Kodai Sakurai hammered a three-run homer in the eighth inning Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome as the Hanshin Tigers scratched and clawed their way back from a 6-0 deficit to edge the Yomiuri Giants 9-7 in a marquee Central League matchup.
Matt Murton also went yard in the four-run eighth--one of five home runs on the night for Hanshin--to help make a winner of reliever Tomoyuki Kubota as the Tigers improved to 8-7 on the year.
"I wasn't thinking home run but I got a fat pitch to hit and I was able to drive it," said Sakurai of his third home run of the year. "This is a huge win for us. Everybody contributed and we were able to come back from so far behind."
Giants starter Shugo Fujii was cruising along with a 6-0 lead through five innings and it looked as if he was in line to get his first win in a Yomiuri uniform. Michihiro Ogasawara and Yoshiyuki Kamei had each homered and drove in a pair of runs for the CL-leading Giants and Alex Ramirez also had two RBIs for the home team.
But Hanshin erupted for five runs--including three of those homers--in the sixth inning to storm right back and make a game of it.
In the momentum-turning sixth, Fujii gave up a two-run shot to Hanshin shortstop Takashi Toritani before Takahiro Arai clubbed a solo shot off him to make it a 6-3 game. Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara then sent Yuya Kubo in to replace Fujii and he promptly walked Kenji Jojima before giving up a two-run homer to slugger Craig Brazell.
Ramirez drove in his second run of the night in the bottom of the seventh on a soft ground-out to first to make it 7-5 Giants, a lead that would be painfully short-lived.
Veteran right-hander Kiyoshi Toyoda was brought in by Hara to start the eighth for the Giants. The former closer walked Arai, got Jojima on a fly out to right, then gave up a single to Brazell, setting the table for Sakurai's dramatic three-run blast to give the Tigers their first lead of the night.
Toyoda (0-1) was out after that and Murton put the finishing touches on the demoralizing loss for the Giants with a home run just inside the right-field foul pole off Norihito Kaneto to make it 9-7.
Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa entered the game with one out in the eighth and shut down the Giants the rest of the way to earn a five-out save, his fourth save of the season.
Kubota (1-1) worked one scoreless inning, giving up two hits, to get the win.
The teams go at it again Wednesday and Thursday.