Teppei Tsuchiya had a homer and four RBIs on Monday to help the inoffensive Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to their fourth straight win.
Tsuchiya tied the game with a two-run, third-inning single and his two-run homer decided it in the eighth as the Eagles beat the Saitama Seibu Lions 5-4 before a sellout holiday crowd at Seibu Dome.
"That we've won at all has been due to the pitchers," Tsuchiya said. "They've been gutting it out and winning games, while we hitters have only scratched out runs.
"We're well into the spring and the offense still isn't firing on all cylinders."
The Eagles entered the game with just 129 runs on their balance sheet, worst in the Pacific League.
"It takes [a while] to get a feel [for things] and build on it," Eagles manager Marty Brown said. "These guys have great character. They want to win every game, but it doesn't always work that way."
With the Eagles trailing in the eighth, Kensuke Uchimura battled Lions reliever Taiyo Fujita (1-2), singling on the 13th pitch to bring Tsuchiya to the plate.
Fujita, who entered the game having allowed just seven singles and two walks in 14 innings, fell behind 2-0 to Tsuchiya, who took a high inside fastball over the fence in right for his first homer of the season.
"I'm not the kind of hitter who's going to hit one homer after another, so I went up just looking to put the ball in play and get something going," said Tsuchiya, last year's PL batting champion.
"Uchimura did a great job of hanging in there. I saw a lot of pitches from Fujita and I think that helped--although it took a while. Maybe he was a little too persistent."
With a one-run lead in the ninth, Brown sent his new closer, Tsuyoshi Kawagishi, to the mound for the fourth straight day, and the right-hand side-armer retired the Lions in order to notch his sixth save.
"I'm always careful with him," Brown said of Kawagishi, who he said has had arm trouble in the past. "[Before the game] I always ask him how he feels...and he said he was OK. Some of other guys are a little beat up and he [Kawagishi] took the ball."
The Eagles got a gutsy start from rookie Kenji Tomura, their first-round draft pick last autumn out of Rikkyo University. The right-hander, hammered in his pro debut on April 21, allowed four runs in 6-1/3 innings. Tomura gave up eight hits, walked two and hit a batter, Dee Brown, while striking out six.
The Lions grabbed a second-inning lead on back-to-back home runs to center field by Takeya Nakamura and Brown, whose homer was his first at Seibu Dome since Opening Day. With two outs, a single by Toru Hosokawa and a double by Yutaro Osaki put the Lions in position for another score. But Tomura struck out leadoff man Yasuyuki Kataoka to keep the hosts from pulling away early.
The Eagles retaliated in the top of the third with Tsuchiya's bases-loaded single tying it off 37-year-old right-hander Fumiya Nishiguchi. Another single by Daisuke Kusano made it 3-2 Rakuten.
Nishiguchi, who allowed three runs on four hits and a pair of walks, left after three innings and was replaced by 23-year-old Ryoma Nagami, who retired 12 of the 13 Eagles batters he faced.
The Lions threatened again with two outs in the bottom third, but once more Tomura slammed the door. Seibu, however, reclaimed the led in the fifth, when Tomura walked Takumi Kuriyama with one out and Hiroyuki Nakajima took the rookie deep.
"Nogami was pitching with such a great rhythm, that it carried over to the hitters," Nakajima said. "Our four and five hitters had already hit home runs and I wanted to hit one, too."