Kenji Yano made his cameo appearance count with one swing of the bat and Edgar Gonzalez hit a two-run homer as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Chunichi Dragons 7-5 to take over first place in the Central League on Sunday.
The Giants swept their rivals in three games en route to their fifth consecutive win and moved one game ahead of the Dragons, who dropped their third game in a row.
“Today we were able to score in a very efficient way,” said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara. “Beating this team in three straight games is a huge lift for us. Yano did a great job — nice batting.”
Yano hit a pinch-hit two-run double to key a three-run second inning before Gonzalez went deep in the sixth inning for a 5-0 lead in what appeared to be the makings of a blowout at Tokyo Dome.
Yoshinobu Takahashi and Gonzalez drew back-to-back walks to lead off the second and the Giants loaded the bases when first baseman Tony Blanco fumbled Yoshiyuki Kamei’s grounder.
Yano then hit a full-count cutter to right-center to drive home runners from second and third, making it 2-0, and Hisayoshi Chono added a run on an RBI groundout to second.
“I was just focused on the at-bat,” said Yano, who recently returned from an injury to his left foot.
“I am just pleased that I could respond to expectations in that situation. I was looking for something to drive and was ready to pull the trigger when it came over the plate,” he said.
Takahashi drew a two-out walk in the sixth and after pinch runner Takahiro Suzuki stole second, Gonzalez hit Enyelbert Soto’s 3-2 slider deep to left.
“I was just looking for a fastball, and he left it in a place that I could handle it and I’m just happy it went out,” Gonzalez said. “It feels good (to be in first). It’s still early, but it feels good. We managed to get in front of them. That’s a very good team. It feels good to especially sweep them,” he said.
Takehiro Donoue hit a two-run shot to get Chunichi within 5-2 in the seventh, but Shuichi Murata added a two-run single in the bottom half after a walk, a single and a wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out.
Chunichi had its best chance to get even when the wheels began to drop off for Yomiuri’s bullpen in the eighth.
Yasunari Takagi, the Giants’ third reliever, struggled, allowing consecutive one-out singles, and a wild pitch by Takagi put runners at the corners before a run scored on an error by defensive replacement Daisuke Fujimura at second base.
After Chunichi loaded the bases, reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi hit Masahiko Morino with a pitch for another run and pinch hitter Nobumasa Fukuda pushed across another run on a bases-loaded walk.
“Now that it’s July, hopefully we’ll start to heat up even more,” said Hara.
Carp 2, BayStars 1
At Mazda Stadium, pinch hitter Tomonori Maeda had a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh inning and Takeru Imamura and Kam Mickolio held off Yokohama in two scoreless innings for Hiroshima’s win.
Yusuke Nomura (5-3) allowed one unearned run and four hits over seven innings. Yokohama became the first team in Japanese baseball to lose 40 games.
Swallows 9, Tigers 5
At Jingu Stadium, Lastings Milledge cut the deficit to one run with his RBI double and Hiroyasu Tanaka followed with a three-run homer in the sixth inning as Tokyo Yakult rallied past Hanshin.
The Swallows unleashed a 15-hit onslaught and Rafael Fernandes (1-0) pitched one inning in relief for his first win in Japan. The Tigers lost their second series in a row.
Marines 4, Buffaloes 1
At Kyocera Dome, Katsuya Kakunaka hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the sixth inning and Kazuya Fukuura drove in an insurance run with an eight-inning single as Chiba Lotte downed Orix.
Yuji Yoshimi (1-0) pitched five innings of one-run ball for his first win this season and Tatsuya Uchi posted his first save in three years.
Lions 3, Fighters 3 (10)
At Seibu Dome, Hiroyuki Nakajima hit an eighth-inning, game-tying two-run blast for his third homer in as many games and Seibu played out a tie in 10 innings against Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
The Fighters, who hit into the season’s first triple play in the second, got a three-run homer in the third from designated hitter Kenshi Sugiya.
Eagles 3, Hawks 2 (10)
At Kleenex Stadium, Kazuo Matsui hit a walkoff RBI double off lefty Masahiko Morifuku (0-3) in the 10th inning, lifting Tohoku Rakuten over Fukuoka Softbank for its third win in a row.
Softbank, which had tied the game 2-2 on Hiroki Kokubo’s RBI single in the eighth, dropped its fourth game in a row.