Lee Seung Yeop continued to rock on Sunday, belting a big three-run homer as the Yomiuri Giants won their 10th straight game and pulled into a tie for the Central League lead.
Despite hitting his sixth home run in seven games, Lee played down his impact on Yomiuri's surge after a 9-5 victory over the Hanshin Tigers left the two clubs in a flat-footed tie for first place.
"I missed so many games, so I can't really say anything about how the team got where it is," said Lee, who spent 3-1/2 months on the farm team after failing to hit early on. "I'm just trying to contribute whatever I can to make up for that portion of the season when I was not even here."
Lee's blast off Scott Atchison capped an eight-run fifth inning as the Giants wiped out an early deficit. With the team trailing by two against lefty Minoru Iwata (9-9), Lee opened the inning with a double and scored on a single by Yoshitomo Tani.
"He's a good pitcher, so I only expected to get one good pitch in that at-bat," Lee said of his rally-starter.
A flare hit and a hit batsman loaded the bases for Takahiro Suzuki, who hit the first pitch from Iwata for a two-run, bases-loaded double. A two-out walk and a fly off the bat of Alex Ramirez that fell in for a two-run single brought Lee to the plate with a chance to put the Tigers out of the game early.
"We are playing so well because everyone is contributing and going all out," said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara. "Because of that, we have so many options and combinations with different players. I think that is part of the winning feeling we have now, that we're in this together."
Ace Koji Uehara (5-4) allowed two runs on two hits in five innings before leaving for a pinch-hitter in the middle of the fifth-inning rally. The right-hander struck out five and walked none.
"He did well," Hara said. "I'm sure he's not satisfied about giving up home runs in two straight at-bats to their cleanup hitter, but he was good."
After being muzzled for two nights (1-for-7) Tomoaki Kanemoto hit solo homers in his first two at-bats to stake Iwata to a 2-0 lead.
The Giants, who didn't get a hit off Iwata until a scratch single with two outs in the fourth, solved him soon after that.
Lee, who had walked in the second before Yoshitomo Tani erased him by grounding into a double play, doubled to lead off the fifth and went to third on a passed ball. Tani then made amends by plating Lee with a single.
With one out, Hayato Sakamoto mishit a ball out of the zone but lucked into a bloop single. With Uehara due to bat, Hara pulled his pitcher, and pinch-hitter Noriyoshi Omichi was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
"In that situation, I had to gamble on the knockout blow," Hara said. "I needed someone to keep the rally going and Omichi did that."
With the bases loaded, Iwata came with a slider in the zone to Suzuki. The Giants leadoff man seized the moment and silenced Hanshin's sizable support group with a double to the gap in right center. Three batters and three pitchers later, the bases were jammed for Alex Ramirez, who drove in two and set a CL record for foreign batters with his 1,338th hit.
Lee then put the game out of reach, and Shinnosuke Abe hit a solo homer off Atchison in the sixth.
The Giants head to Hiroshima today, eager to take on the third-place Carp--against whom they are 8-11-1.
"This is no time to look back. Our goal is still ahead of us," Hara said. "Tomorrow is a travel-day game and the Carp have been playing well."