The Yomiuri Giants haven’t spent too much time at .500 this season.
Against the Chiba Lotte Marines Yoshitomo Tani did his part to get them back within striking distance.
Tani drove in three runs and Alex Ramirez accounted for two more as the Giants defeated the Marines 7-3 on Saturday at Tokyo Dome.
Tani homered in his first at-bat and put the exclamation point on a four-run third inning with a two-run double to help the Giants move within a game of .500 with a 28-29 record. He finished 3-for-4, a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
“Rami’s hit put us ahead and gave us momentum, so I was happy I could add to the lead with another hit,” Tani said.
“Tomorrow’s game is big for us,” he added. “If we win, we go to .500, but it will be tough against Seibu. I’ll try my best as always.”
Adrian Burnside improved to 2-0 in his third start with the Giants, earning the win despite allowing three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“Burnside pitched with a lot of heart tonight and gave us 5 1/3 good innings,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.
The Giants, who have won three straight, sent the Marines to their third defeat in as many games. Yomiuri swept the season series against Lotte.
“We didn’t pitch well to them in these four games,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said.
Lotte starter Hiroyuki Kobayashi allowed five runs on six hits over four innings to fall to 2-7.
“I couldn’t get into a rhythm and couldn’t pitch my usual game today,” Kobayashi said.
Kobayashi, who has yet to find the form which led to double-digit wins in each of the past three seasons, has given up five or more runs four times in his last seven starts. He is 1-5 over that span.
“He’s struggling,” Valentine said of Kobayashi. “He just needs to make one good pitch at a time. He’s worrying about what’s happened in the past and letting things get away from him. He’s throwing the ball all right. He’s just letting things get away from him and feeling sorry for himself.
“Plenty of season left for him to turn it around and I think he will.”
Kobayashi mostly held the Giants in check until running into trouble in the third. The Lotte starter retired the first two batters before giving up consecutive singles to Hayato Sakamoto and Takuya Kimura, then walked Michihiro Ogasawara to load the bases.
Ramirez followed with a two-run double down the left-field line to give the home team a two-run advantage. The Giants went ahead 5-1 after Tani nearly hit his second homer of the night, settling instead for a two-run double high off the left field wall.
The Marines cut into the lead in the next inning, scoring on Toshiaki Imae’s groundout to make the score 5-2.
Lotte pulled within two on Julio Zuleta’s towering shot to left that caromed off the lights over the left-field stands.
“I don’t think I ever hit a ball that flew like that,” Zuleta said.
Ogasawara singled in a run in the sixth, and Takayuki Shimizu drove in a run in the seventh to make the score 7-3 in the Giants’ favor.
The Kyojin will attempt to reach .500 on Sunday, starting at 6 p.m., against the Pacific League-leading Seibu Lions at Tokyo Dome.
Eagles top BayStars
YOKOHAMA, (Kyodo) Pinch hitter Kenshi Kawaguchi hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the sixth inning and Hisashi Iwakuma threw his third complete game of the season as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles beat the Yokohama BayStars 5-3 on Saturday.
Kawaguchi followed a Jose Fernandez RBI single with a shot over the right-field wall off rookie right-hander Futoshi Kobayashi (1-3) in interleague play at Yokohama Stadium.
Iwakuma (9-2) allowed seven hits, struck out three and walked none en route to winning his fifth consecutive start and becoming the first nine-game winner in Japanese baseball.
Rakuten moved five games above .500 for the first time in club history, while Yokohama lost its fourth straight game.
Tigers 3, Hawks 2 (10)
At Koshien Stadium, Takahiro Arai singled home the winning run in the bottom of the 10th, giving Hanshin its fourth walkoff win of the season.
Arai had a base hit to left off Softbank starter Toshiya Sugiuchi (5-4) after singles by Ikuro Katsuragi and Norihiro Akahoshi and a walk to Kentaro Sekimoto loaded the bases with one out.
Kyuji Fujikawa (2-1) pitched a scoreless 10th for the win. Central League leader Hanshin has won three in a row.
Dragons 4, Fighters 1
At Nagoya Dome, Tyrone Woods, Kazuhiro Wada and Norihiro Nakamura each homered to help rally Chunichi en route to its first win of the season against Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, Woods hit a solo shot to center for his 17th home run and Wada followed with a drive to left-center, both off Brian Sweeney (5-2).
Nakamura hit a two-run blast for his career 350th homer in the eighth. Kenshin Kawakami (4-3) limited the damage to one run and six hits in seven innings, striking out 10 with one walk. Atsunori Inaba’s RBI double in the fourth was the sole run for the Fighters.
Lions 5, Swallows 3
At Ibaraki’s Hitachinaka Stadium, Craig Brazell hit his 16th homer of the season to match teammate Takahiko G.G. Sato for the Pacific League lead and Takayuki Kishi struck out a career-high 13 in 7 2/3 effective innings, leading Seibu over Tokyo Yakult.
Seibu took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on Brazell’s two-run shot and went ahead 3-2 in the second when Takeya Nakamura scored on a ground ball by Toru Hosokawa.
Buffaloes 11, Carp 3
At Hiroshima Stadium, Alex Cabrera and Tuffy Rhodes drove in seven runs between them, with Rhodes going deep twice, as Orix routed Hiroshima in a 13-hit attack.
Rhodes and Osamu Hamanaka hit solo blasts in the second to open the scoring and Cabrera had a two-run drive in the next frame. The Buffaloes added three runs in the fourth to make it 7-2 and Rhodes, who was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, hit his second drive in the fifth.