Just over two weeks after turning 40, Hanshin's Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi hardly looked his age on Friday.
Shimoyanagi, throwing harder than he had all season, allowed three hits and left with a two-run lead before the Central League-leading Tigers exploded for five late runs in a 7-0 beating of the Yokohama BayStars for their fourth straight win.
The left-hander, who earned his third win since turning 40 on May 16, improved to 8-1 while the Tigers moved 25 games over .500 and maintained their 9-1/2-game cushion over the second-place Chunichi Dragons.
"His control was a little off early, but his condition was better than it has been all year," said catcher Akihiro Yano, whose fourth-inning homer broke a scoreless tie.
"His pitches were moving a lot and he showed what he's capable of by adjusting in mid-game. As the game went on, he just got better.
"I thought that if we could score even one run, we would be locked in toward a win."
The Tigers twice squandered solid scoring opportunities before Yano broke the ice against rookie Futoshi Kobayashi (2-5).
"I got some help from the wind on that, but the way our guy was pitching, we didn't need much luck," Yano said. "It's like our results this year, some of it is luck, but a lot is skill."
The middle of the Tigers order showed some skill in the fifth inning, adjusting to Kobayashi's high fastballs to set up another run.
No. 3 hitter Takahiro Arai and cleanup man Tomoaki Kanemoto each lined high pitches for back- to-back singles to open the fifth. With one out after left fielder Hiroaki Onishi's excellent catch of a foul fly, Takeshi Toritani singled home Arai.
The Tigers were primed for another score, but Kanemoto gave away an out on the bases. Yano lined a shot off Kobayashi. The ball was grabbed by first baseman Seiichi Uchikawa, who had no play at first, and Yano was robbed of a hit by the official scorer, who ruled it a fielder's choice after Kanemoto was tagged out in a rundown between home and third.
Kobayashi left the mound, having allowed two runs in 4-2/3 innings. He struck out one, walked three and hit a batter, but still managed to keep the Tigers from escaping.
The BayStars besieged bullpen helped keep the outcome in question with 2-2/3 defiant innings. Lefty Shigetoshi Yamakita got out of the fifth, and the newly acquired duo of righty Hiroki Sanada and lefty Yuya Ishii kept the score 2-0 through eight.
Sanada, who arrived in a June 10 trade from Yomiuri, worked 1-1/3 and supplied Yokohama's only 1-2-3 inning of the night. Ishii, acquired on June 16 from Chunichi, struck out three in 1-2/3 innings on his 27th birthday.
Shimoyanagi, who had little trouble after a two-on, no-out jam in the second, threw 93 pitches. After he was gone, the last-place BayStars got a chance against right-hander Ryo Watanabe in the eighth.
Pinch-hitter Takahiro Saeki delivered a leadoff double and Toshihisa Nishi drew a one-out walk. Watanabe, however, got CL batting leader Uchikawa to fly out and ended the threat on a groundout.
The Tigers then purchased purchased five runs worth of insurance at the expense of right- handers Matt White and Hiroyasu Oyamada in the ninth.
Kanemoto doubled to open the inning and Lin Wei-chu drove in his second run of the season--his first came in his belated season debut at-bat on May 29. This one made it a 3-0 game and snapped a streak of 58 at-bats without an RBI for the Taiwan international.