TOKYO (Kyodo) — Munetaka Murakami hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning and the Central League leaders Yakult Swallows won a seesaw game 11-10 over second-placed Yomiuri Giants on Sunday.
With balls flying out of Jingu Stadium all weekend, the Swallows bounced back from a 19-5 blowout on Saturday and erased a 5-1 deficit with a six-run third inning held by rookie shortstop Hideki Nagaokas was crowned with a triple home run.
Reliever Reiji Kozawa ended up at the top of the third team with no outs and loaded bases and prevented more runs from scoring, but gave up the lead on sixth-inning homers from Sho Nakata and Yoshihiro Maru.
After both teams scored in the seventh goal, Yakult builder Noboru Shimizu (3-1) managed a 1-2-3 eighth, and Giants right-hander Ryuta Heinai (3-2) met Murakami with two ons and an out.
The CL home run leader blew his 26th high over the midfield wall and put Yakult on course to win his 12th straight series – including one against all of Nippon Professional Baseball‘s other 11 teams.
“I’m relieved and quite exhausted,” Murakami said. “We’re just worried about the game ahead and as a result we’ve now won our matchups with 11 different teams in a row and that’s something we can be proud of.”
Swallows closer Scott McGough allowed two runs in the ninth, but Nakata pulled back to end the game with the tie on board to make his 22nd save.
The loss dropped the Giants 11 games from first place. The Hiroshima Carp are one game behind Yomiuri in third place after a 4-3 win in 12 innings over the DeNA BayStars. The fourth-placed Hanshin Tigers beat the Chunichi Dragons 6-5 in 11 innings.
In the Pacific League, Hotaka Yamakawa became the 113th player to hit 200 homers to reach the 697 career game milestone, fewer than any other Japanese batsman. His 23rd and 24th home runs propelled the Seibu Lions to a 2-0 win and a three-game win over second-place Rakuten Eagles.
Hall of Famers Koji Tabuchi and Koji Akiyama had matched the previous record among the Japanese by hitting 200 home runs in 714 professional games.
The Eagles stayed 1-1/2 games behind the SoftBank Hawks, who lost 3-2 to bottom-ranked Nippon Ham Fighters, while Lotte Marines defeated the Orix Buffaloes 3-2.