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Baseball: Swallows edge Tigers to tighten Central League race

Yasuhiro Ogawa of the Yakult Swallows pitches during a Central League game against the Hanshin Tigers on Sept. 15, 2021, at Jingu Stadium in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Yasuhiro Ogawa pitched into the eighth inning, and two relievers finished the job as the second-place Yakult Swallows beat the Hanshin Tigers 1-0 on Wednesday to move to within 2-1/2 games of the Central League leaders.

    Ogawa (8-4) scattered six hits and five walks over 7-2/3 innings while striking out seven at Jingu Stadium to outduel Tigers rookie Masashi Ito (7-7). Ogawa's biggest test came when he retired slugger Jerry Sands to end the sixth and strand three Tigers base runners.

    Ito allowed a run in the first on singles by Yasutaka Shiomi and Munetaka Murakami, and that would be it for the scoring. Ogawa tried to squeeze home a run in the fifth but popped up his bunt, allowing the Tigers to end the inning with an easy double play.

    The right-hander again loaded the bases in the eighth with two outs, but reliever Noboru Shimizu took over and struck out Sands to end the inning.

    A night after surrendering a three-run game-tying home run, closer Scott McGough worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 20th save.

    "Even though I kept loading the bases, I wanted to finish the game myself, but I also believe in our relievers," said Ogawa, who lost his previous start, also against the Tigers.

    "Last time against them, I let the team down, so I'm glad I was able to pitch deep into the game today. The manager told me after the seventh inning to go out and get the complete game, but that's easier said than done."

    At Tokyo Dome, the Yomiuri Giants scored three ninth-inning runs in a 7-6 walk-off win over the DeNA BayStars. Hayato Sakamoto homered twice and singled in the tying run in the ninth, while Giants cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto hit his 37th home run and ended the game with a sacrifice fly.

    The third-place Giants trail Yakult on winning percentage.

    At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, rookie Yuya Shozui singled in one run, and his three-run seventh-inning home run brought the Hiroshima Carp from two runs down in their 5-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons.

    At Fukuoka's PayPay Dome, Katsuya Kakunaka doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, and the Pacific League-leading Lotte Marines won their sixth straight decision, 5-4 over the fourth-place SoftBank Hawks.

    At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Ryota Takinaka (7-4) worked seven innings, while Hideto Asamura homered and drove in three runs as the third-place Rakuten Eagles beat the second-place Orix Buffaloes 7-0.

    At MetLife Dome, Takumi Kuriyama had a sacrifice fly and an RBI single to bring the Seibu Lions from two runs down, and closer Kaima Taira pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to secure the 3-3 tie with the Nippon Ham Fighters.

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