggled out there, but he was still able to pitch well enough to win, and you really get the sense that he is growing as a pitcher," Seibu skipper Hisanobu Watanabe said of Kishi (4-0).
"Compared to what he does normally, tonight he wasn't able to get the strike calls with his offspeed pitches, especially his curve. Still, he was able to go that far," the manager said of Kishi, who won his fourth straight to open the season.
Kishi allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks, while fanning five over six innings, and the Lions, 10-11 in the Pacific League, escaped with a win. They made the best of two early SoftBank errors to even the score at 2-2 in the second inning, then made the Hawks pay for iffy defense in a two-run sixth inning in which they pushed home the eventual game-winning run.
Hiram Bocachika had a hit and two RBIs, and righty Chikara Onodera--filling in for injured closer Alex Graman--closed it out with a perfect ninth for his first save since last July 19.
"We just had too many mistakes," said first-year SoftBank skipper Koji Akiyama after his team committed three errors and allowed six stolen bases.
"They made mistakes, but we weren't able to capitalize on them."
SoftBank starter Kameron Loe (0-3), who was pitching for his spot in the rotation, had mixed results despite the hat-trick of errors the defense made behind him.
He left the game in the sixth with two in, two on and one out. Loe gave up five runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks, while fanning five in 5-1/3 innings.
It was also Jose Ortiz's debut with SoftBank. The infielder, who spent two years with Orix and most recently two seasons with Lotte, had an inauspicious first game as a Hawk.
He pounded a fastball for a two-run home run in first at-bat, but turned around booted a grounder to third for an error in his first chance in the field.
The Dominican, who was playing in Mexico when the Hawks signed him, also let a hard smash skip past him, allowing the go-ahead run to score in Seibu's two-run sixth.
Earlier in the game, he couldn't snare an errant throw from Loe when Seibu cleanup man Takeya Nakamura broke to steal third. Nakamura scored on the error, which was charged to Loe, but Akiyama said Ortiz will be his third baseman for the time being.