Tony Blanco stayed positive and focused and came away with something to show for it on Saturday.
After striking out in his first two at-bats, the Dragons slugger doubled and homered twice to lead Chunichi to a 7-4 win over the Yomiuri Giants before 43,100 at Tokyo Dome.
With the score tied 4-4 in the top of the ninth and Giants closer Marc Kroon on the mound, Blanco homered with two outs and two on to put the visitors ahead for good.
"I wanted to throw a strike, and I did. It was power against power and he won," Kroon (1-1) said.
Blanco, who led the Central League in home runs and RBIs last season, struck out in his first two at-bats against Yomiuri right-hander Dicky Gonzalez, the first time with the bases loaded.
"I was going to kill myself," he joked about his first two at-bats. "He [Gonzalez] pitched well. I always want to stay positive. I just cleared my mind--see the ball, hit the ball."
His third time up, Blanco doubled off a 1-0 fastball to open the sixth and chased Gonzalez, who left having allowed two runs in five-plus innings.
Yuya Kubo snuffed out the threat, and the Giants took a one-run lead in the bottom of the inning, when Alex Ramirez went deep off starter Kazuki Yoshimi. It was the first home run of the month for Ramirez, who was twice robbed of hits and ended up a hard-luck 1-for-5.
The Dragons moved back in front in the seventh. Masahiro Araki doubled off right-hander Kiyoshi Toyoda, the Giants' third pitcher, and scored on Masahiko Morino's single off lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi.
"Yamaguchi isn't his usual self," Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara said. "His control, his velocity, neither have been 100 percent."
Blanco led off the eighth against Yamaguchi and blasted an opposite-field shot into the right-field stands, improving to 5-for-8 with two homers in his career against Yomiuri's No. 1 setup man.
Dragons setup man Takuya Asao (6-2) had pitched a scoreless seventh, but his first pitch in the eighth found the seats.
Shinnosuke Abe--whose solo homer had tied it in the bottom of the fourth--evened it again with one swing, hitting his third home run of the series and his 20th of the season.
Kroon came to the mound in the top of the ninth with the game in the balance and got two outs before trouble struck.
Morino's second double of the game put the go-ahead run in scoring position, and Kazuhiro Wada walked to bring Blanco to the plate.
"I said, 'What are you going to do? It's the last inning," Blanco said. "He throws hard. You go too hard and you're going to mess up."
A 153-kph fastball got a lot of the plate and even more of Blanco's bat for his 16th homer of the year.
"I needed that. That was a good day," Blanco said of his first three-hit game in more than a month.
Hara was unfazed by his closer's outing.
"Kroon's going to get hit sometimes. It's not a problem," the skipper said.
Dragons lefty Hitoki Iwase, who registered his 250th career save on Wednesday, was forced to work for No. 251.
He allowed back-to-back singles but caught a big break. With Morino moving from third to take over at first from Blanco, Ramirez hit high pitch on the button to first.
Morino snagged it, spun and tagged pinch-runner Takayuki Terauchi for the second out. The relieved Iwase got Abe to ground out and record his 17th save of the season.
The double play was the Dragons' second clutch defensive play.
Atsushi Fuji, who entered as a pinch-runner after starting center fielder Yohei Oshima was hit by a pitch, made the catch of the day.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth, Fujii raced in to catch a flair that would have scored two and put the Giants in command.
In Yokohama, the Hanshin Tigers roughed up former major leaguer Tomokazu Oka (2-2) for seven runs, five earned, in four-plus innings to beat the Yokohama BayStars 7-3 and move to within 2-1/2 games of the CL-leading Giants.
In Hiroshima, Kenta Maeda (9-2) took over the CL lead in wins with seven shutout innings in the Carp's 5-1 win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
At Seibu Dome, Toru Hosokawa homered and drove in four runs to lead the Saitama Seibu Lions past the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 5-1.
Kazuyuki Hoashi (7-5) allowed a run in 6-2/3 innings to earn the win for the Pacific League leaders.
In Chiba, Hisashi Iwakuma (5-4) went seven innings and combined with two relievers on a four-hit shutout as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles beat Chiba Lotte 3-0 and knocked the second-place Marines 2-1/2 games behind the Lions.
In Osaka, Yu Darvish (6-4) allowed a run in eight innings as the last-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Orix Buffaloes 3-1.