Daisuke Fujimura picked a pretty good time to play the hero for the first time in his career.
Fujimura drove in the winning run with an RBI double off Hanshin Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa, and the Yomiuri Giants defeated their Kansai rivals 4-3 on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.
“This was a game we could not afford to lose,” said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara. “So it’s good Fujimura was able to come through in the end.”
Yoshitomo Tani began the ninth for Yomiuri with a single off Tigers starter Randy Messenger. Tani advanced to second on a pinch-hit sacrifice bunt by Kazunari Tsuruoka. Tigers manager Akinobu Mayumi pulled Messenger following the bunt, replacing him with Fujikawa. Fujimura was ahead 2-1 in the count when he lined a fastball into left to score Tani.
“I was able to stay with the pitch and lift it enough to get it over the infield,” Fujimura said. “When I saw the ball split the outfielders, I knew we had won the game.”
It was Fujimura’s first sayonara hit.
“It’s a great feeling, especially with the hit coming off a great pitcher such as Fujikawa,” Fujimura said.
Giants reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi kept the Tigers off the board in the eighth and ninth innings to earn his fifth win of the season.
Messenger was charged with the loss, falling to 12-6. Messenger was pleased he was able to keep the ball down and lean on his fastball.
“I was able to locate it pretty well tonight,” Messenger said. “The only time I gave up a lot of hits was on hanging off-speed pitches.”
Messenger threw 8⅓ innings and was charged with four runs on 10 hits. He struck out five and walked one.
“I thought he threw really well,” Tigers outfielder Matt Murton said. “He did a great job. He pitched into the ninth inning, and we had a chance to win.”
Murton singled to lead off the second inning, extending his current hitting streak to 30 games. He finished 1-for-4.
“The most unfortunate part of the night is that we lost,” Murton said. “You want to perform well individually only to help your team win. I wish I could’ve done more; that’s the bottom line.”
The Tigers were held to four hits on the night. Craig Brazell drove in a pair of runs with a single and Takahiro Arai added a solo homer.
“It was a tough night,” Murton said. “We really didn’t get a lot going offensively. Craig came up with that big hit and Arai hit the home run. Unfortunately, other than that, we really couldn’t get a whole lot going.”
Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe began the scoring with a solo homer, his 19th of season, in the second inning.
Yomiuri starter Shun Tono retired the first two batters in the third, then issued three walks to load the bases. Brazell singled to right to drive in a pair of runs, but Arai was thrown out trying to go from first to third to end the inning.
Yomiuri knotted the score at 2-2 on a sacrifice fly from Fujimura in the fifth, but Arai’s home run in the top of the sixth put the Tigers back in front.
Hayato Sakamoto led off the Yomiuri half of the sixth with a double, and a bunt by Ryota Wakiya left runners on first and third. Hisayoshi Chono popped up for the first out of the inning, but an Abe single tied the score again at 3-3.
The rubber match of the three-game series takes place on Wednesday at the Big Egg. The expected starters are Tetsuya Utsumi (16-5) for the Giants and Minoru Iwata (9-12) for the Tigers.
Dragons beat Swallows
Yudai Kawai (5-3) pitched 7⅓ scoreless innings, leading the way as the CL-leading Chunichi Dragons beat the second-place Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3-1 Tuesday to win their third straight game and clinched a spot in the Climax Series playoffs after securing at least third place.
Tony Blanco hit a two-run drive to give the Dragons a 2-0 lead in the first inning and Kazuhiro Wada drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth. Hitoki Iwase worked the ninth to earn his 37th save.
Shohei Tateyama (10-5) gave up three runs in five innings of the loss.
Carp 7, BayStars 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Masato Akamatsu drove in three runs on 3-for-5 hitting in support of Kenta Maeda (10-11), who tossed his second shutout of the season as Hiroshima routed last-place Yokohama.
Tetsuya Kokubo opened the scoring with a solo homer off Mann Brandon (1-1) in the first and the Carp put the game out of reach in a four-run eighth.
Fighters 3, Lions 0
At Sapporo Dome, Yu Darvish threw a league high sixth shutout and got a boost by homer runs from Atsunori Inaba and Sho Nakata as Hokkaido Nippon Ham defeated Seibu and booked a spot in the Pacific League Climax Series.
With the victory, the Fighters were guaranteed at least a third place finish in the Pacific League standings, sending them to the Climax Series for the first time since 2009 when they captured the league title.
The PL champion Softbank Hawks had already booked a playoff spot.
Darvish (18-6), who struck out 15 batters, matched the league high with his 18th win of the season, placing him in a tie with Tohoku Rakuten’s Masahiro Tanaka and Fukuoka Softbank’s D.J. Houlton.
The right-hander allowed just three hits — all singles — and walked one in a 130-pitch outing.
Kazuyuki Hoashi (9-6) took the loss.
After a leadoff double by Yoshio Itoi in the fourth, Inaba went deep to right one out later for a 2-0 lead.
Nakata hit a two-out solo blast to cap the three-run frame.