Rookie catcher Shota Ono got back on the winning track on Friday, hitting his first career home run to help the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters snap a three-game losing skid.
Catching a scoreless effort from five-inning man Shugo Fujii, Ono powered the Pacific League leaders to a 7-1 thrashing of Central League cellar-dwelling Yokohama before 7,349 at Yokohama Stadium.
Although the Fighters had lost the last two times Ono started, the team improved to 11-3 with him behind the plate, despite his not having caught for ace Yu Darvish, who is 6-1.
"They've entrusted a lot of games to me. I'm just trying to hold up my end," said Ono. "I think I've been lucky [when I've caught] that we've scored early and often."
His two-run homer broke the game open in the seventh after a blast by two-time CL home run king Shuichi Murata put the BayStars on the board to make it a 2-1 game with Yokohama ace Daisuke Miura (5-3) still on the mound.
"He's got good control and he got me in my first two at-bats. I wanted to have an at-bat I wouldn't leave me hanging my head," said Ono, who came up with one out and a runner on third. "I was just thinking bring the runner home, and I was trying for a sacrifice fly."
The last time Ono caught Fujii (4-2), the Fighters dropped a 3-2 decision at Sapporo Dome.
"Our rhythm was not good last time," Ono said. "This time it was OK."
Manager Masataka Nashida once more didn't let the lefty go that deep in the game. Despite throwing just 84 pitches and allowing just four hits and a walk, Fujii failed to break the five-inning barrier for the fifth time in eight starts.
"That's the way I've been using him," Nashida said. "There was nothing special about tonight."
Miura, who hadn't lost since April 17, left too many pitches up and paid the price, surrendering single runs in the second and third inning.
The right-hander was charged with five runs on eight hits in 6-1/3 innings. He struck out two without a walk as the BayStars split their fourth straight interleague series.
The Fighters set up their first run on Shinji Takahashi's leadoff double and an Eichi Koyano single that allowed Takahashi to score on a double play.
Kensuke Tanaka singled with one out in the third, stole second and scored on Atsunori Inaba's two-out single. The steal was Tanaka's 14th and moved him into a tie for the league lead with the Saitama Seibu Lions' Yasuyuki Kataoka.
The BayStars broke onto the scoreboard in the sixth when Murata hit one high over the center-field wall off right-hander Kazumasa Kikuchi.
But it was a case of one step forward, five back for the BayStars.
Tomochika Tsuboi doubled to open the top of the seventh and scored on Ono's homer.
A pinch-hit double by teen slugger Sho Nakata ended Miura's night. Southpaw Yuya Ishii was no relief, however, serving up a mammoth two-out homer to reserve outfielder Yoshio Itoi that made it 6-1.
Back-to-back doubles by Inaba and Takahashi made it 7-1.
After Murata's homer, Nashida got an inning each of scoreless relief from Masanori Hayashi, Naoki Miyanishi and closer Hisashi Takeda.