Mamoru Kishida returned to the Orix rotation with a vengeance on Saturday evening.
Pitching with the big club for the first time since May 3, Kishida allowed a run in seven innings as the Buffaloes won their third straight, a 4-1 victory over the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Missing a number of players with injuries, the Buffaloes went 14-28 since he last worked in the rotation.
"That [the losses] didn't have anything to do with me," said the 28-year-old, who was deactivated with a shoulder strain. "I had to focus on what I was doing in practice because I wanted so badly to come back and pitch."
Come back and pitch he did.
The right-hander had to work out of just one jam, when the Marines scored their only run on a third-inning leadoff walk and back-to-back, no-out singles.
"Last season, I might panic and then everything would fall apart," he said. "I think a key difference this year is that I've been able to not panic."
Kishida was bailed big time by second baseman Koji Yamasaki. With runners on second and third and one out, the Orix infield came in shallow, and Yamasaki's diving stop of a grounder got an out, prevented a run and potentially a much larger Marines breakthrough.
"Getting through that was down to Yamasaki's fine play," said Kishida (4-1), who allowed four hits and two walks, while striking out seven. "It was my fault for walking the leadoff man."
The Buffaloes made more of their one big chance against Lotte starter Yuki Karakawa (4-5), who held the visitors in check for five innings.
Tomotaka Sakaguchi lined a high 2-1 fastball off the wall for a leadoff double. A sacrifice put the tying run at third, and the runner came home when Jose Fernandez was jammed but lobbed a fly over short for a single.
Greg LaRocca drove a high 2-2 slider to the wall in left that advanced Fernandez to third and drew a crowd to the mound. The conference didn't help as Hirotoshi Kitagawa drove a fastball away into right for an RBI single.
Karakawa, on the eve of his 20th birthday, allowed seven hits and a walk, while striking out three in 7-1/2 innings. He worked a 1-2-3 seventh, but was pulled with one out and one on in the eighth with Fernandez coming to the plate.
Right-hander Yoshihiro Ito got the Marines out of the inning, but let the game get away in the ninth.
He hit Kitagawa to put the leadoff man on, and pinch-runner Makoto Moriyama scored from second on a double by Yamasaki.
A groundout advanced the runner to third and No. 9 hitter Fumihiro Suzuki lined an RBI single.
The Buffaloes bullpen, which has struggled much of the season, got three-up, three-down innings in the eighth, from Ryota Katsuki, and the ninth, from Daisuke Kato, who picked up his 11th save.
"Their guy [Karakawa] was very good, but when a good pitcher comes up against a tough opponent, he just digs deeper," Buffaloes manager Daijiro Oishi said.
"His [Kishida's] control was good right from the start. Early in the season, he showed some real good pitches, and we saw some of that tonight.
"From there, the batters strung some hits together and Kato closed them out."