NAGOYA – D.J. Houlton held the Chunichi Dragons to two earned runs over six-plus innings as the Yomiuri Giants won 3-2 Thursday, meaning they could potentially capture their second straight Central League pennant this weekend.
After the second-place Hanshin Tigers lost to the Hiroshima Carp, Yomiuri can now win the league as early as Saturday if the Giants beat the Carp in their next game — or if the Tigers lose to the Yakult Swallows the same day.
Houlton improved to 7-4, allowing Chunichi just four hits — including a two-run home run to Ryosuke Hirata — and a walk while striking out six.
Kentaro Nishimura collected his CL-leading 39th save, surviving a ninth-inning scare after walking two.
The Giants were led at the plate by three hits from Masayoshi Chono. Captain Shinnosuke Abe, Shuichi Murata and Yoshinobu Takahashi each had two hits and an RBI.
Hirata brought Chunichi within a run in the seventh with a two-run shot off Houlton, but the Dragons failed to gain further ground, dropping the home stand to the Giants, who own a cozy 12.5-game lead over the Tigers.
BayStars 3, Swallows 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Yokohama took its first series against Tokyo Yakult in four years as Enyelbert Soto (1-3) won his first game of the season with five-plus shutout innings.
Japanese home run record-holder Wladimir Balentien went hitless in three at-bats, striking out twice.
Carp 3, Tigers 1
At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima’s Bryan Bullington (10-9) picked up his 10th win of the season with seven strong innings, holding Hanshin to one earned run on four hits and three walks.
Eagles 3, Hawks 2
At Kleenex Stadium, Tadashi Ishimine hit a tie-breaking, walk-off single off Ryota Igarashi (2-3) with one out in the ninth inning as first-place Tohoku Rakuten won the series.
Lions 5, Fighters 1
At Seibu Dome, Kazuhisa Makita (8-9) cruised through eight innings against Hokkaido Nippon Ham, allowing one run — none earned — on six hits and a pair of walks as Seibu won the three-game homestand.