Ikuro Katsuragi drove in the winning run in the eighth inning and Tigers veteran Tomoaki Kanemoto recovered from a beanball in the head to lead Hanshin past the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday night.
The Tigers edged their Central League rivals 5-4 a day after scoring an 8-4 victory over the Kyojin, also at Tokyo Dome. The front-running Tigers improved to 23-9-1 with the win while Yomiuri is now 15-18-1.
Hirotaka Egusa (1-0) got the win for the Tigers, working one hitless inning in relief. Closer Kyuji Fujikawa tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for Hanshin to earn his 12th save of the season.
The Giants got to Hanshin starter Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi early when Yoshiyuki Kamei led off the bottom of the first inning with a single. Two batters later, Alex Ramirez cashed him in when he clubbed a two-run homer into the Tigers' cheering section in left field.
That lead wouldn't last long, however. Half an inning later, Takashi Toritani and Akihiro Yano belted back-to-back homers off Giants starter Hiroshi Kisanuki to make it 3-2 Tigers. Toritani's blast came after Katsuragi had led off the top of the second with a single while Yano's was a solo shot.
The Giants loaded the bases in their half of the second on consecutive singles by Luis Gonzalez, Yoshitomo Tani and Takuya Kimura. But Shimoyanagi, crafty veteran that he is, got his opposite number Kisanuki to fly out to shallow right, struck out Kamei and got Hayato Sakamoto on another fly to right.
Sakamoto's fly ball looked to be pretty routine, until right fielder Katsuragi stumbled on the turf and went down as he moved into position to make the catch. The veteran outfielder, however, bounced back up and was able to make the catch as a packed crowd in Tokyo Dome held its collective breath.
There was a scary moment in the top of the third when a Kisanuki fastball got away from him and hit Tigers veteran Kanemoto square in the helmet. As Kanemoto lay in the batter's box being attended to by several members of the Hanshin training staff, home-plate umpire Masaharu Kasahara announced that Kisanuki's night was over, tossing the right-hander for throwing a dangerous pitch.
After eventually shaking off the cobwebs, Kanemoto emerged from the Tigers dugout and took first base.
Kanemoto would have to wait a few innings to get his revenge, which came in the sixth inning when he slammed a Ken Kadokura 143-kph forkball over the fence in right to tack on one more run and give Hanshin a 4-2 lead.
Elsewhere in the CL, the Chunichi Dragons crushed the visiting Hiroshima Carp 10-3. At Yokohama Stadium the Yakult Swallows downed the BayStars 2-1.
In the PL, the Rakuten Eagles defeated the Softbank Hawks 9-7, and the Seibu Lions edged the Nippon-Ham Fighters 4-3. At Kyocera Dome, the Orix Buffaloes defeated the Lotte Marines 7-6 in 10 innings.
(IHT/Asahi: May 8,2008)