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Rob Smaal

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Righty Ohka shines in return to BayStars

by Rob Smaal (May 3, 2010)

It took a while, but pitcher Tomokazu Ohka finally got his second career win in Japanese baseball.

Ohka made a triumphant return to the team he started his professional career with, pitching 6 1/3 solid innings Sunday night as the Yokohama BayStars rolled past the Yakult Swallows 4-1 at Jingu Stadium.

Ohka got offensive support from cleanup-hitter Shuichi Murata, who went 3-for-4 on the night with a solo home run, an RBI single and a walk. Jose Castillo also drove in two runs in a three-run third inning for the BayStars.

Ohka (1-0) allowed just one run--off a solo homer--on six hits in his first appearance on an NPB mound since 1998. The 34-year-old right-hander walked one and struck out a pair in his 90-pitch outing.

Since last pitching for Yokohama 12 years ago, Ohka kicked around with several MLB and U.S. minor-league clubs, including the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians. He has an MLB record of 51-67 with a 4.26 career ERA and his 51 wins are the second-highest total for a Japanese pitcher in the majors, well behind leader Hideo Nomo's 123.

In Japan, his only previous win came in 1994, his first year in the league with the BayStars.

Last month, Ohka inked a two-year deal with the Stars worth 200 million yen after getting cut by a team in the Mexican League just a week after joining them.

On Sunday, he looked right at home in Yokohama blue, helping his club improve to 14-17 on the year, just ahead of the Swallows (12-18-1) in the Central League standings.

In the top of the third inning, Murata lined a one-out RBI single to right with two men on to open the scoring off Swallows starter Kyohei Muranaka. With two out in the same inning, Castillo lined a two-run single to left to make it a 3-0 game.

After that, the teams traded solo home runs. Murata connected for his fifth of the year off Muranaka in the fifth, a solid shot to left off a chest-high breaking ball that left the yard in a hurry, and Shinichi Takeuchi took Ohka deep in the seventh with a shot into the bleachers in right.

Muranaka saw his record fall to 2-4 as he took the loss. The Yakult left-hander worked five frames, giving up four runs on eight hits and three walks. He had three strikeouts.


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