NAGOYA – Hector Luna’s pinch-hit single broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Chunichi Dragons completed a three-game sweep of the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants with a 2-1 victory on Sunday.
Moments after the Giants tied the game against Dragons reliever Warner Madrigal (1-0), Yohei Oshima drew a leadoff walk against Yomiuri relief ace Tetsuya Yamaguchi (2-3). Oshima advanced on a ground out and was on second when Luna, the CL’s leading hitter, came off the bench to hit with two outs.
Luna got the end of the bat on a low-and-away changeup from the left-handed Yamaguchi and lifted it over the infield. Giants center-fielder Hisayoshi Chono was playing shallow for a potential throw to the plate. He charged and was on the ball in a flash, but failed to corral the ball and the speedy Oshima scored easily.
It was the first hit for Luna, who had been sidelined by inflammation in his left knee, since July 5.
“I was intent on getting the runner home and was really concentrating,” said Luna, who is batting .369. “I swung and missed at one of his (Yamaguchi’s) changeups, so I expected he might throw it again.
“I had never faced him before, so seeing that changeup once really helped.”
Japan’s all-time saves leader, Hitoki Iwase, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 19th save of the season.
Daisuke Yamai started for the Dragons and juggled eight hits and three walks to record seven scoreless innings. He pitched out of a series of jams, stranding five runners in scoring position through five innings, and was rewarded when the Dragons drew first blood in the sixth against Yuki Koyama.
Kazuhiro Wada reached on a two-out single, just the fourth hit of the afternoon off the 24-year-old Koyama. Ryosuke Hirata hit a deep fly that left fielder Yoshinobu Takahashi raced to and gloved but dropped on contact with the wall. Instead of an inning-ending catch, Wada scored as Hirata was credited with a double.
Takahashi redeemed himself in the top of the eighth, when his RBI single tied the game off Madrigal.
Carp 13, Swallows 3
At Jingu Stadium, Hiroshima ace Kenta Maeda (7-5) allowed two runs over eight innings in a win over Tokyo Yakult as the Carp avoided being swept in three games.
A throwing error by Swallows ace Masanori Ishikawa (2-7) allowed the Carp to put the first two runs on the board in the second inning. Yakult’s Wladimir Balentien hit his 32nd home run in the ninth, keeping him on a pace to break Japan’s single-season home record of 55.
Tigers 8, BayStars 4
At Koshien Stadium, rookie Shintaro Fujinami (6-3) allowed a run in six innings as Hanshin defeated Yokohama ace Daisuke Miura (6-7) and pull within 1½ games of CL-leading Yomiuri.
Ryota Imanari’s two-run single overturned a 1-0 deficit and sparked a seven-run sixth inning, that Ryota Arai capped with a grand slam.
Lions 5, Eagles 2
At Kleenex Stadium, Seibu right-hander Takayuki Kishi (5-5) effectively changed speeds to hold league-leading Tohoku Rakuten to two runs on seven hits in his second complete-game victory of the season.
Eagles starter Brandon Duckworth (4-4) issued a leadoff walk in the third. Five straight singles followed as Hideto Asamura, Shogo Akiyama and Yutaro Osaki drove in a run apiece and drove Duckworth from the game.
Fighters 7, Marines 2
At Sapporo Dome, former Minnesota Twin Bobby Keppel (1-0) triumphed in his return from injury, allowing two runs in five innings as Hokkaido Nippon Ham snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over Chiba Lotte.
Keppel, who has not pitched at this level since April 10, 2012, last won on Oct. 14, 2011. Eiichi Koyano put the game on ice with a third inning grand slam, while rookie pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer.
Hawks 3, Buffaloes 2
At Yafuoku Dome, Fukuoka Softbank snapped a three-game losing streak when Kenta Imamiya singled in the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the ninth off Orix closer Yoshihisa Hirano (1-4).
Former New York Mets reliever Ryota Igarashi (1-1) blew a one-run save opportunity for the Hawks in the top of the ninth, but controlled the damage and earned his first win in Japan since Oct. 7, 2009.