Akihiro Yano hit an 11th-inning two-run homer off Yomiuri closer Marc Kroon as the Hanshin Tigers eked out a 5-3 win over the Central League-leading Giants on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.
The Tigers, Yakult Swallows and Hiroshima Carp all began the day within 1 1/2 games of each other in the battle for the third playoff spot in the Central League. Whichever team emerges from the dogpile will join the Giants and Chunichi Dragons in the postseason.
Yano's opposite-field home run to right made a winner of Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa, who worked the final two frames to improve to 5-3 on the year.
Kroon (1-3) took the loss after coming in to start the 10th inning for Tatsunori Hara's club. Takahiro Arai led off the 11th for Hanshin by reaching base on an error to shortstop Hayato Sakamoto. Kroon retired the next two batters before Yano went yard.
Earlier, Michihiro Ogasawara slashed an RBI double to left in the bottom of the third off Hanshin starter Yuya Ando to score the speedy Tetsuya Matsumoto all the way from first as the Giants got on the board first.
Giants starter Dicky Gonzalez ran into some tough luck the following frame. With two out, Takashi Toritani hammered a ball out to left field that looked like it could have been caught at the wall by Alex Ramirez but instead went in the books as a double. Tomoaki Kanemoto then drew a walk when a Gonzalez full-count slider just missed outside. Arai followed with a soft grounder up the middle that shortstop Sakamoto corralled behind second, but his throw home was just late as Toritani was able to beat the tag to score the tying run.
A sacrifice fly to deep right off the bat of Abe restored Yomiuri's lead in the bottom of the fourth but the Tigers would jump ahead--briefly--with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth on a solo homer by Toritani and an RBI single to center from Kentaro Sekimoto. Sekimoto's line shot to center nearly scored a pair, but outfielder Matsumoto came up throwing and gunned Arai out at the plate as he tried to score from second.
Abe, who had heatedly objected when Toritani was called safe at home in the fourth inning, was able to channel his energy, taking Ando deep to center leading off the bottom of the sixth for a game-tying solo homer, his 27th blast of the season.
Gonzalez came up short in his bid for his 14th win of the season. He allowed three runs on nine hits and one walk through seven innings, but did not factor in the decision.
Tigers right-hander Ando also allowed three runs through six innings of work. He gave up seven hits and walked three while striking out four.