The Chunichi Dragons may eventually celebrate winning the Central League pennant at the Yomiuri Giants’ home stadium, but it won’t be on Hirokazu Sawamura’s watch.
Yomiuri’s rookie hurler overcame a shaky start, and the Giants had a big day at the plate to beat the Dragons 7-2 on Friday at Tokyo Dome.
“I gave up a run in the first inning but was able to relax after my offense scored some runs for me,” Sawamura said. “I felt good pitching during the latter part of the game.”
Sawamura went the distance on 103 pitches, allowing two runs on six hits and striking out seven to win his fifth straight decision. He improved to 11-11 and maintained an ERA of 1.97 in what was likely his final start of the regular season.
“I have to feel good about my season,” Sawamura said. “I was able to avoid finishing with a losing record and my ERA was good. So I have to be happy with my performance.”
Chunichi arrived in Tokyo with a five-game winning streak and a magic number of two to clinch the league title. The Dragons could’ve wrapped things up with a win or tie and a loss by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
The Swallows’ loss to the Hanshin Tigers meant the Dragons managed to lower their magic number to one despite the loss. Chunichi can clinch the league title with a win over the Giants on Saturday or if the Swallows lose to the Yokohama BayStars.
Chunichi fans were in a celebratory mood after scoring off Sawamura in the first inning, but that would be all the Dragons would muster until Masahiko Morino’s ninth-inning solo homer, which came with the game well out of reach.
“He’s a good pitcher,” Dragons slugger Tony Blanco said of Sawamura. “He’s got a good fastball.”
Alex Ramirez led the way for the Giants at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a solo homer. Hisayoshi Chono also went deep in the first inning and finished with a pair of hits.
“Chono’s home run got us going, but Ramirez was the key batter tonight with three hits,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “I look for him to keep up his hot hitting tomorrow.”
Giants infielder Takayuki Terauchi ended his night with two RBIs and Daisuke Fujimura and Yoshinobu Takahashi also drove in runs.
Dragons rookie Yudai Ono (0-1), the winning pitcher in the farm league championship game on Oct. 8, got the start for Chunichi, allowing seven runs — six earned — on nine hits over four innings.
Morino drove in both of Chunichi’s runs, with a sacrifice fly in the first inning and his aforementioned homer in the ninth.
Tigers 10, Swallows 1
Fighters 8, Buffaloes 1