If the Tokyo Yakult Swallows go on to win the Central League pennant, as most expect them to do, the club and its fans might look back at the three-game sweep of the Yokohama BayStars this past weekend as the critical point in the race.

The aura of near-invincibility the Swallows built over the first half of the season had dissipated in late July and early August, as a once double-digit lead in the CL standings was whittled down to four. That, combined with a road series against a red-hot BayStars team that had won 17 straight at home, set the stage for Yokohama to turn up the pressure on Yakult to the maximum level.

Except while the BayStars entered the series with momentum, the Swallows had Munetaka Murakami.