The only challenge to the red-hot Hanshin Tigers in the Central League pennant race might be the Yomiuri Giants.
Alex Ramirez belted a tie-breaking two-run homer in the seventh inning, added a three-run blast in the eighth and had six RBIs as the Giants came from behind for the second straight night to deflate the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 12-4 and thrill the 45,187 at Tokyo Dome on Saturday.
Ramirez went 4-for-4--adding an RBI single and a double--and took over the CL lead in homers with 29. The first came on the heels of Takuya Kimura's fourth longball, a game-tying solo shot off Kenichi Matsuoka (4-2).
The win boosted second-place Yomiuri to 14-7 in July, and pushed the Giants to a season-best eight games over .500.
"We got started a little late, but we got it going at the right time," Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara said of his rally-happy Giants, who won their third straight despite grounding into three double plays.
"We could have done a better job capitalizing on our early chances."
Kimura and Shinnosuke Abe each had three hits a solo homer and two RBIs, and Michihiro Ogasawara chipped in with three hits. But Ramirez, the CL's top run producer, was the main man as the Giants pounded out 18 hits.
"It's a great feeling," said Ramirez, who recorded all his RBIs over the final three innings. "I was just trying to put the ball in play and I put a good swing on it and it just kept carrying," Ramirez said of his first homer.
The second, he said, was a no-doubter.
"After I hit the ball, I knew the ball was going to go out of the park."
When asked about his very productive No. 4 batter, Hara shot back: "He's good."
Yomiuri's bullpen was also good. It tossed 4-2/3 scoreless innings, lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi (5-2) getting the win with a perfect sixth.
Second-year Yakult righty Tsuyoshi Masubuchi waddled through five scoreless innings, often falling behind, before the Giants, down 4-0, put the first two batters on against him in the sixth.
After a double and a single got Masubuchi the quick hook, Ryota Igarashi came on and allowed an Ramirez's RBI single and a walk before getting a run-scoring double play. But Abe singled to right on an 0-2 pitch to pull Yomiuri to within a run at 4-3.
In the seventh, Kimura opened the frame by blasting a hanger into the seats in right to even things.
"It was a hanging curve," Kimura said. "My body just reacted and I was right on it. I didn't think it would go out of the ballpark, but the ball really carried for me. We couldn't keep messing around, and I wanted to go up there and do something."
Ogasawara then singled to right and Ramirez went deep to bury the Swallows.