Hanshin closer Oh Seung-hwan blew the save and the game as the Tigers let the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants walk off with a 4-3 victory Tuesday.
With the Tigers up 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, CL saves leader Oh (1-3) allowed a leadoff double to Shinnosuke Abe, who had brought the Giants within one with a two-run shot in the sixth.
Oh’s wild pitch advanced pinch runner Takanori Suzuki to third, and a sac fly by Shuichi Murata brought home the tying run. The South Korean then walked Kenji Yano, who moved to second on another wild pitch by Oh.
One out later, Jose Lopez drove in pinch runner Taishi Ota with a single to center for the Giants’ fourth win in five games, giving them a 2-1/2-game lead over the second-place Tigers.
“It’s like a miracle how we won the game,” Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara said. “(Lopez’s hit) just fell into the gap. I’m really proud of the team for finding a way to win it in the ninth.”
Oh, who has 32 saves and saw his ERA bloated to 1.98, took the mound after Randy Messenger gave Hanshin eight strong innings in which he struck out nine and scattered four hits, including the home run to Abe that Hara said turned the tide.
“They were completely dictating the game up to that point,” Hara said. “Those two runs changed the flow.”
Kentaro Nishimura (2-4) pitched the last two innings to earn the win. Toshiya Sugiuchi fought through seven innings, throwing 139 pitches and holding Hanshin to three earned runs.
Mauro Gomez and Ryota Arai each had solo home runs for the Tigers.
BayStars 7, Dragons 0
At Nagoya Dome, Cuban slugger Yulieski Gurriel homered in his return from an abdominal injury — his first dinger since July 13 — as Yokohama pounded Chunichi.
Carp 12, Swallows 6
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima rode a seven-run first inning past Tokyo Yakult for its third victory in its last four, closing within half a game of second-place Hanshin.
Fighters 4, Hawks 2
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Hokkaido’s Nippon Ham sophomore fireballer Shohei Otani (10-3) reached double digits in wins for the first time of his career, limiting first-place Fukuoka Softbank to one earned run and striking out nine in seven innings.
Otani threw 124 pitches, allowing just five hits and two walks.
Buffaloes 8, Marines 0
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix starter Takahiro Matsuba (7-1) and three relievers combined to shut out Chiba Lotte, snapping a two-game skid.
The Buffaloes were led at the plate by Takayoshi Kawabata, who hit his first homer of the season in the sixth and drove in three runs.
Lions 8, Eagles 2
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Ernesto Mejia homered twice — Nos. 26 and 27 on the year — and had four RBIs as Seibu schooled Tohoku Rakuten’s heralded rookie Yuki Matsui (2-7), who labored through seven innings, giving up five earned runs.