Rookie Teruaki Sato's fifth-inning grand slam brought the Hanshin Tigers from behind in their 7-3 Central League win over the Hiroshima Carp on Sunday.
Sato's eighth home run of the season made a winner out of Joe Gunkel (5-0). Sato moved up in the league-leading Tigers order to fourth and started at third base instead of right field, where he had been playing, and delivered after starting the game 0-for-2.
The left-handed hitting slugger went down for a low changeup from Carp starter Yusuke Nomura and drove down the line and into the seats at Koshien Stadium, empty due to a coronavirus state of emergency in Hyogo Prefecture.
Sato said before his at-bat he'd received a useful tip from teammate Jerry Sands.
"He said if Nomura got into a tight spot he'd want to throw me a pitch that drops so I should be aware of that," Sato said. "And that turned out to be the changeup."
Sato added an RBI single in Hanshin's two-run sixth.
Gunkel did well to only allow three runs over five innings after allowing seven hits and walking four. Sato's home run chased Nomura with no outs in the fifth. The right-hander allowed five runs on four walks, a hit batsman and five hits.
Tigers leadoff man Koji Chikamoto reached base five times on three walks, a single and an error, stole two bases and scored three runs.
At Yokohama Stadium, Yasutaka Tobashira homered twice and drove in four runs, while Masayuki Kuwahara hit an eighth-inning tie-breaking home run for the DeNA BayStars in an 8-7 win over the Yakult Swallows.
At Sendai's Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Brandon Laird hit a three-run home run and leadoff man Takashi Ogino hit a ninth-inning tie-breaking homer to lift the Lotte Marines to a 6-5 victory over the Pacific League-leading Rakuten Eagles.
At Osaka's Kyocera Dome, Yuma Mune and Steven Moya each hit a two-run home run for the Orix Buffaloes in a 5-4 win over the SoftBank Hawks.