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Takayuki Kajitani Leads Giants Past Tigers on NPB's Opening Night

Kajitani made a big play in the outfield in the third inning and also contributed at the plate to give Shinnosuke Abe his first win as manager of the Giants.

Takayuki Kajitani made a spectacular defensive play and then contributed with his bat on Friday, March 29 as the Yomiuri Giants kicked off the 2024 NPB season with a 4-0 win over the defending Japan Series champion Hanshin Tigers.

With Yomiuri legend Shigeo Nagashima in the building and Shinnosuke Abe making his managerial debut, the Giants were determined to kick off the new season on a winning note against their Central League archrivals.

Kajitani flashed the leather in the third inning at Tokyo Dome. With runners on first and second, Shota Morishita hit a fly ball that looked like it was going to find the gap in right-center field.

But Kajitani made a fully extended diving catch to snare Morishita's drive that would have easily scored the first run of the game had it not been caught.

"It was a great play," Abe said. "I thought to myself that's the type of play only he can make."

Not only that, the former Yokohama BayStars outfielder then threw out Takumu Nakano at first on a relay to complete an inning-ending double play.

Giants rookie Shunsuke Sasaki drove in the first run in the fifth on a grounder to short that plated Naoki Yoshikawa from third on a close play at the plate.

The Giants' Naoki Yoshikawa slides home safely in the fifth inning. (©SANKEI)

Giants outfielder Takayuki Kajitani slugs a two-run home run in the fifth inning off Tigers starter Koyo Aoyagi. (©SANKEI)

Kajitani Extends the Lead to 3-0 in the 5th

Kajitani then connected for a two-run homer to right off of Hanshin starter Koyo Aoyagi to make it 3-0.

Yoshihiro Maru drove in another run in the eighth inning on a fly ball to left that scored Kazuma Okamoto from third.

Giants starter Shosei Togo fires a pitch in the team's first game of the season. (©SANKEI)

Yomiuri starter Shosei Togo picked up the win after striking out five and giving up no runs on four hits over six innings. 

Aoyagi took the loss, giving up three runs on five hits while fanning five batters over five innings.

Giants infielder Naoki Yoshikawa (2) hands the game ball to manager Shinnosuke Abe after the final out in the ninth inning. (©SANKEI)

After missing the playoffs last season, the Giants are hoping to turn the page this year and get back to the postseason.

"There was a great atmosphere at the stadium with both the Yomiuri and Hanshin fans in attendance," Abe said. "Tonight's win was nice but we now have to put it behind us and focus on tomorrow."

BayStars Edge Carp

In other games in the Central League, Ryuki Watarai drove in three runs to lead the Yokohama DeNA BayStars to a 4-3 home win over the Hiroshima Carp.

Haruki Nishikawa drove in three runs and Domingo Santana had two RBIs as the host Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Chunichi Dragons 7-4.

The Lions' Shuta Tonosaki hits an RBI single in the eighth inning against the Eagles in Sendai. (©SANKEI)

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Tonosaki Lifts Lions Past Eagles

In the Pacific League, Shuta Tonosaki drove in the only run as the visiting Seibu Lions beat the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1-0.

Ace Hiromi Ito struck out nine batters while giving up just four hits over six scoreless innings to lead the Hokkaido Nipponham Fighters to a 4-1 road win over the Chiba Lotte Marines. 

Fighters starter Hiromi Ito pitches to a Marines batter in the teams' season opener in Chiba. (©SANKEI)

Hotaka Yamakawa hit a solo homer in the seventh inning to power the visiting Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to a 3-1 win over the defending Pacific League champion Orix Buffaloes.


Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.


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