Yoshihiro Maru has made a big splash this week and the Hiroshima Carp are starting to make waves in the Central League.
Maru, a fourth-year pro who slugged his first career homer earlier in the week, had his first four-hit game on Thursday and drove in three to help the Carp to an 11-8 victory before 10,872.
The 22-year-old clubbed his second home run and doubled after a second-inning infield single, to lead a 14-hit attack that helped Hiroshima win its sixth straight decision.
"I really relaxed after the bunt hit and just tried to go out and play after that," said Maru, who added that he wasn't aware of being a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
"Really? I had no idea. I just wanted the team to win, so I wasn't thinking about that. I just hope I can keep this up."
The Carp, whose Wednesday win put them alone atop the CL for the first time since April 4, 2005, weren't all smiles after the victory.
Hiroshima skipper Kenjiro Nomura was unhappy with reliever Hirofumi Ueno, who got just one out and gave up three runs in the ninth inning before departing.
"The momentum was all on our side in that situation and Ueno wasn't able to throw like he usually does," Nomura said. "I'm not saying he couldn't give up a run there, but you have to be able to complete that inning--do your job."
Nomura, though, tried to quell the excitement since the season is only nine games old.
"I'm pleased about the winning streak, but we have to work hard every game. We hit very well today."
But they took almost as much as they dished out. The BayStars had 13 hits and rallied to put the tying run on deck with one out in the ninth inning, forcing Nomura to turn to new closer Dennis Sarfate. The stopper used just nine pitches to nail down his CL-leading fifth save, giving Hiroshima a club-record eight-game winning streak at Yokohama Stadium, dating back to last season.
Bryan Bullington (2-0) was the beneficiary of all the offense. The Carp righty wobbled through six innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts for his second straight win.
Yokohama starter Naoyuki Shimizu--making his season debut after a knee injury sidelined him in the spring--struggled from the outset. He allowed single runs in the first and third innings before Yokohama got him even. That didn't last long as Maru took him deep to right in the fourth.
Things got away from Shimizu in the sixth. Back-to-back singles by Kenta Kurihara and Takahiro Iwamoto put two on with no outs, and Maru followed with an RBI double to make it 4-3.
Yoshiyuki Ishihara stroked a double to the gap in right-center field, plating two for a 6-3 lead and sending Shimizu to the showers.
"It had been a while since I pitched and I just couldn't get into a groove," said Shimizu, who allowed six runs on nine hits and three walks before getting the hook.
"I had a lot of walks and I just couldn't control my pitches. I have some things to work on and I'll do that as I get ready for next time," the 35-year-old said.
Yokohama struck for a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth, Brett Harper socking a two-run shot to right to cut Hiroshima's lead to 6-5. But the Carp put up a two runs in the seventh and a three spot in the eighth to pull away.
Chad Tracy added three hits and two RBIs, and Kurihara chipped in with two hits and two RBIs for Hiroshima.
Terrmel Sledge kept up his hot hitting for Yokohama, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Takehiro Ishikawa also had three hits and a pair of RBIs for the BayStars, who have dropped four straight and fallen two games under .500.
Elsewhere in the CL, Shohei Tateyama (1-1) threw a five-hitter as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows won their fourth straight, beating the Chunichi Dragons 2-0 at Jingu Stadium and shutting the reigning CL champs out for the second straight day.
Wladimir Balentien's two-run homer off Yudai Kawai (0-1) accounted for all of the scoring, and he saved a run with a two-out catch in deep right field.
Tateyama, 12-5 against Chunichi since 2006, walked three men but each was erased on double plays for his eighth career shutout.
In Pacific League action at QVC Marine Field, Shunsuke Watanabe held the Saitama Seibu Lions to two hits over seven innings Yoshifumi Okada slapped a bases-clearing triple in a four-run seventh inning as the Chiba Lotte Marines won 7-1.
Tadahito Iguchi had a single and a sacrifice fly to back Watanabe, who was pitching on four days' rest. He fanned three and walked none in a 2-hour 16-minute game, the fastest since Oct. 10, 2009.