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In full flight: Tanaka dominates over 8 innings, outduels Wakui as Eagles batter Lions

by Jim Allen (Jun 26, 2011)

Golden Eagles right-hander Masahiro Tanaka drew a line in the sand at Seibu Dome on Saturday.

Following the Eagles' ninth-inning catastrophe the night before, Tanaka came out determined to win this one and did just that, going eight innings in Tohoku Rakuten's 9-1 victory over the Seibu Lions.

The Lions had put the Eagles to the torch on Friday night, scoring five runs in the ninth to win 7-4.

"After last night, I came out today with no thought except winning, and I think this is the best I've pitched this year," said Tanaka, who allowed a run on three hits.

"I got hurt last season and never came back. Today, I really feel like I am 100 percent back.

"I was very conscious of being matched against [Lions ace Hideaki] Wakui, and I am glad I was able to beat him."

Tanaka (7-2), whose 1.18 ERA is lowest in Japan, struck out 12 and walked none.

Wakui (4-5) gave away the lead with one out in the fourth, when Randy Ruiz hit his fourth homer off him in 13 career at-bats.

Ruiz doubled home two more runs in the Eagles' three-run sixth and reached on an error to open Rakuten's four-run eighth.

"Because I've hit him well in the past, I was confident, and when you're confident, good things happen," said Ruiz. "He's a great pitcher, so even though I've hit him, you can't go to sleep up there."

Ruiz had been banished to the minors for a month after hitting .155 in his first 17 games this season.

He said he spent his time on the farm "staying positive" and working on driving the ball.

Ruiz, who struck out his first time up, saw eight pitches in the fourth and tattooed a slider, driving it over the fence in left.

Wakui allowed four runs, three earned, on seven hits and a walk. He struck out two in his 109-pitch effort.

With the game still in the balance in the sixth, a throwing error by Lions third baseman Takeya Nakamura helped put the Eagles leadoff man on. Former Lions star Kazuo Matsui, playing his first game here since 2003, singled Ryo Hijirisawa to third on a run-and-hit, and Ruiz doubled to the gap in left-center.

A sacrifice and an RBI infield single by Yosuke Takasu saw Ruiz score the Eagles' third run of the inning.

Nakamura homered to make it a 4-1 game in the bottom of the seventh, the first home run off Tanaka in a month.

Ruiz, leading off the eighth against Seibu southpaw Hironori Matsunaga, hit a soft chopper between third and the mound. Nakamura fumbled the tricky chance for his second error and the Eagles were in full flight once more.

After a single by Daisuke Kusano, Eagles skipper Senichi Hoshino inserted two pinch-runners and both came around to score. Kensuke Uchimura, who himself had entered as a runner in the sixth, singled in a run. Masato Nakamura's sacrifice fly plated another.

Motohiro Shima knocked Matsunaga from the mound with an RBI triple and scored on Teppei Tsuchiya's third hit of the game.

The visitors tacked on a final run in the ninth against right-hander Ryohei Fujiwara as Akihisa Makita, who ran for Ruiz in the eighth, doubled and scored on Uchimura's second single of the game.

The nine runs were the most scored by the Eagles this season.

"By scoring so much the guys made this really easy for me," Tanaka said.

The win, coupled with a loss by the Chiba Lotte Marines, lifted the Eagles ahead of the Marines in the standings and out of the Pacific League cellar on winning percentage points.

In Chiba, Aarom Baldiris broke a scoreless tie in the fourth with an RBI single and Keiji Obiki had two RBIs as the Orix Buffaloes edged the Marines 4-3.

In Fukuoka, Yoshio Itoi's two-run, third-inning double sparked the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to a 3-1 victory over the first-place Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

The win trimmed the Hawks' lead over the Fighters to a game.

In the Central League, Masanori Ishikawa (5-4) allowed a run over six innings at Jingu Stadium as the league-leading Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Yokohama BayStars 4-1.

At Koshien Stadium, Randy Messenger (4-1) allowed two runs in 5-2/2 innings as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Yomiuri Giants 4-2.

Giants lefty Tetsuya Utsumi (9-2) allowed four runs, two earned, in 6-1/3 innings and suffered his first loss since April 27.

In Hiroshima, Kazuki Yoshimi (6-2) allowed a run in eight innings as the Chunichi Dragons poured it on late to pummel the Hiroshima Carp 7-2.

Masahiro Araki broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run seventh-inning triple and Joel Guzman capped the six-run inning with a three-run homer.


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