Takahiro Arai hit a come-from-behind three-run homer and the Hiroshima Carp beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 5-2 for their fourth straight win on Friday, cutting the magic number to clinch the Central League to seven.
Ryosuke Kikuchi and Yoshihiro Maru both hit two-out singles in the fifth after the Carp surrendered two runs in the bottom of the fourth, and Arai belted his homer over the left-field fence off Swallows lefty Masanori Ishikawa (6-8).
Up next was Seiya Suzuki, who also went deep to left to chase Ishikawa at Jingu Stadium.
The Yomiuri Giants’ 8-7 defeat to the Chunichi Dragons saw the Carp, chasing their first CL title in 25 years, take another stride toward the goal.
“I could see the delight of the red fans in the stand as the ball went in,” said Arai, who leads the CL with 94 RBIs. “I’m not conscious (about the league title) too much, but it’s great if the fans are happy.”We’d like to keep lessening the magic number so we don’t have to rely on other teams, but on our own hands.”
Hiroshima’s Yusuke Nomura (13-3) allowed a leadoff solo homer to Takahiro Araki in the fourth and surrendered another run on an RBI single from Atsushi Ugumori after giving up a single and a walk, but the Carp offense came to his rescue and handed him his CL-leading 13th win of the season, alongside teammate Kris Johnson.
Nomura allowed two runs on four hits and a walk as he fanned four over six innings, while his Ishikawa gave up four runs on nine hits and a walk over 4-2/3 innings with two strikeouts.
Yakult’s second reliever, Kenichi Matsuoka, gave up a single and two walks in the seventh and Yoshiyuki Ishihara’s RBI double completed the scoring.
Dragons 8, Giants 7
At Tokyo Dome, Chunichi won its fourth straight after Shuhei Takahashi drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI single in a five-run sixth as the Dragons scored eight runs off Yomiuri’s Tetsuya Utsumi (7-6).
Ryosuke Hirata had three RBIs, while the Giants’ Luis Cruz had four RBIs.
BayStars 5, Tigers 3
At Koshien Stadium, Yokohama’s Jose Lopez singled in the first run off Hanshin’s Takumi Akiyama (0-1) in the first and had a solo shot in the sixth behind seven strong innings from Kenta Ishida (9-4), who allowed two runs over seven innings to snap the BayStars’ three-game losing streak.
The Tigers lost their season-worst sixth straight.
Hawks 8, Eagles 6
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Fukuoka SoftBank’s Nobuhiro Matsuda tripled in two runs in the ninth off Tohoku Rakuten closer Yuki Matsui (1-4).
Yuki Yoshimura twice drove in a go-ahead run before the Eagles scored three runs to tie the game in the eighth.
Buffaloes 5, Fighters 2
At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, Orix’s Hiroyuki Nakajima hit a bases-loaded RBI single off reliever Yuya Ishii as Hokkaido Nippon Ham blew a two-run lead in the seventh.
Lions at Marines — late