The Yomiuri Giants might have the bigger names but the Yakult Swallows came up with the bigger games this weekend at Tokyo Dome.
On Sunday, left-hander Kyohei Muranaka humbled the mighty Giants, holding them to a pair of runs on five hits while striking out 11 over eight innings in a 5-2 Swallows win as Yakult took two of three from the defending Central League champions to start the season.
Muranaka's gem came a day after young right-hander Yoshinori Sato also dominated the Giants, restricting Yomiuri to one run on five hits over his eight-inning stint as the Swallows won that one 10-5 after dropping Friday's season-opener 4-1.
"After (Masanori) Ishikawa and Yoshinori pitched aggressively in the first two games, I wanted to follow suit," said Muranaka (1-0), who threw 123 pitches over his eight frames. "I didn't have a game plan that included 11 strikeouts, but I'll take it. I was really hoping to go the distance today, but the main thing is we beat the Giants, something we'll have to do often if we hope to improve on our third-place finish from last year."
Swallows closer Lim Chang-yong finished it off for Muranaka. He got Alex Ramirez to ground out to third before striking out Yoshiyuki Kamei and Edgar Gonzalez to end it.
Norichika Aoki and Aaron Guiel drove in two runs apiece for Yakult. Guiel crunched his second homer of the season in the top of the second inning off Giants right-hander Shun Tono (0-1), who allowed three runs on seven hits through six innings in taking the loss.
Guiel was also credited with an RBI after getting hit by a Tono pitch with the bases loaded in the third inning, while Aoki slapped a two-out RBI single through the left side of the infield in the third and added another run-scoring single in the seventh off reliever Masahide Kobayashi.
Jamie D'Antona, who drove in five runs with on a pair of homers and an RBI single in Saturday's win, was 2-for-3 on Sunday with an RBI single and a walk. He followed Aoki's RBI single in the seventh with one of his own off Kobayashi, who spent the past two seasons with the Cleveland Indians.
"We need a lot of guys producing for our team to be successful," Guiel said. "I'm just happy if I can do my part."
Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto drove in both of his team's runs. The young leadoff hitter knocked in a run on a groundout to short after Tetsuya Matsumoto had tripled in the sixth and he took Muranaka over the wall in left for a solo homer in the eighth.
In other CL action Sunday, Yuki Yoshimura's seventh-inning sacrifice fly to right proved to be the difference as the Yokohama BayStars edged the Hanshin Tigers 3-2 at Osaka's Kyocera Dome. Kodai Sakurai and Craig Brazell had solo homers in the losing cause for Hanshin.
At Nagoya Dome, Dionys Cesar drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Chunichi Dragons scored a walk-off 8-7 win over the Hiroshima Carp.