Like two old heavyweights slugging it out, the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers went toe-to-toe Wednesday night at Tokyo Dome, trading blows until one of them dropped.
In the end, the Tigers were left standing in the battle between the storied Central League rivals, 7-6 winners thanks to Takashi Toritani's second home run of the night and his third in two days.
"Today's win is huge for us and gets us a bit closer to the Climax Series," said Toritani. "We have another big game tomorrow and we just have to keep on winning if we want to make the playoffs."
Kazuya Tsutsui worked one inning in relief to get his first win of the season for the Tigers while closer Kyuji Fujikawa struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 22nd save.
Lefty Minoru Iwata started for Hanshin, giving up six runs on seven hits through five innings.
Giants reliever Takahiko Nomaguchi (0-1) was saddled with the loss. He struck out six over three innings, but also allowed a pair of runs on four hits.
The game started with a bang when Hanshin leadoff hitter Ryo Asai slammed a game-opening home run off Giants starter Shun Tono in the top of the first-inning. A Tomoaki Kanemoto sacrifice fly soon made it 2-0 and it looked as if the Tigers were on their way to taking two straight from the league leaders after their 11th-inning 5-3 win a night earlier.
But Yomiuri stormed right back, putting three runs on the board in the home half of the first off Iwata.
Alex Ramirez stroked an RBI double to left and, after Iwata walked Yoshitomo Tani to load the bases with two out, the hot-hitting Shinnosuke Abe smacked a two-run single back up the middle to put the Giants on top 3-2 after one inning of play.
That set the tone for a game that would have many ebbs and flows. Yomiuri scored a pair of runs in the third on a two-run double by Daisuke Nakai, only to see Hanshin tie the game 5-5 in the fifth courtesy of a three-run jack to right by Toritani off Giants reliever Soichi Fujita.
A solo homer by Tani off Iwata in the bottom of the inning gave the Giants a one-run edge, but Asai's RBI triple in the sixth off Nomaguchi tied the game once again.
That set the stage for Toritani's game-winning solo shot off Nomaguchi to lead off the seventh, his 18th home run of the year and his fourth RBI of the game.
Asai was Hanshin's other offensive star of the night, contributing a home run, two singles, a triple and a pair of RBIs to the cause as the Tigers scrap it out for the third and final playoff spot in the CL.
Giants leadoff hitter Hayato Sakamoto went 3-for-5 at the dish and struck out twice.
The starting pitchers combined to hit five batters. Tono drilled three Tigers, which was quite a feat considering he only lasted 2 2/3 innings.
The Tigers will go for a three-game sweep of the CL leaders when the clubs meet tonight at Tokyo Dome. Right-hander Wirfin Obispo is expected to start for the Giants against either Yasutomo Kubo or Atsushi Nomi.