The Yomiuri Giants aren’t giving up first place without a fight.
Especially not to their fiercest rivals.
Hirokazu Ibata drove in the tiebreaking run in the fourth inning, and the Yomiuri pitching staff, led on this night by Chris Seddon, kept the Hanshin Tigers caged during a 4-1 win in front of a crowd of 46,006 on Thursday at Tokyo Dome.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time and trying to stay ahead of the Tigers,” Ibata said.
The Giants began the series on Tuesday night with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Tigers at the top of the Central League standings, meaning Hanshin could’ve left Tokyo in first place with a sweep.
The Tigers applied some pressure with a win in the opener, but the Giants bounced back with consecutive victories to come out the other side with a 2 1/2-game lead.
Hayato Sakamoto went 2-for-3 with an RBI double for the Giants on Thursday. Shuichi Murata also drove in a run, with an RBI single in the eighth that was the highlight of his 1-for-3 night at the plate.
Seddon (4-3) was solid on the mound for 5 2/3 innings, allowing only Mauro Gomez’s solo homer in the second. Seddon struck out four and walked two on his way to becoming a winner in his first experience in the historic Giants-Tigers rivalry.
“I just tried to get some quick outs and I’m glad we were able to win,” Seddon said. “It was an awesome game to be a part of.”
The left-hander has had an up-and-down first season in Japan. His scheduled debut was washed out by rain. After finally getting on the mound, he was 2-0 after three starts, which included a 15-strikeout gem in his first game.
Seddon lost the next three times he took the mound and was sent to the ni-gun team in late May. He didn’t make another start on the top team until Aug. 8, when he threw 5 1/3 frames in a win over the Chunichi Dragons.
“Seddon pitched well, only giving up the one run on the Gomez home run,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “I know I can count on him again.”
Shintaro Fujinami (8-5) was charged with the loss for Hanshin. The second-year hurler threw two-run ball for seven innings, striking out eight, walking three and hitting one batter.
Gomez’s home run was his 19th of the year and he also singled twice to finish 3-for-4. The Hanshin infielder is hitting .289 and leads the team with 83 RBIs this season.
“It was good today,” Gomez said of his performance. “Just relaxed, trying to get a good pitch and trying to stay back. It worked.”
Yomiuri’s Hisayoshi Chono led off the bottom of the first with a double, and Itaru Hashimoto moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt. Sakamoto doubled off the wall in left-center to bring in Chono and make the score 1-0.
Gomez got the Tigers even with his home run in the top of the second.
Yomiuri loaded the bases against Fujinami in the fourth and retook the lead on Ibata’s sacrifice fly.
The Kyojin tacked on an insurance run in the eighth when pinch runner Takahiro Suzuki scored from third on a wild pitch.
“I got a good look at the ball getting past the catcher and got a good start,” Suzuki said.
Murata gave the home team a 4-1 lead with an RBI single later in the inning.
Miura wins again
Nagoya — Daisuke Miura (4-4) threw seven scoreless innings to win his fourth consecutive decision as the Yokohama BayStars beat the Chunichi Dragons 2-0 on Thursday in the Central League.
Tony Blanco opened the scoring with a first-inning RBI single and Toshiki Kurobane added a run-scoring single in the eighth at Nagoya Dome. The Dragons wasted a one-out bases-loaded chance in the sixth.
Swallows at Carp — ppd.
Hawks 4, Eagles 3 (10)
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Yuki Yanagita had a tying eighth-inning RBI single and pinch hitter Nobuhiko Matsunaka drew a bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning to lift Fukuoka Softbank to a sayonara victory over Tohoku Rakuten.
Dennis Sarfate (5-1) got the win in relief and Hiroshi Katayama (0-1) was charged with the loss.
Fighters 11, Marines 7
At Sapporo Dome, Yang Dai-kang went 4-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs and Atsunori Inaba hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Yuki Karakawa (1-8) in the fifth inning as Hokkaido Nippon Ham powered past Chiba Lotte to return to .500.
Second-year righty Hidekazu Kawano (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning in relief for his first career win.
Buffaloes 9, Lions 4
At Seibu Dome, Hikaru Ito had a tying RBI double in the seventh inning and Orix piled on six runs when it sent 11 batters to the plate in the eighth, featuring a Takayoshi Kawabata two-run double, en route to a win over Seibu.
Rookie Daiki Tomei (3-5) pitched seven innings of three-run ball to win for the first time since June 7.