Masahiko Morino and his Chunichi Dragons threw a little cold water on the suddenly reheated Yomiuri Giants on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome, handing the Central League leaders a 5-2 loss in a pivotal series between a pair of title contenders.
Morino's seventh-inning RBI double off reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi broke a 2-2 tie and snapped the Giants' winning streak at four games. Atsushi Fujii, who had three hits on the night, and Kazuhiro Wada each doubled in insurance runs in the ninth off Daisuke Ochi.
Right-hander Daisuke Yamai got the start for the Dragons. In his last outing against Yomiuri, on Aug. 18, Yamai no-hit the Giants through eight innings, finally settling for a 3-1 win when Hayato Sakamoto led off the ninth with a solo homer.
Yamai is known for his near misses. He's also the pitcher who threw a perfect game through eight innings in the 2007 Japan Series clincher against the Nippon-Ham Fighters, before skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai brought in closer Hitoki Iwase to nail down that win in the ninth.
On Wednesday at Tokyo Dome, it wasn't quite that dramatic. Yamai allowed his first hit in the third, a leadoff home run to Hisayoshi Chono that made it a 2-1 game after the Dragons had gotten out of the gate with a quick 2-0 lead.
Giants starter Shun Tono got in a jam early, walking Morino and Tony Blanco to load the bases with two out in the top of the first frame. Kei Nomoto then came through with a bloop double to shallow left field to cash in two runs.
After Chono's homer in the third, the Giants squared it up in the sixth when Michihiro Ogasawara banged a triple off the fence in center before Alex Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to right to bring Ogasawara home. It was the 99th RBI of the season for veteran slugger Ramirez, who needs to drive in just one more run to become the first player in NPB history with eight consecutive seasons of 100 or more RBIs.
Yamai (6-4) went six-plus innings for Ochiai, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks in picking up the win. Closer Iwase earned his 34th save, allowing two hits in a scoreless ninth.
Tono (12-6) took the loss. The righty lasted six and one-third innings, allowing three runs on six hits and six walks. He whiffed five.
Rookie Chono was 3-for-4 with a home run and a double for Yomiuri.
Earlier Wednesday, the Giants deactivated starting pitcher Seth Greisinger. The American right-hander felt pain in his surgically repaired elbow after fielding a bunt in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 6-4 win over the Dragons at Tokyo Dome. His sidearm throw to first got the runner, but he felt some discomfort immediately afterward and left the game after facing two more batters.
Greisinger had an MRI done on the elbow Wednesday afternoon, which was inconclusive. The 35-year-old veteran, a two-time CL wins leader, is 0-1 this season in four starts after having surgery on his pitching elbow in the offseason. He also had Tommy John surgery on the elbow in 1999, missing nearly four years as a result.