Chunichi Dragons fans turned out in droves for a chance to see their team clinch a league title.
Alex Ramirez and Dicky Gonzalez helped the Yomiuri Giants spoil those plans.
The red-hot Ramirez put the Giants ahead with a solo homer in the fourth inning, and Yoshinobu Takahashi went deep in the fifth to back Gonzalez’s second straight sterling start against the Dragons in the Giants’ 4-1 win on Saturday at Tokyo Dome.
The Dragons have a magic number of one and would’ve clinched a second straight Central League pennant with a win. Chunichi can still wrap up the title with a win over the Giants on Sunday.
“I was thinking before the game, they are not going to win the championship today,” Gonzalez said.
Ramirez broke a scoreless tie in the fourth with his 22nd homer of the year, a deep shot to left off starter Chen Wei-yin. Ramirez, who finished with a pair of hits, is 5-for-7 with two homers over the past two games against the Dragons.
“They’re about to win the pennant,” Ramirez said. “They’re the best team in the Central League. For me to do well against them is good for us. It just makes us stronger.”
The Yomiuri slugger has been on fire since the calendar flipped to October, batting .432 with four home runs and six RBIs.
Takahashi added to the advantage with his 15th homer of the season in the fifth. Hisayoshi Chono and Kenji Yano each had an RBI double in the eighth to pad the lead.
The run support was more than enough for Gonzalez, who induced ground ball after ground ball out of the Chunichi lineup. Gonzalez (3-3) allowed one hit over seven scoreless innings, striking out three and hitting one batter.
“Thanks to my teammates for supporting me,” Gonzalez said. “It’s going to be tough for the Dragons to win the championship here.”
It was his second impressive outing against the Dragons recently. Gonzalez also threw seven innings of one-hit ball against Chunichi on Oct. 9. He’s allowed one hit in his last 14 innings against the Dragons.
“I tried to concentrate and wanted to win for my team,” Gonzalez said.
Giants slugger Michihiro Ogasawara made his return from injury in the seventh inning, pinch-hitting for Gonzalez in his first action since Aug. 23. Ogasawara flew out in his only at-bat and remained in the game at first base.
Chen (8-9) took the loss for the Dragons, allowing four runs on nine hits over eight innings. He struck out five.
“Chen is one of the best pitchers in the league, so I’m glad I was able to hit a home run off him,” Ramirez said.
Pinch hitter Takahiro Saeki drove in Chunichi’s only run with a home run in the ninth, his first of the season.
Yohei Oshima and Motonobu Tanishige were the only other Dragons to record hits.
Hiroyasu Tanaka hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Yokohama BayStars 3-1 on Saturday afternoon to snap a five-game losing streak.
Tanaka’s two-out RBI single to right field put the Swallows ahead 2-1 before Ryoji Aikawa singled in an insurance run in the eighth at Yokohama Stadium.
Masanori Ishikawa (10-9) reached double-digit wins for a fourth consecutive season after throwing seven innings of one-run ball.
Lim Chang Yong got five outs for his 32nd save.
Norichika Aoki had three hits and scored twice for Yakult.
Yuki Kuniyoshi (1-4) was charged with two runs in 6⅔ innings.
Carp 2, Tigers 0 (6)
Marines 2, Hawks 1 (10)
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Toshiaki Imae broke a scoreless deadlock with a two-run double in the top of the 10th as Chiba Lotte ended a five-game slide while halting Fukuoka Softbank’s winning streak at nine.
Yuki Karakawa (11-6) threw nine shutout innings before Carlos Rosa allowed one run in the bottom of the 10th. Hawks lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi worked seven scoreless innings in a tuneup start for the postseason.
Lions 6, Eagles 3
At Seibu Dome, Takumi Kuriyama and Hiroyuki Nakajima had RBI singles in a three-run rally in the fifth inning, leading Seibu past Tohoku Rakuten.
Takayuki Kishi allowed three runs in 6⅓ innings for the win. Ryohei Isaka (3-5) took the loss.
Buffaloes 4, Fighters 0
At Sapporo Dome, Hiroshi Kisanuki and two relievers combined on a three-hit shutout as Orix beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Kisanuki (2-7) scattered two hits without a walk over six innings for his first win since May 20.
The Buffaloes’ Aarom Baldiris hit a two-run homer in the eighth.
Talks on WBC continue
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles owner Toru Shimada said Friday that talks with organizers of the 2013 World Baseball Classic had gone well but that Japan’s participation at the tournament was not touched upon during the meeting.
“Talks have not broken down and discussions will continue,” said Shimada, who heads a negotiating team representing Japan’s 12 pro club owners, who are seeking a bigger share of the profits from the WBC.
“We had good talks so we can try and move forward. Whether or not Japan will take part in the tournament was not touched upon. Both sides are just confirming where they stand on the issue,” said Shimada.