SAPPORO (Kyodo) -- Pacific League home run leader Yutaro Sugimoto hit a three-run homer, powering the league-leading Orix Buffaloes past the Nippon Ham Fighters 3-0 on Friday.
The Buffaloes remained a half-game ahead of the second-place Lotte Marines, who beat them the previous two nights.
At Sapporo Dome, rookie Orix right-hander Soichiro Yamazaki (2-2) allowed two hits and a walk over six innings while striking out five.
Fighters starter Kazuaki Tateno (4-2) issued back-to-back walks to open the top of the fourth, and Sugimoto belted his 32nd home run.
"We're in a situation where we can't afford a loss, so I'm glad I could get a hit at a good time. Soichiro pitched great, and I wanted to get him the lead. We've come this far to be in a pennant race, and I want to enjoy it without putting extra pressure on myself."
Ryoga Tomiyama, Tyler Higgins and Yoshihisa Hirano each worked a scoreless inning to wrap up the combined three-hit shutout, with Hirano earning his 27th save.
At Zozo Marine Stadium, Hiromi Oka's two-run walk-off home run lifted the Marines to a 3-1 win over the fourth-place SoftBank Hawks that kept Lotte from losing ground to Orix as Lotte clinched a spot in the postseason.
At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Tatsuya Imai (8-7) threw a four-hitter and Hotaka Yamakawa hit a three-run home run in the Seibu Lions' 5-1 win over the third-place Rakuten Eagles.
At Jingu Stadium, Jose Osuna's three-run seventh-inning home run brought the Central League-leading Yakult Swallows from behind, and they held on to beat the third-place Yomiuri Giants 8-7. The win trimmed Yakult's magic number to clinch the pennant to six.