YOKOHAMA – Shun Yamaguchi pitched into the seventh inning at his old stomping grounds as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Yokohama BayStars 9-4 to lower their magic number to clinch the Central League pennant to two on Friday.
“The guys worked hard to get me runs, starting in the first inning,” said Yamaguchi, who joined Yomiuri after the 2016 season. “The relievers are all pretty tired at this part of the season, but they hung in there.”
“I’m looking forward to winning a pennant more than anything, more than individual numbers. But winning at ‘Hamasta’ (Yokohama Stadium) feels great.”
Yamaguchi (15-4) allowed four runs in 6-2/3 innings. He surrendered three hits, issued three walks and hit two batters while striking out six.
The Giants can clinch their first CL pennant since 2014 here with another win over the BayStars on Saturday.
After both teams scored two runs in the first inning, Shunta Tanaka scored the go-ahead run for the Giants in the second. He doubled with one out against Kentaro Taira (5-6) and scored on Yoshiyuki Kamei’s RBI single, an at-bat that was made possible by Yamaguchi drawing a two-out walk.
Takumi Oshiro homered in the third to put the league leaders in the driver’s seat. Shinnosuke Shigenobu led off the Giants’ sixth with a home run to make it 5-2, and the visitors tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh.
The BayStars, however, knocked Yamaguchi from the mound in the bottom of the inning. A hit batsman and a single by catcher Hikaru Ito left reliever Kan Otake with a two-out, two-on situation. Yamato Maeda, who has a solid portfolio of late-inning heroics this season, doubled to make it 7-4.
Lefty Kota Nakagawa loaded the bases with two walks to bring CL home run leader Neftali Soto to the plate. The right-handed slugger, who led the league in homers in his 2018 debut season, had homered twice the night before. Giants right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura, however, struck Soto out to end the inning.
The Giants added two runs in the ninth on solo home runs by Hayato Sakamoto, his 39th, and Kazuma Okamoto, his 30th.
Hawks 1, Fighters 0
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Rick van den Hurk (2-0) pitching for the first time since he was hurt in his belated season debut on June 4, struck out eight over six innings for second-place Fukuoka SoftBank in a win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Lions 5, Eagles 3
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Seibu lowered its magic number to clinch a second-straight pennant to four when Ernesto Mejia hit a two-run, pinch-hit home run to beat Tohoku Rakuten.
Buffaloes 11, Marines 8
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Stefen Romero homered and drove in four runs, while Brandon Dickson notched his 17th save as Orix outslugged Chiba Lotte.