At this point, it may take a small miracle for the Chunichi Dragons to stop the Yomiuri Giants from claiming the Central League pennant.
With the way Yoshitomo Tani and Alex Ramirez are hitting, even that might not be enough.
Tani hit home runs in his first two trips to the plate and Ramirez continued his season-long dominance of the Dragons to lead the Giants to a 5-3 victory in front of 45,487 fans on Monday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
“Today was an important victory for us and puts us in a great position,” Tani said. “I’m glad I could contribute to the victory.”
The Giants trimmed their magic number for clinching the pennant to three with the win.
“Our magic number is still three,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “We cannot win the championship after one game. We just want to keeping winning and doing what we’ve been doing.”
A win over Chunichi on Tuesday would give the Kyojin the chance to clinch the pennant on Wednesday with a series sweep.
“We want to clinch the championship as soon as we can,” Tani said. “So we hope to win again tomorrow and celebrate on Wednesday.”
Tani finished 2-for-2 with three RBIs, homering twice in the same game for the first time since Aug. 9, 2003, when he was a member of the Orix BlueWave.
Tani has been on fire over his last six games, batting .500 with four home runs and nine RBIs over that span.
Ramirez’s bat seems to heat up whenever the Dragons are in the opposing dugout, and he kept it going with a 2-for-4 day that included a go-ahead two-run home run. Ramirez is batting .474 with eight home runs and 20 RBIs against Chunichi this season.
Ramirez extended his current hitting streak to 11 games with the home run, his 29th of the season.
Tani and Ramirez helped make a winner out of Giants starting pitcher Shun Tono. The 23-year-old allowed three runs on four hits over seven innings to improve to 8-7.
Dragons hurler Masahiro Yamamoto (1-4) was making just his fifth start of the season, taking the loss after giving up five runs on seven hits over four innings.
Lee Byung Kyu struck an early blow for the Dragons with a deep solo homer to center in the second inning.
The Giants took the lead in the bottom half, pushing ahead 2-1 on Tani’s first homer of the game.
“The first pitch was a strike, so I went for it and fortunately it cleared the wall in right,” Tani said.
Chunichi tied the score on Masahiko Morino’s RBI groundout in the third, but the Giants stormed back again in the bottom half, taking the lead on Ramirez’s two-run blast.
Tani hit his second home run of the game to lead off the fourth and extend Yomiuri’s lead to 5-2.
“That one I hit a little better,” Tani said. “I thought it would go out the moment I hit it.”
BayStars rout Tigers
Takahiro Saeki hit a three-run homer to highlight a four-run third inning and Daisuke Miura threw his sixth complete game as the Yokohama BayStars routed the Hanshin Tigers 8-1 at Yokohama Stadium on Monday.
Seiichi Uchikawa broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI single before Saeki delivered a two-out blast off Yuya Ando (8-10) for a 5-1 lead. Tatsuhiko Kinjo homered to tie the game in the first.
Miura (11-9) scattered 10 hits and chipped in with a sacrifice fly in the fourth and a run-scoring grounder in the eighth.
Carp 6, Swallows 5
Lions 5, Fighters 3
At Sapporo Dome, Takumi Kuriyama and Takahiko G.G. Sato both homered in the fifth inning and Hideaki Wakui matched the league-high with his 15th win as Seibu downed Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Kuriyama led off the fifth with a drive to right-center to tie the game 3-3 and Sato followed two outs later with a two-run homer, both coming off Masaru Takeda (8-8).
Wakui (15-5) allowed five hits in his 10th complete game of the season.
Hawks 4, Marines 0
Eagles 9, Buffaloes 2