This one was all about pitching.
Yuji Iiyama's 12th-inning sacrifice fly proved to be the difference as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Chiba Lotte Marines 1-0 at Chiba Marine Stadium on Saturday.
On a sweltering day with the field temperature at game time of 40C, Fighters ace Yu Darvish threw eight scoreless innings and Marines right-hander Hayden Penn did him two better, not leaving until he'd worked 10.
"I didn't realize it was that hot," Darvish said. "I'm OK in the heat, provided its not 45 or 46 C."
With great movement on his fastball matching Penn's impressive knuckle curve, solid contact was in short supply in Chiba.
Darvish allowed three hits, walked three and hit a batter, while striking out five.
Penn, who has discovered what other curveballers here have learned, that the wind at Chiba Marine can turn a good curve into a lethal weapon, allowed five hits and two walks, while getting 20 groundouts.
Marines closer Hiroyuki Kobayashi worked the 11th, while Shingo Ono (4-3) came on in the 12th and took the loss.
The Fighters' Yoshio Itoi legged out a leadoff double to open the 12th and took third on a fly to right. With one out, Iiyama swung at the first pitch he saw from Ono. Iiyama lifted a low-and-away slider just far enough for the speedy Itoi to score ahead of an off-line throw from right fielder Ikuhiro Kiyota.
Iiyama, hitting .189 since taking over for injured shortstop Makoto Kaneko on Aug. 20, was 0-for-3 with a sacrifice against Penn but made up for it in the end.
"If you look results, he did plenty," Fighters manager Masataka Nashida said. "He didn't have a hit, but he got a sacrifice down and did just enough to get us the win.
"It's really a shame Darvish couldn't get the win, but we were unable to help him out against Penn, who pitched so well."
Fighters closer Hisashi Takeda walked the leadoff batter in the bottom of the 12th and issued a two-out walk, but hung on to record his 14th save.
The Marines came closest to breaking through while the starters were still dueling it out, but Fighters catcher Shinya Tsuruoka made the play of the game in the sixth to keep it scoreless.
With Tadahito Iguchi on third with two outs, a first-pitch fastball to Kazuya Fukuura sailed high and wide. Only an acrobatic save from the 1.75-meter Tsuruoka kept the game deadlocked.
Itoi, who went 1-for-3, opened the 10th with a walk and was sacrificed to second, when the Marines got a game-saving stop. Shunichi Nemoto, making a rare start at third to give Toshiaki Imae the day off, knocked down a smash down the line from Sho Nakata that would have plated Itoi had it reached the outfield.
After a strikeout and a groundout, Penn walked off the field with the crowd chanting his first name.
"I've pitched nine innings a few times in the States, but never 10," Penn said. "I'd only thrown 105 pitches so it wasn't a problem. It was a good game all around, they just got on the winning side."
In Sendai, Randy Ruiz helped set up a ninth-inning comeback with a no-out double and finished the job with a sayonara single as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Saitama Seibu Lions 7-6.
Lions ace Hideaki Wakui allowed five straight hits to open the ninth. Closer Brian Sikorski (1-3) gave up three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning to take the loss.
In Kobe, Alex Cabrera went 3-for-4 with two homers, a double, a walk and five RBIs to power the Orix Buffaloes past the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 12-5.