The Tokyo Yakult Swallows struck first, but all they did was awaken a bunch of sleeping Yomiuri Giants.
Michihiro Ogasawara homered and drove in four runs, and Hayato Sakamoto chipped in with a three-run homer to help the Giants put away the third-place Swallows 10-7 on Friday at Tokyo Dome.
The Central League leaders trailed 1-0 in the first when Ogasawara sparked a four-run inning with a two-run double to right field.
“The two guys in front of me got on, so I felt compelled to do something,” Ogasawara said. “Luckily I hit a ball that scored both runners.”
He struck again in the sixth, padding the Giants’ lead with a two-run homer.
“Guts” Ogasawara finished 3-for-5 in the win. The former two-time MVP is putting up respectable numbers for the Giants this season, batting .314 with 25 home runs and 78 RBIs. He came just a triple short of hitting for the cycle.
“I can’t run as fast as I used to,” the 35-year-old quipped. “So it would be difficult for me to hit a triple and I was not even thinking about it.”
Sakamoto, who has seen his batting average take a sharp dip in recent weeks, put in a 2-for-3 night at the plate. He highlighted his performance with his home run in the sixth which seemed to put the game out of reach.
“I hit an inside pitch and hit it well,” Sakamoto said. “I knew the moment it left the bat I had hit a home run.”
Giants outfielder Alex Ramirez finished 1-for-5 and reached a milestone by playing in his 1,220th Central League game, a record among foreign players. He surpassed the previous mark set by former Giants and Chunichi Dragons outfielder Wally Yonamine.
It was fitting the record was set in a game against Yakult, where Ramirez spent the first seven seasons of his career in Japan.
Yakult reliever Masao Kida also reached a milestone, striking out Yoshiyuki Kamei at the end of the seventh to become the 124th player in NPB history to record 1,000 strikeouts.
Fellow Swallows pitcher Shohei Tateyama (12-3) leads the CL in wins this season but wasn’t able to add to his total after being tagged for eight runs on 10 hits in the loss.
Tateyama’s luck has been especially bad against Ogasawara, who is 9-for-16 against him in their most recent meetings.
“I can’t explain why I hit him so well,” Ogasawara said. “He is one of the best pitchers in the Central League.”
Tetsuya Utsumi (5-7) earned the win for the Giants despite allowing two runs on five hits with four strikeouts.
The Swallows got to Utsumi quickly, taking an early 1-0 lead after Yasushi Iihara drove in Norichika Aoki with a single in the top of the first.
Yomiuri got singles from Sakamoto and Tetsuya Matsumoto to lead off the bottom of the inning before Ogasawara’s double put the Kyojin ahead. Kamei doubled in another run later in the inning, and an RBI single by Shigeyuki Furuki made the score 4-1.
Iihara cut into the lead with a home run to left in the top of the sixth, only to have Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe answer with a solo homer to lead off the bottom half, making the score 5-2. Sakamoto and Ogasawara added their homers later in the inning, combining to drive in five runs.
Yakult loaded the bases in the eighth and muscled its way back into the game when Shingo Kawabata came through with a grand slam to make the score 10-6.
The Swallows crept even closer when pinch hitter Yoshiyuki Noguchi drove in a run in the ninth before reliever Marc Kroon shut the door.
HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Atsushi Nomi threw eight shutout innings and Takahiro Arai had three doubles with an RBI, leading the Hanshin Tigers to a 4-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp.
Dragons 10, BayStars 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Masahiko Morino went 5-for-5 with two home runs and five RBIs for Chunichi.
Hawks 5, Lions 4
At Seibu Dome, Yuya Hasegawa and Hidenori Tanoue hit back-to-back solo homers for a little breathing room in the ninth for Fukuoka Softbank.
Buffaloes 5, Marines 1
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Shogo Yamamoto pitched one-run ball in his third complete game of the season, helping Orix beat Chiba Lotte to snap a three-game skid.
Eagles 3, Fighters 1