Jerry Sands homers in eighth to lift Tigers over Dragons in pitchers’ duel

Jerry Sands broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning with his ninth home run of the season, lifting the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers to a 2-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons on Thursday.

Tigers’ starter Takumi Akiyama allowed one run over seven innings after he pitched out of a two-on, no-out jam in the top of the seventh at Koshien Stadium.

The hosts scratched out the tying run in the bottom of the seventh against Dragons starter Yariel Rodriguez, who was making his season debut. After a two-out walk, pinch-runner Takahiro Kumagai stole second and scored on Koji Chikamoto’s bouncing single through the infield.

With two outs in the eighth, the right-handed-hitting Sands homered off right-handed side-armer Katsuki Matayoshi (0-1).

“Our pitchers have been doing really good all year, keeping us in the game, and it’s good to be able to put a couple of runs on the board and get them a win,” Sands said.

Tigers closer Robert Suarez worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 10th save with the help of a super defensive play from rookie shortstop Takumu Nakano.

Akiyama allowed six hits and no walks while striking out five. The Dragons only run came on catcher Takuya Kinoshita’s fourth home run.

Rodriguez allowed seven hits and walked three while striking out three.

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