Baseball: Ito keeps Carp at bay as Tigers retain pennant hopes

© Kyodo News

Rookie Masashi Ito hurled seven innings of four-hit ball Monday as the Hanshin Tigers edged the Hiroshima Carp 2-1 to move within 2-1/2 games of the Central League lead.

Ito (9-7) struck out five without issuing a walk in a 90-pitch effort at Koshien Stadium as the Tigers edged closer to the CL-leading Yakult Swallows, who they face from Tuesday in a two-game series.

"It was a game we couldn't lose, but I concentrated on my pitching," said the left-hander after winning a pitching duel with Kuri Allen (12-8), who allowed two runs, one earned, both on sacrifice flies.

Ito had a perfect first four innings before getting out of a one-out, two-on jam in the fifth. He had Seiya Suzuki to deal with in the seventh after opening the frame giving up a single but had the cleanup hitting into a double-play with a breaking ball.

The Tigers took the lead in the third after another rookie, Teruaki Sato, opened by finally ending his two-month drought of an extra-base hit with a double, reaching third on a Suzuki error before coming home on a Seishiro Sakamoto fly.

Pinch-hitting Yoshio Itoi plated the decisive run with one out in the seventh with a bases-loaded fly to left that chased Kuri, who fanned 11 while allowing six hits and a walk during his 121-pitch outing.

Hisayoshi Chono had a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth for the Carp, but their three-game winning run came to an end.

At MetLife Dome, Brandon Laird broke a tie with an RBI single in the seventh as the Lotte Marines moved back up to the top of the Pacific League with a 2-1 win over the Seibu Lions, trimming the magic number to six.

At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Takayuki Kato (5-7) had a three-hit shutout as the Nippon Ham Fighters eased to a 5-0 win over the Rakuten Eagles.