Though it was close, Hirokazu Sawamura wasn’t quite the best pitcher on the mound Friday night.
The rookie hurler won’t lose much sleep over that. He was the one who walked away with the win after all.
Sawamura pieced together a solid outing, buoyed by big hits from Hisayoshi Chono and Michihiro Ogasawara, as the Giants edged the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3-2 in front of a crowd of 42,291 at Tokyo Dome.
“This is a big win for us,” Ogasawara said. “There is no doubt about it.”
Yomiuri’s victory pulls the second-place Giants within five games of their crosstown rivals in the Central League standings.
“I knew this would be a pivotal series and it would be big to win the first game,” Sawamura said.
The win was Sawamura’s first in four tries against the Swallows this season. He also snapped a personal four-game losing streak in winning for the first time since July 9.
Sawamura (6-9) was charged with one run and allowed eight hits over seven-plus innings. He struck out eight and walked none.
“Although he kept putting Yakult runners on base, he was able to bear down and keep them from scoring,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.
“I’m very pleased with his performance tonight.”
Reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi nearly coughed up the lead in the eighth, allowing a run that was charged to Sawamura. Yamaguchi got two outs before yielding to Yuya Kubo, who finished off the inning.
Kubo also worked the ninth to earn his 10th save despite allowing a run in the final frame.
The Swallows outhit the Kyojin 11-4 but couldn’t capitalize on their advantage at the plate.
“We didn’t have many chances tonight,” Hara said. “So to be able to score three runs on only four hits makes this a nice win for us.”
Chono, currently the only Central League player batting above .300, drove in a run in the first inning. Ogasawara doubled the Yomiuri lead with his solo homer in the second.
“We had the lead at 1-0, so I was trying to add to it and give more confidence to Sawamura,” Ogasawara said.
Shinji Takahashi finished 1-for-2, and Yomiuri’s other hit was an RBI double from Yoshiyuki Kamei in the eighth.
Swallows starter Kyohei Muranaka dug himself a hole early and was unable to climb out of it. He allowed a run in each of the first two innings before settling down to retire the last 17 batters he faced.
Muranaka didn’t get the run support he needed in the end, falling to 2-3 on the year after allowing a pair of runs on three hits. He struck out six and walked one in seven innings on the mound.
“Muranaka is also a good pitcher,” Sawamura said. “We were fortunate to come out on top.”
Norichika Aoki paced Yakult at the plate, finishing 3-for-4, and Shinya Miyamoto collected a pair of hits.
Keizo Kawashima’s RBI groundout got Yakult on the scoreboard in the eighth, and Ryoji Aikawa drove in a run in the ninth.
Swallows slugger Wladimir Balentien finished 1-for-4 but failed to hit a home run for the first time in five games.
Oshima lifts Dragons
Kazuki Yoshimi (10-3) limited Hiroshima to two hits over the distance as the Chunichi Dragons defeated the Carp 2-1 on Friday, winning their third straight game and moving into a third-place tie with Hanshin.
Yohei Oshima broke an eighth-inning tie with a two-out RBI single off Bryan Bullington (11-7).
Yoshimi has reached double-digit wins for four seasons in a row.
Tigers at BayStars — ppd.
Fighters 3, Buffaloes 2 (10)
At Sapporo Dome, Bobby Scales drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the 10th to force in the winning run as Hokkaido Nippon Ham beat Orix.
Hisashi Takeda (2-0) picked up the win with a scoreless 10th. Yu Darvish allowed two runs and eight hits in nine innings, striking out nine and walking one in a 123-pitch outing.
Hawks 4, Eagles 1
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Sho Iwasaki (5-1) threw seven innings of one-run ball, leading Fukuoka Softbank over Tohoku Rakuten for its fourth consecutive victory.
Seiichi Uchikawa went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the first off Hiromichi Fujiwara (0-1).