Ugly victories are as welcome as special guests. Ugly losses are more like party crashers.
The Yomiuri Giants' Central League championship party thoughts were dealt a near-fatal blow on Sunday after an ugly loss to the last-place Yokohama BayStars.
Jose Castillo's RBI single in the eighth inning off reliever Daisuke Ochi (4-4) gave Yokohama the lead, and the BayStars closed out their second straight victory over the three-time defending CL champions 3-2 before 19,913 at Yokohama Stadium.
The Giants had a golden opportunity to blow the game open when they loaded the bases with none out in the seventh inning. But the lineup, which was flat all day except for two homers by Alex Ramirez, fizzled and third-place Yomiuri tumbled three games out of first with six games left on its schedule.
"This is the result of loading the bases with no one out and not scoring," said Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara, who yanked starter Seth Greisinger after the righty allowed two runs in three innings.
The Giants got strong efforts from four relievers, but Ochi couldn't put away the key batter in the eighth.
"Overall, our pitchers dug in and only allowed three runs, so I think they did a good job," Hara said.
"That [bases-loaded] situation was crucial."
The Giants, behind the first-place Chunichi Dragons and the Hanshin Tigers, travel to Koshien Stadium for a two-game set starting Tuesday.
It was a tough loss to the cellar-dwelling BayStars, but Hara didn't make excuses.
"The players were well aware of the importance of this game and fought hard to try and win, but this was the result," he said.
"As long as we still have a chance to win [the league title], we're going to work as hard as we can."
Castillo, whose two-run homer beat the Giants Thursday at Tokyo Dome, laced a 2-2 forkball from Ochi into center field to plate the game winner.
"I'm just happy right now for a win," Castillo said. "[Ochi's] a good pitcher, but I've got some hits off him, so I'm just really happy."
Takayuki Makka was happy, too. He was trying to beat the Giants in his pro debut but was still beaming after getting no decision, allowing two runs on four hits, four walks, a hit batter and three strikeouts over six-plus innings.
The 19-year-old southpaw had the lead until the sixth, but hit the wall in a 2-2 tie in the seventh when he loaded the bases on two walks and an infield hit with none out and got the hook.
"I found out I was going to start the day before yesterday," Makka said. "Yesterday I was nervous. I just wanted to go as far in the game as I could."
Shigeki Ushida took over and got the first man he faced, Hayato Sakamoto, on a foul popout to the catcher. With the outfield playing shallow, pinch-hitter Yoshinobu Takahashi's fly was not deep enough to plate Shigeyuki Furuki.
Michihiro Ogasawara then fanned for his third three-strikeout game this year.
The BayStars broke on top in the second inning as Brett Harper stroked his 19th longball of the season, taking Greisinger deep to open the frame.
The BayStars added a run in the third when Takehiro Ishikawa singled, stole second and trotted home on Seiichi Uchikawa second double in as many at-bats.
Ramirez cut Yokohama's lead in half with his 45th homer, an opposite-field shot for his second in as many days.
He ripped a another solo shot to left in his next at-bat for a career-best 46th longball, giving him the league lead over Hanshin's Craig Brazell.
In other baseball news:
--The Tokyo Yakult Swallows' Norichika Aoki became the first player in Nippon Professional Baseball history with two 200-hit seasons on Sunday evening, when he homered in his first at-bat.