Lin Wei-chu threw a lifeline to rookie Takumi Akiyama, and the teenager made the most of it.
Lin, relegated to the bench for the past three seasons, belted a come-from-behind two-run homer at a packed Koshien Stadium as the Hanshin Tigers knocked the Yomiuri Giants a full game behind them in the Central League pennant hunt with a 4-2 victory on Monday.
"I wasn't pitching the way I could but after Lin's homer, I knew I had to buckle down and shut them down," said Akiyama, 19, who notched his fourth straight win.
The attendance of 46,780 was the largest in Japan this season, just slightly bigger than the crowds here on Saturday and Sunday.
"The great crowd today gave me strength," said Akiyama (4-1), whose only defeat in five starts came in his debut at Tokyo Dome to the Giants.
"I wasn't happy with my pitching, but after [losing at] Tokyo Dome, I'm glad to have the win."
Akiyama allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out one.
Trailing 2-1 with a man on in the fourth inning, Lin belted a high cutter into the seats in right off Seth Greisinger (0-2).
Having blasted a pitch to the warning track in right in his first at-bat, Lin's homer improved his career average against Greisinger to .188 in 32 at-bats.
"I had not been able to hit him in the past," Lin said. "He's always been able to get me with either his changeup or his cutter inside. After hitting a changeup well the first time but making out, I prepared myself to hit his cutter the second time."
Greisinger, making his fifth start since returning on Aug. 3 from elbow surgery, was hit in the upper right arm by a smash off the bat by Takahiro Arai to open the inning.
"It's frustrating, it was the third time I've been hit this season," Greisinger said. "Twice by the Tigers and once in my last minor league game."
After receiving treatment, the right-hander returned to get two outs before Lin put the Tigers in front.
Greisinger allowed three runs on five hits in 3-2/2 innings.
The Giants opened the scoring in the first inning. Hayato Sakamoto led off with a single, a sacrifice moved him over and he scored on Alex Ramirez's two-out double.
The Giants leadoff man was at it again in the third, singling with one out and advancing to second on a groundout. Michihiro Ogasawara did the RBI honors with a single that nearly took off first baseman Craig Brazell's glove.
The Tigers finally got to Greisinger for a run in the third.
Katsuhiko Saka reached on a leadoff single, went to second on an Akiyama sacrifice and scored on Keiichi Hirano's two-out single.
Tigers catcher Kenji Jojima homered in the eighth against righty Daisuke Ochi, the Giants' fourth pitcher, to complete the scoring.
Tomoyuki Kubota struck out three in two scoreless innings of relief, but closer Kyuji Fujikawa faced some stubborn resistance in the ninth. With a man on, Fujikawa struck out Sakamoto, who went 3-for-5, on 10 pitches to record his 27th save.
The victory moved the Tigers two games back of the CL-leading Chunichi Dragons, who played later in the evening against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Jingu Stadium.
In Yokohama, Hiroshima's Yuki Saito (4-6) allowed a run over the distance and Kenta Kurihara homered twice and drove in three runs as the Carp beat the BayStars 9-1 to win for the fourth straight time.
In Pacific League action, Jose Ortiz's two-run, pinch-hit single put the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks ahead for good in a 5-4 win over the Saitama Seibu Lions, completing a three-game sweep in Fukuoka.
In Sendai, Tsuyoshi Nishioka homered twice and drove in four runs, and Toshiaki Imae's 12th-inning RBI double helped lift the Chiba Lotte Marines to a 9-7 win over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
In Sapporo, six Fighters pitchers limited the Orix Buffaloes to six hits as Hokkaido Nippon Ham came from behind to win 3-2.
Ogawa to stay on as skipper
Junji Ogawa, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows interim manager since May 27, will manage the club next season, the team announced Monday.
As of Sunday's 6-2 defeat to the Chunichi Dragons, the Swallows were 50-31-3 under Ogawa, promoted from head coach when manager Shigeru Takeda quit on May 26.
There had been speculation the club would make pitching coach Daisuke Araki its next manager.