The Yomiuri Giants brought back the magic and dispatched one of their toughest rivals in the process.
Shuichi Murata and Yoshinobu Takahashi each went deep off Hanshin Tigers pitcher Jason Standridge, and Kyojin starter Tetsuya Utsumi kept the Tigers caged for 7 1/3 shutout innings in a 4-0 win on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.
“It’s a big win for us whenever we beat the Tigers,” Murata said.
The first-place Giants extended their lead over the Tigers in the Central League standings to six games and are on track to receive a magic number to win the pennant.
“We want to clinch the pennant as soon as possible,” Utsumi said.
Murata did the lion’s share of the damage with a two-run homer in the first inning, his 21st of the season.
“I hit a slider and I knew it was gone as soon as it left the bat,” Murata said. “I hit it good.”
Murata is in the middle of an impressive run of play. He finished 1-for-4 with two RBIs on Tuesday and is hitting .415 with nine homers and 23 RBIs in August, making him a strong candidate to garner monthly MVP honors for the second straight month.
“I hope to finish out the month with a few more good games and we’ll see what happens,” Murata said.
Takahashi finished with three hits, including his fifth home run of the year, and Hayato Sakamoto was also 3-for-4. Yoshiyuki Kamei drove in a run with an RBI single in the fourth and finished 2-for-4.
Utsumi (11-5) brushed off the effects of a shaky first inning to strike out nine while allowing six hits and walking four.
“I thought my start wasn’t very good, but I felt better after Murata gave us the lead,” he said.
Standridge (7-9) entered the game having posted a 1.66 ERA in 43 1/3 innings against the Giants this year, but lasted just four innings on Tuesday, his shortest outing in a CL game this season. He was charged with four runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked three.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka led the way for the Tigers on a weak night at the plate, finishing 2-for-3.
The teams will meet for the second game of their three-game set on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome, with Ryosuke Miyaguni (5-6) on the mound for the Giants and Daiki Enokida (4-6) taking the hill for the Tigers.
“Winning the first game of this series is big,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “Our lead is back to six games and it takes some pressure off us for the remaining two games.”