Baseball: Johnson pitches Carp to Game 2 victory

Left-hander Kris Johnson allowed a run over seven innings, pitching the Central League’s Hiroshima Carp to a 5-1 win over the SoftBank Hawks in Sunday’s Japan Series Game 2.

The Carp will take a 1-0 lead into Game 3 of the best-of-seven series in Fukuoka after Game 1 was called a 2-2 tie after 12 innings.

Johnson (1-0) allowed four singles and a walk, while striking out seven at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium to outduel right-hander Rick van den Hurk.

«Ishi (catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara) called a great game,» Johnson said. «I just had to throw to a spot and throw what he called. I got a little tired in the seventh, but for most of it, Ishi and I were on a roll.»

«SoftBank’s got a great hitting team and you’ve got to be careful with your pitches. We did that today. We did a good job defensively, pitching, catching.»

Van den Hurk (0-1) allowed five runs, three earned on eight hits. He struck out seven without issuing a walk.

Johnson is now 2-0 in three career Japan Series starts with a 0.92 ERA. Van den Hurk fell to 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA, also in three career series starts.

For the second straight night, the Carp opened the scoring in the first inning, but this time they got an assist from the Hawks defense.

Left fielder Alfredo Despaigne, playing in the outfield for the fifth time this season and the first time since June 5, tried to make a sliding catch on a ball from leadoff hitter Kosuke Tanaka and played what should have been a single into a double.

A bunt moved Tanaka to third, from where he scored when Seiya Suzuki just barely beat out a high chopper to short for an infield single.

«We played our brand of baseball,» Carp skipper Koichi Ogata said. «Tanaka got on base in the first, and Suzuki brought him home with that lucky hit.»

«We were unable to get a win yesterday, but we really wanted to win here at Mazda Stadium, so this feels great.»

The hosts added two unearned runs in the third after Tanaka led off with a single. Second baseman Keizo Kawashima’s errant throw on an attempted force play at second ended up in short left field and gave the Carp two men in scoring position with no outs.

A run scored on Yoshihiro Maru’s sacrifice fly just foul down the left field line, and Ryuhei Matsuyama bounced a two-out single into left that plated Ryosuke Kikuchi from second.

The Carp were back in business in the bottom of the fifth on a one-out Kikuchi single and a Maru double, with both scoring on a line single up the middle by cleanup hitter Suzuki.

«KJ (Johnson) did such a good job shutting them down, that he established a rhythm, and we ran with that,» Suzuki said after his three-RBI night. «He’s the reason we won. We’re traveling to Fukuoka tomorrow, and we can’t relax, because SoftBank’s got an awfully strong team.»

For the third time in two nights, a Carp runner was thrown out easily trying to steal, helping van den Hurk to escape further damage.

Johnson did not allow a runner until he walked Keizo Kawashima to open the fourth and Kenta Imamiya followed with a single. Center fielder Yoshihiro Maru misplayed the ball, allowing Kawashima to scoot to third with no outs.

But Yurisbel Gracial hit a soft liner to short that Tanaka just got his glove under for the first, Johnson struck out cleanup hitter Yuki Yanagita and got a groundout to end the inning.

The Hawks finally scored in the seventh on back-to-back, one-out singles from Yanagita and Despaigne and a two-out Nobuhiro Matsuda RBI single.

All — Kyodo News+

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