TOKYO (Kyodo) – Joe Gunkel allowed a six innings run and Yoshio Itoi scored a three run double on Sunday as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Yomiuri Giants 4-3 in a Central League hopefuls bout.
The Tigers, who chase the Yakult Swallows at a win percentage of 0.584 to 0.575, advanced four games ahead of the third-placed Giants.
Gunkel (8-3) allowed four hits but no walks, while beating three at Tokyo Dome when the Tigers drew 2-0 in their three-game series at the Giants’ home stadium.
Yusuke Oyama opened the scoring for Hanshin by taking a solo home run in the third inning, his 17th, ahead of Shun Yamaguchi (2-7), who was torn after the next batter.
Yohei Kagiya, Yomiuri’s third pitcher, picked up the hill in the fifth with an out and two and walked the loaded bases before giving up Itoi’s two-out double.
“That was really great for us because the Giants are a strong team that we have to beat,” said Itoi.
Gunkel gave up a run on Seiya Matsubara’s 11th home run in the sixth, making it a 4-1 game. The Giants rallied by two more in eighth place against Tigers setup man Suguru Iwazaki, but were closed in ninth place when Robert Suarez scored his 34th save.
“I don’t think we’re playing that well as a team right now, but everyone is playing hard,” said coach Akihiro Yano, a key member of the Tigers’ last championship team in 2005.
At Jingu Stadium, Tetsuto Yamada scored two home runs, including a Grand Slam, and ran seven runs as the Swallows beat the Chunichi Dragons 16-0 and won eight straight decisions for the first time in 10 years.
At Yokohama Stadium, Ryosuke Kikuchi homered and drove in three runs in the Hiroshima Carp’s 10-8 victory over the DeNA BayStars.
At the MetLife Dome, Yudai Fujioka drove four runs to lead the Pacific League Lotte Marines to an 8-4 win over the Seibu Lions and a three-game lead over runner-up Orix Buffaloes.
At the Kyocera Dome Osaka, Masahiro Tanaka of the Rakuten Eagles allowed a run of seven innings just for his teammates to draw level in the ninth game against another former major league player, Orix closer Yoshihisa Hirano, in a 1-1 draw .
At the PayPay Dome, Richard Sunagawa’s solo home run tied in the seventh inning when the SoftBank Hawks came from behind and beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 4-1. The victory moved the four-time defending champions of the Japan Series within 1-1 / 2 games to the third-placed Eagles and the final playoff place in the PL.