Tsuyoshi Ueda had four hits, including a two-run home run to spark the Tokyo Yakult Swallows to a 6-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons that left Yakult one win away from its sixth Central League pennant.
Ueda opened the bottom of the first with a single off Daisuke Yamai (4-12), went to third on Shingo Kawabata’s double and scored on a groundout by CL RBI leader Kazuhiro Hatakeyama. Ueda’s first homer of the season capped a four-run second inning following RBI doubles by Takahiro Iamanami and Yuhei Nakamura.
A day after nail-biting series at Tokyo Dome with the second-place Yomiuri Giants ended in a 2-1 Yakult win and a magic number of three to win the pennant, the Swallows were loose and relaxed at Jingu Stadium against the struggling Dragons. The Giants’ loss to the Hanshin Tigers means a win at home on Tuesday against the Hiroshima Carp will clinch it.
“That was one severe game the players and fans endured yesterday. And we came out today to take one more step toward a championship,” Ueda said. “We heard a happy commotion from the right-field stands so we thought the Tigers had beaten them (the Giants). “We want to win it here tomorrow.”
Rookie right-hander Toshihiru Sugiura (1-3) allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings to earn his first win of the season.
“It’s fairly lame to have to talk about your first win at this stage of the season, but I’ll just keep at it,” said Sugiura, the Swallows’ first-round draft pick in 2013. “We’ve got so many good pitchers in the bullpen ready to go, so I just did my best to keep the Dragons from getting lots of runners on, focusing on one out at a time.”
Kawabata purchased additional insurance for Yakult in the eighth with a two-out solo home run.
After 2⅓ scoreless innings from three relievers, Takeaki Tokuyama allowed a leadoff walk and a two-out single, causing rookie manager Mitsuru Manaka to call for closer Tony Barnette, who got a groundout to record his 40th save.
Tigers 2, Giants 0
At Koshien Stadium, Shintaro Fujinami (14-6) struck out eight and overcame a pair of hard-hit balls in the ninth to complete an eight-hit shutout as Hanshin dealt a blow to Yomiuri’s slim hopes of winning the CL for the fourth straight year.
Carp 8, BayStars 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Hiroki Kuroda (10-8) allowed a run on four hits over eight innings, and Kosuke Tanaka tripled, homered and drove in two runs as Hiroshima kept its hopes for a playoff spot alive with a win over Yokohama. The Carp remained 1½ games behind the third-place Tigers with five games to play.
Marines 4, Lions 2
At Seibu Prince Dome, Alfredo Despaigne singled, homered and drove in three runs in support of Ayumu Ishikawa (12-12), who allowed two runs in six innings to earn a huge win as Chiba Lotte beat Seibu to move within a half game of the PL’s final playoff spot.
Lions leadoff man Shogo Akiyama had his 209th hit with two games remaining in the season. Akiyama’s total is now tied with Norichika Aoki for third highest in the record book behind Ichiro Suzuki’s 210 and Matt Murton’s 214.
Fighters 5, Hawks 3
At Yafuoku Dome, Brandon Laird brought Hokkaido Nippon Ham from behind with his 34th home run, an eighth-inning grand slam that sank Softbank.
Buffaloes 10, Eagles 4
At Kyocera Dome, fifth-place Orix came from behind to beat last-place Tohoku Rakuten with a 10-run eighth inning before a modest crowd of 11,515.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.