Southpaw Toshiya Sugiuchi kept the Hawks moving forward on Monday by beating his favorite lefty.
Sugiuchi outdueled the Central League's 2008 ERA leader as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks won their fifth straight, beating the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3-2 at Jingu Stadium.
"We're in the middle of a winning streak and I went out feeling I was going to win," said Sugiuchi (5-1), who allowed a run in seven innings and also drove in the first run of his career.
Swallows ace Masanori Ishikawa (6-2) allowed two runs in six innings for his first loss since getting hammered on Opening Day.
"Ishikawa's my favorite lefty, so it was a good experience to beat him," said Sugiuchi. "I wasn't particularly good or bad. I know they put the ball in play a lot, but I was able to keep them on the ground."
Sugiuchi allowed five hits and three walks and didn't allow a run until the seventh thanks to a pair of big double plays. He struck out two.
Going to the mound with a one-run lead from Jose Ortiz's first-inning solo homer, Sugiuchi struck the first Swallow he faced. Some serious glove work, however, prevented disaster.
With speed on the bases, Hawks second baseman Yuichi Honda gloved a grounder while moving toward the bag. Having no time for an orthodox throw, Honda shoveled the ball to shortstop Munenori Kawasaki, who nailed the runner at first.
"I'm in debt to Hon for that one," said Sugiuchi, who got out of the inning unscathed despite allowing a walk and a single. The defense won this game," said first-year Hawks skipper Koji Akiyama.
Ortiz said he came well prepared for the inside fastball he stayed on enough to keep fair for his seventh homer of the season.
"I knew he would come inside, but our batting practice pitchers were very tough on us today, inside--and threw harder," said Ortiz, who was in the Mexican League in April after Lotte let him go over the winter.
The Hawks made it 2-0 in the second on three singles, with pitcher plating the run after Hidenori Tanoue's good slide at second prevented an inning-ending double play.
After threatening in the sixth, the Swallows finally got to Sugiuchi in the seventh, when Hiroyasu Tanaka doubled and scored on Jamie D'Antona's clutch, pinch-hit single.
The Hawks, however, got the run back in the eighth off right-hander Kenichi Matsuoka. Honda doubled to lead off the inning and scored on Nobuhiko Matsunaka's sacrifice fly. Ishikawa, who led the CL with a 2.68 ERA last season, surrendered seven hits. He struck out three without issuing a walk.
Sugiuchi was the third member of Japan's World Baseball Classic pitching staff to beat the Swallows in five games, following interleague losses to Yu Darvish of the Fighters and Masahiro Tanaka of the Eagles.