NAGOYA – The Giants left it late on Saturday, but managed what few have done this season — beat the Dragons at Nagoya Dome.
Yomiuri captain Shinnosuke Abe’s two-run, ninth-inning, pinch-hit double lifted the Giants to a 2-1 victory over Chunichi. Their victory moved the Central League leaders four games clear of the second-place Dragons.
The Dragons’ record at Nagoya Dome fell to 24-6 with six ties, after their first loss there since May 16.
“It’s not an easy thing to win here, so I think anyone would be happy to do it,” said Abe, a day after the Dragons came back in the ninth to avoid defeat with a 1-1 tie on Friday. “After that, this felt particularly good.”
The Giants, who trailed by a run, got started in the ninth when Dragons closer Hitoki Iwase (2-2) hit Yoshinobu Takahashi with a pitch. With one out, Kenji Yano doubled pinch runner Takahiro Suzuki to third, and Abe came off the bench and was soon behind in the count 1-2 to Japan’s career saves leader.
“Chunichi has good pitchers, so you don’t get many chances,” Abe said. “We were lucky to get another one.”
“When I went to the plate, I just wanted to hit a ball deep enough to bring in a run (on a sacrifice fly).”
Instead, he worked the count full and pounded a fat fastball to the gap in left-center that plated both runners.
Tetsuya Yamaguchi earned his third save by retiring Chunichi in order in the ninth.
A Dragons’ loss wasn’t the only thing fans at Nagoya Dome hadn’t seen in a while. Ten years and 217 homers after they traded him to Orix for then burned-out closer Masafumi Hirai, Takeshi Yamasaki once more homered in a Dragons uniform.
Yamasaki belted his 403rd career home run off Giants starter D.J. Houlton (7-6) in the third inning. Houlton worked eight innings and appeared to be on the short end of a pitchers’ duel.
Dragons lefty Enyelbert Soto threw six scoreless innings despite letting the Giants load the bases on two walks and his own throwing error in the first inning. Right-handers Shinji Tajima and Jorge Sosa each held Yomiuri scoreless for an inning before Chunichi skipper Morimichi Takagi sent in Iwase in the hope he would earn his 340th career save.
Tigers 3, Swallows 2 (10)
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin captain Takashi Toritani doubled home Yamato Maeda with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Tigers prevailed over Tokyo Yakult.
Hanshin got all three of its hits off Swallows starter Shohei Tateyama in the fifth inning, when it took a two-run lead. Yakult, however, tied it in the eighth on Kazuhiro Hatakeyama’s two-run homer off All-Star lefty Daiki Enokida.
Carp 8, BayStars 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Hiroshima’s Yuichiro Mukae homered twice and Eishin Soyogi went 2-for-2 with two walks, a sacrifice fly and four RBIs as the Carp beat Yokohama for the 10th time in 11 games this season.
Alex Ramirez halved the visitors’ early lead with a solo homer in the fourth, but the Carp pounded BayStars starter Shogo Yamamoto (1-4) for six runs — five earned — in seven innings.
Fighters 2, Eagles 1 (10)
At Kleenex Stadium, Hokkaido Nippon Ham utility man Kenshi Sugiya tied the game in the eighth with an RBI single and drove in the decisive run in the 10th as the Fighters prevented Tohoku Rakuten from taking over second place in the Pacific League standings.
In the eighth, Kensuke Tanaka drew a two-out walk, stole second and scored on Sugiya’s second hit of the game off lefty starter Takahiro Shiomi. Catcher Shinya Tsuruoka singled to open the 10th, was sacrificed to second and scored on Sugiya’s two-out single off Eagles closer Koji Aoyama (3-3).
Hawks 3, Marines 0
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, 19-year-old Fukuoka Softbank right-hander Shota Takeda (2-0) duplicated the six scoreless innings he threw in his pro debut on July 7, and Yuichi Honda’s three-run, fifth-inning triple provided the margin in a victory over league-leading Chiba Lotte.
Takeda, nicknamed “the Kyushu Darvish” as a high schooler in Miyazaki Prefecture, allowed four hits and two walks, while striking out eight. Former major leaguer Hideki Okajima worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning to collect his 16th hold, while side-arm lefty Masahiko Morifuku did the same in the ninth to earn his 12th save.
Lions 4, Buffaloes 1
At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, Seibu right-hander Enrique Gonzalez (1-4) won his starting debut, allowing a run on three hits in five innings in a win over Orix.
Gonzalez surrendered a game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the first to fellow Venezuelan Aarom Baldiris, but Yutaro Osaki broke the 1-1 tie in the fourth, when he plated Seibu’s Esteban German with a sacrifice fly off Buffaloes starter Hayato Terahara (4-6).