Tigers win 1st Central League title in 18 years as police mobilize for crowd control
NISHINOMIYA – Teruaki Sato homered for the second straight game as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Yomiuri Giants 4-3 Thursday to clinch their first Central League title in 18 years and sixth overall.
The Tigers, unbeaten so far in September, completed a three-game sweep of the archrival Giants at Koshien Stadium while extending their winning streak to a season-high 11 games.
“I’m glad we clinched the title today in front of Tigers fans at Koshien because we are going to Hiroshima tomorrow,” Hanshin manager Akinobu Okada said.
The Tigers and the second-place Hiroshima Carp are scheduled to play a two-game series from Friday at Mazda Stadium.
“I repeatedly told my players that September would be a real battle, but we’ve won way more than expected. My players are getting better. It’s a result of team effort — players, the front office and other staff.”
Yusuke Oyama hit a sacrifice fly for the game’s first run, and Sato followed with a two-run blast over the center-field wall for a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning.
Hanshin starter Hiroto Saiki (8-5) allowed one run and three hits in seven innings for the win.
Kazuma Okamoto hit his Japanese baseball-leading 39th home run of the season for the Giants, a solo shot in the seventh. Yuji Akahoshi (3-5) took the loss.
Yomiuri put the potential tying run on third with two outs in the ninth, but closer Suguru Iwazaki got Takumi Kitamura to pop out to end the game.
In the other CL games, the DeNA BayStars defeated the Chunichi Dragons 8-3, while the Carp rallied to beat the Yakult Swallows 6-5, snapping a six-game losing streak.
Tomoya Mori hit a two-run homer in the top of the 11th inning as the Pacific League-leading Orix Buffaloes downed the Rakuten Eagles 2-0, and the Seibu Lions beat the SoftBank Hawks 4-2.