The Yomiuri Giants had been drowning in expectations before the season, so finally their poking their heads above water on Wednesday had to feel better than just a breath of fresh air.
The Giants, who spent most of the previous 65 games under the .500 mark, got a strong start from Adrian Burnside and edged the struggling Orix Buffaloes 2-1 before 41,183 at Tokyo Dome.
The win improved the Central League's third-place team to 33-32-1.
"We're over .500, but the fact that we won another close game is significant," said Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara. "Hopefully we can turn this into some momentum and get going."
Burnside (3-1) cruised through the best of his five starts, limiting the Pacific League's fifth-place team to four hits and no walks, while fanning a half-dozen over six scoreless innings.
Burnside, who said he's nervous before every start, told The Daily Yomiuri he wasn't focused on the importance of the game.
"To tell you the truth, I knew we were right around .500--I knew [last night] we got to .500--but I try not to think about stuff like that," the first-year hurler said.
"I just try and stay within myself. Obviously, it's a big win, but we've got to keep on going."
The Giants led 2-0 by the fourth inning before the offense stalled. But the bullpen picked up the slack, with closer Marc Kroon forced to come on in the eighth inning with runners on first and third and two outs to face Orix slugger Tuffy Rhodes. A check-swing strikeout got the Giants out the jam, and Kroon whiffed all three batters in the ninth to slam the door for his 19th save.
The Giants got a solo homer from Michihiro Ogasawara--his 11th and second in two nights--and saved Takahiro Suzuki from wearing the goat horns after he got picked off first base in the seventh and misjudged a liner. The ensuing triple put the tying run on third in the eighth inning.
All the Buffaloes could muster was an eighth-inning solo homer from Ikki Shimamura--the first career shot from the fifth-year pro.
Ramon Ortiz (3-4) had it going, but found himself on the bench down by two after just five innings and 47 pitches. The right-hander allowed five hits and no walks while fanning two but took the loss.
Yoshinobu Takahashi's second hit of the night produced the game's first run. Hayato Sakamoto used his speed to run a single into a double to open the frame. He moved to third on a flyout, and scored when Takahashi lined a shot off the wall in left for a 1-0 Giants lead.