Lee Seung Yeop homered for the Giants on Sunday afternoon to back a solid outing from lefty Hisanori Takahashi as Yomiuri eked out a 3-2 victory to complete a three-game sweep of the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo Dome.
Lee, the forgotten man of the Giants this season, smacked a solo home run in the bottom of the second off Yakult's 18-year-old rookie starter Yoshinori Sato. It was just the second homer of the season for Lee, the highest-paid player on the club who went yard 30 times last year. The South Korean slugger has been plagued by injury and poor form this year, but he had some key home runs in helping South Korea capture the Olympic baseball gold medal in Beijing.
Takahashi (6-4) went seven innings for Tatsunori Hara's club, restricting the crosstown Swallows to two runs on six hits. He struck out five and walked a pair in a 127-pitch outing.
"I didn't pitch that well in my last start, so I went out there today determined to do a better job," Takahashi said. "We're playing well right now and we have to take it one day, and one game, at a time."
Closer Marc Kroon pitched a scoreless ninth to get his 34th save of the season, setting a new Giants' save record in the process after Koji Uehara managed 32 last year. Kroon hit the first man he faced, Yakult cleanup-hitter Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, in the shoulder with a fastball and he also bounced a pitch into catcher Shinnosuke Abe's face, but he settled down to strike out the last two batters with two men on base, one courtesy of an error by second-baseman Shigeyuki Furuki.
The Giants picked up their other two runs in the third inning on a Michihiro Ogasawara RBI double to right and a run-scoring single back up the middle by Alex Ramirez.
Sato, a highly touted rookie right-hander, saw his record fall to 1-1. He went six innings, allowing three runs on just four hits. He struck out seven, walked four and he hit a batter as well.
It was also Sato who got his team on the scoreboard in the fifth inning when he launched a sacrifice fly to left field to score Hiroyasu Tanaka from third. Swallows shortstop Keizo Kawashima accounted for his club's other run when he slammed a solo homer off Takahashi into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2.
Giants cleanup-hitter Ramirez was 1-for-3 and was hit by a pitch Sunday. Ramirez is sitting on 149 hits this year and his next hit will make him the only player in the history of the Central League to get 150 or more hits in seven straight seasons. Giants legend Shigeo Nagashima and Takuro Ishii of the Yokohama BayStars each did it for six consecutive seasons and former Seibu Lions shortstop Kazuo Matsui got at least 150 hits for seven consecutive seasons in the Pacific League.
Ramirez, in his first year with Yomiuri after seven seasons with the Swallows, is also two home runs shy of 250 for his NPB career. Another milestone on the horizon for the Venezuela native is the record for hits by a foreign player in the CL, currently held by former Giants star Wally Yonamine. Ramirez is four hits behind Yonamine's total of 1,337.
Ogasawara is also on the cusp of a career milestone with 299 home runs.
The Giants' win Sunday was their fourth straight and their 70th of the season as they try to catch the first-place Hanshin Tigers in the standings. Yakult's playoff hope further diminished as they fell to 55-64-3.
The Giants now face the lowly BayStars in Yokohama before hosting the Tigers for a key three-game set at Tokyo Dome next weekend.
Elsewhere in the CL, the Hiroshima Carp defeated the Hanshin Tigers 3-1 at Koshien Stadium, and at Yokohama Stadium, the Chunichi Dragons beat the BayStars 8-4.