The third time was the charm for Hisayoshi Chono on Saturday afternoon.
After not getting the ball out of the infield in his first two at-bats, Chono connected on a come-from-behind, three-run home run in the sixth inning that helped propel the Yomiuri Giants to a 7-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons in front of a crowd of 44,412 at Tokyo Dome.
“I just tried to make contact after missing the first pitch,” Chono said of the home run, his 14th of the year. “I knew I hit it well, and I’m glad it went out.”
Chono finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and has hit safely in six of his last seven games (including three hits in Friday’s 6-4 loss to the Dragons), driving in six runs over that span.
“My condition is really good now,” Chono said. “I am seeing the ball well and can’t wait to play again tomorrow.”
Yoshiyuki Kamei also homered for the Giants, hitting a two-run shot in the eighth. The home run was his third of the season.
Yomiuri captain Shinnosuke Abe stepped into the batter’s box as a pinch hitter in the seventh and delivered an RBI single in his only at-bat, while Yoshinobu Takahashi, also pinch-hitting in the seventh, drew a bases-loaded walk that brought in another run.
Yomiuri’s Toshiya Sugiuchi (9-4) put in 6 2/3 innings of work on the mound, allowing a pair of runs, to win for the first time in a month. The left-hander hit the first batter of the game, gave up six hits, struck out nine and walked two.
“When the starter pitches as well as Sugiuchi did today, we have to give him some run support, so I’m happy we got the lead in time to get him the victory,” Chono said.
The win brings the Kyojin one step closer to their goal of a second straight Central League pennant. Yomiuri began the day 7 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Hanshin Tigers and with a magic number of 33.
Ryosuke Hirata homered for the Dragons, who missed out on winning their third straight game. Hirokazu Ibata also drove in a run.
Dragons starter Daniel Cabrera (4-4) held the Giants at bay for 5 2/3 innings but gave up three runs before he could get out of the sixth. Cabrera struck out five and walked three in six innings on the hill.
Hirata gave the Dragons an early lead with a solo home run, his 10th of the season and second in two nights, in the second.
Cabrera retired the first two batters of the sixth before giving up a single to Shuichi Murata and walking cleanup hitter John Bowker. Chono made him pay for not getting out of the inning with his home run to straightaway center.
The Dragons pulled a run back in the top of the seventh on an RBI infield single by Ibata, but Abe’s run-scoring hit and Takahashi’s bases-loaded walk pushed the Yomiuri advantage to 5-2 in the bottom half.
Kamei put the game out of reach with his two-run homer in the eighth.
The teams will meet in the finale of their three-game set on Sunday afternoon at the Big Egg. Rookie pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano (10-3) will get the start for Yomiuri, with Daisuke Yamai (4-4) taking the ball for Chunichi.
Tsuru tames Swallows
Naoto Tsuru (3-0) allowed four hits in seven innings, leading the Hanshin Tigers to a 1-0 win in the Central League on Saturday over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
For Tsuru, it was his first victory as a starter since July 3, 2010, and two relievers completed the five-hit shutout.
Matt Murton drove in the game’s only run with a first-inning double and he made a run-saving catch in left field to end the third inning at Kyocera Dome. Yakult rookie Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa (12-3) allowed a run on four hits over seven innings to suffer his first loss since June 8.
Carp 6, BayStars 4
At Yokohama Stadium, Hiroshima twice came from behind to defeat Yokohama.
Moments after the BayStars scored twice to take a 4-2 lead, Shota Dobayashi doubled in one run in the sixth, and Takahiro Iwamoto hit a two-run, pinch-hit homer to give the visitors the lead for good.
Carp starter Bryan Bullington (6-9) got the win despite allowing four runs in five innings. Newly acquired BayStars right-hander Tim Corcoran (1-3) allowed five runs in six innings to suffer the loss.
Fighters 10, Hawks 3
At Obihiro-no-Mori Stadium, Hokkaido Nippon Ham came from a run down in the fifth inning on back-to-back RBI doubles by Sho Nakata, who tied the game 2-2, and rookie pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani, who put the Fighters in front for good.
Fukuoka Softbank saw its three-game winning streak snapped.
Nakata hit his PL-leading 26th homer in the seventh, a two-run shot, and Michel Abreu hit his 25th for the Fighters in the eighth, a three-run jack. Nakata went 4-for-4 with a walk.
Lions 3, Eagles 2
At Seibu Dome, Yutaro Osaki’s ninth-inning RBI single off reliever Shintaro Koyama (1-4) lifted Seibu to a sayonara victory over league-leading Tohoku Rakuten to snap a four-game losing streak.
The Eagles tied the game with two outs in the ninth on Shintaro Masuda’s solo homer off Seibu closer Dennis Sarfate (5-5). Moments earlier, the Lions had a runner thrown out at the plate on a one-out double by Hideto Asamura to Asamura in left.
Buffaloes 8, Marines 1
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Aarom Baldiris blasted his 14th home run, a grand slam in the first inning off Tomohisa Otani (1-3), and Yuji Maeda (1-1) allowed a run in seven innings as Orix beat Chiba Lotte to snap a four-game losing skid.
Maeda allowed just three hits and no walks, while keeping the Marines off base until the sixth inning. Jose Fernandez doubled in two runs in the eighth against one of his former teams, and Baldiris capped the scoring with a ninth-inning RBI single.