Winning has been a foreign concept to the Yokohama BayStars this season, but the Central League's last-place team got a power display from two members of its foreign contingent and beat the Yomiuri Giants 5-2 Thursday at Tokyo Dome.
Brett Harper and Jose Castillo each slugged two-run homers, and Tomokazu Oka, who spent 11 years playing in the United States, went seven strong innings to hand Yomiuri a loss that damaged its chances to rally in the standings for its fourth straight CL title.
The front-running Chunichi Dragons fell 6-1 to Hanshin in Nagoya, but the loss knocked the Giants back into a virtual tie for second with the Tigers, 2-1/2 games back.
Castillo blasted a 1-2 pitch from loser Dicky Gonzalez (5-12), pitching on four days' rest, into the seats in left in the sixth inning that broke a 2-2 tie and was the difference in the game.
"Everybody is going to keep working for the whole year," said Castillo, who told interviewers it was his first on-field postgame interview this season.
"I was excited because I'm not good at hitting [against] Dicky. It was a big home run. The Giants are a big team so I'm happy," added Castillo, who helped the BayStars snap a six-game skid.
The Giants, meanwhile, couldn't square up pitches on Oka (7-9), who scattered five hits with no walks and five strikeouts. He has allowed only three runs in 17-1/3 innings over three starts this season at the Big Egg.
"Our lineup been done in by the same pitcher in the same way, so we've got some things we need to work out," Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara said.
"We had one chance against him," Hara said about Yomiuri's two-out, two-run rally in the fourth inning. "That was it. He did a good job of locating."
The BayStars broke through in the third inning off Gonzalez, Takehiro Ishikawa starting it off by reaching with a one-out single to left. Ishikawa broke for second a few times with Harper at the plate, but eventually moved to second on a wild pitch.
He was able to trot home after Harper slugged his 18th longball in 214 at-bats since joining Yokohama on June 25. It was Harper's second homer of the series but Yomiuri didn't let that blast decide the outcome.
The Giants got even after two were out in the fourth, putting together three straight hits. Alex Ramirez doubled to right and Shinnosuke Abe ripped a two-bagger to the gap in right-center field to score him and cut Yokohama's lead to 2-1.
Yoshinobu Takahashi slapped a grounder past a diving Castillo to plate Abe and the Giants were out of the early hole.
Gonzalez, though, couldn't keep the BayStars off the scoreboard. He left a 1-2 slider over the middle of the plate in the sixth and Castillo pounded it to left for homer No. 19 with one on for a 4-2 Yokohama.
Shuichi Murata added a solo blast in the eighth, and Shun Yamaguchi fanned three in the ninth for his 27th save.
Murton records 200th hit
Matt Murton became just the fourth player to reach 200 hits in a season, going 3-for-5 with a homer and a double, and drove in two as Hanshin salvaged the finale of a three-game set with a 6-1 win.
Murton became the second foreign player to reach 200 hits--joining Yomiuri's Ramirez--and has 10 games left to surpass the Giants' cleanup hitter, who had 204 hits in 2007.
Ichiro Suzuki holds the Japan record with 210, set in 1994 with the Orix BlueWave.
Atsushi Nomi (5-0) held Chunichi to a run on five hits and no walks with nine strikeouts to win it.
Shohei Tateyama (11-6) fired a six-hitter as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows blanked the Hiroshima Carp at Mazda Stadium.
Josh Whitesell's solo homer in the fourth gave the Swallows the lead, and they added two more in the seventh. Yakult's Norichika Aoki had one hit, putting him three away from 200.
In Pacific League action, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks took advantage of three walks to put up an eight spot in the first inning and hung on to top the Chiba Lotte Marines 9-3 at Chiba Marine Stadium.
Tadahito Iguchi homered twice for the Marines, but the Hawks won their fourth straight behind Munenori Kawasaki's three hits and three RBIs and kept the Saitama Seibu Lions' magic number for the PL title at four.