With the same resilience they have shown all summer, the Yomiuri Giants overcame a five-run deficit on Friday to inch closer to the Central League lead.
Two-run homers by Alex Ramirez, Michihiro Ogasawara and Ryota Wakiya powered the Giants to a wild 11-7 win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Tokyo Dome. The team effort edged the second-place Giants to within five games of the first-place Hanshin Tigers, who lost 4-0 at home to the Hiroshima Carp.
Giants southpaw Tetsuya Utsumi was flattened in a five-run first, but his teammates picked him up.
"After that first inning, he [Utsumi] really gutted it out," said Ogasawara, who went 3-for-4 with four RBIs off Swallows starter Sean Douglass.
"Their guy threw some good pitches, but fortunately I was able to stay on enough of them," Ogasawara said.
Wakiya's two-run shot in the sixth gave the defending CL champs the lead for good, and Yoshitomo Tani iced the game with a three-run, pinch-hit homer off right-hander Takehiko Oshimoto (5-6) in the seventh.
Giants reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi (10-2) got the win after Utsumi allowed seven runs in 5-2/3 innings. Utsumi struck out seven but saw too many of his good pitches spoiled by the pesky Swallows.
After Yasushi Iihara's two-run triple made it 3-0 Swallows, Utsumi buckled. The lefty fell behind 3-0 to Hiroyasu Tanaka, who pounded a high fastball for a two-run homer.
If that was adversity, however, the Giants didn't appear to be under the gun.
First-inning doubles by Takahiro Suzuki and Ogasawara plated one run, and Ramirez followed Ogasawara with a two-run shot. Ramirez's 37th homer of the season, tying him for the CL lead with Yokohama's Shuichi Murata.
Suzuki created another run in the third with a walk and a stolen base before scoring easily on Ogaswara's drive to the warning track in center.
Douglass escaped a fourth-inning scrape, but the fifth was another matter.
Wakiya opened with a ground single and Ogasawara hammered a high fastball away to left for his 29th home run of the year.
"We gave up five runs, but because it was in the first inning, we could come back little by little, inning by inning, with everyone contributing on offense and playing defense," Ogasawara said.
The Swallows retook the lead in the sixth as one-out doubles by Iihara and Tanaka tied it off Utsumi. Ryohei Kawamoto's lucky RBI infield single off Yamaguchi put Yakult back on top.
But this lead, too, proved vulnerable.
Oshimoto, Yakult's third pitcher, surrendered a one-out, sixth-inning single before Wakiya took the right-hander deep with two outs. With Ogasawara on deck, Oshimoto hung a first-pitch forkball, and Wakiya, who had homered twice in 474 career at-bats, lined it over the right-field wall.
With two on in the seventh and the game still in doubt, Tani put the win on ice with his ninth homer of the year. Ramirez and Yoshiyuki Kamei helped set up the knockout blow: Ramirez with a leadoff walk before heads-up running by the pair turned what should have been a single by Kamei into a double to shallow left.
"That's why they call it a team," said Ramirez after a number of reserves played key roles in the comeback and every starter reached base. "It's nine players. It's not only me."