Chunichi Dragons pitcher Chen Wei-yin was looking unflappable in his bid to keep the Yomiuri Giants from getting closer to claiming the Central League title.
When he finally wavered, Yoshiyuki Kamei was ready and waiting.
Kamei broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the sixth and Dicky Gonzalez out-pitched Chen with seven scoreless innings as the Giants put one hand on the pennant with a 2-0 win on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.
“He’s the number one pitcher in the league,” Kamei said of Chen, who entered the contest with a league-leading 1.51 ERA.
“So we knew it would be a tough game. I’m glad my first hit against him this year was a game-winner.”
The Giants cut their magic number to one with the win and can wrap up the league title by completing the series sweep on Wednesday.
“We’re looking forward to coming to the park tomorrow and winning again to give our fans a huge present,” Kamei said.
A win would give Kamei his second title with manager Tatsunori Hara this year and another chance to give the manager a doage (tossing a manager into the air after a championship). Kamei and teammate Michihiro Ogasawara won the World Baseball Classic title under Hara this spring.
“It was fun tossing our manager in the air after the WBC championship game,” Kamei said. “We hope to do it again tomorrow.”
Chen had little trouble with the first batter of the sixth, striking out Ogasawara. He then issued a free pass to cleanup hitter Alex Ramirez to set the table for Kamei.
Chen started Kamei with a pair of sliders and an inside fastball to work the count to 2-1 in his favor. Kamei held his ground on a pair of fastballs away to leave the count full. Chen came back with the slider again and Kamei made him pay with his 24th homer of the season.
“I hit it well and I thought it would reach the stands right after I hit it,” Kamei said.
Gonzalez continued his inspired play this season, allowing only a pair of hits, both to Motonobu Tanishige, and striking out two.
“I felt pretty good from the beginning,” Gonzalez said. “I hit my spots pretty good today. I made those guys look bad. Last time I pitched over there (in Nagoya) they swung pretty well and stayed on top of the ball. Today they looked different.
“I came in today with the mentality of working down. I made those guys hit ground balls because (Tony) Blanco, (Kazuhiro) Wada and those guys have good power and as soon as they hit the ball there’s going to be some damage.”
The second of Tanishige’s two hits — a fifth-inning single — ricocheted off Gonzalez’s leg, which brought the trainers out of the Yomiuri dugout. Gonzalez made it through the next two innings before being pinch-hit for in the to start the eighth.
Gonzalez improved to 14-1 and remains unbeaten in CL competition with an 11-0 mark in league play.
‘The Dragons are a good team,” Gonzalez said. “But I also have a good team behind me and I’m glad we came out on top.”
Chen countered with a strong outing of his own, allowing two runs and striking out eight over seven innings.
The Giants will try to wrap up the pennant on Wednesday when the teams meet for the final game of their series beginning at 2 p.m. at Tokyo Dome.
Takagi blanks Carp
HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Hiromitsu Takagi threw his first career shutout and Yasushi Iihara hit a tiebreaking two-run homer as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows defeated the Hiroshima Carp 3-0 to snap their four-game losing skid on Tuesday.
Iihara broke a scoreless tie with a blast to left-center off Yuki Saito (9-11) and Yoshiyuki Noguchi followed with an RBI double in the fourth inning at Mazda Stadium.
Takagi (2-0) allowed four hits, walked none and struck out five. He did not allow a runner to reach third base.
BayStars 7, Tigers 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Tatsuhiko Kinjo homered and went 3-for-4 with five RBIs as Yokohama routed Hanshin for its third straight win.
Kinjo hit an RBI double in the third inning and a two-run double off Minoru Iwata (5-4) in the fourth to put the BayStars ahead 4-2. He added a two-run homer, his second in as many days, in the eighth.
Kentaro Takasaki (4-0) won in relief.
Lions 5, Fighters 2
At Sapporo Dome, Takeya Nakamura hit his Japanese baseball-leading 41st homer and Takuya Hara had a two-run double as Saitama Seibu downed Hokkaido Nippon Ham to win its third consecutive game.
Nakamura hit a two-run homer off Brian Sweeney (4-8) in the first inning and Hara added a two-out double in the eighth for a 5-1 lead.
Hsu Ming-chie (1-1) gave up six hits and struck out seven in his first complete-game victory in six years.
Buffaloes 3, Eagles 0
At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Yasunari Takagi and six relievers combined on a shutout in Orix’s win over Tohoku Rakuten.
Mitsutaka Goto’s RBI double and Naoyuki Omura’s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, both off Satoshi Nagai (11-7), gave the Buffaloes a 3-0 lead.
Takagi (1-1) allowed two hits in six innings to win his first start since June 26, 2004.
Marines 5, Hawks 3
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Kazuya Fukuura homered and had two RBIs as Chiba Lotte snapped its four-game losing skid with a win over Softbank.
The Marines grabbed a 4-0 lead in the second inning on Fukuura’s RBI double. He added a solo home run in the eighth among his three hits.
Shunsuke Watanabe (3-12) threw three-run ball over eight innings and Brian Sikorski worked the ninth for his 14th save.