The Yomiuri Giants came to Yokohama Stadium this week to clinch the Central League pennant, but they went home empty-handed after the DeNA BayStars completed a three-game sweep with a 5-2 win on Thursday.
Despite the loss, the Giants' magic number to clinch their second straight pennant dropped to one because of the Chunichi Dragons' loss to the Hanshin Tigers. The Giants can now clinch it at their home park, Tokyo Dome, where they open a three-game series against the Yakult Swallows starting Friday.
Kentaro Taira (4-5), who began his career as a Giant, surrendered a run on six hits and a walk over 5-1/3 innings and got some big help from the bullpen to get away with the win.
Protecting a 2-1 lead, Taira worked out of a two-on, no-out pickle in the fifth inning but was yanked after the Giants loaded the bases with one out in the sixth.
Lefty Yoshiki Sunada entered to face Yoshihiro Maru. The two-time CL MVP had tied the game 1-1 in the second with his 26th home run, but Sunada struck him out swinging.
Manager Alex Ramirez then called on right-hander Shingo Hirata, who caught veteran Hiroyuki Nakajima looking at a 3-2 strike to end the inning.
"He (Taira) got into trouble a little bit in the sixth inning, but the relievers did a great job," Ramirez said. "That was the turning point."
With the game tied 1-1 in the second, BayStars catcher Yasutaka Tobashira singled in a tie-breaking run after a leadoff walk and a sacrifice by Taira.
Giants starter Angel Sanchez (8-4) allowed two runs through six innings to take the tough loss. The BayStars scored three more runs in the seventh with Tyler Austin and Neftali Soto each driving in a run.
At Koshien Stadium, the Tigers scored twice in the first inning off Yudai Ono (10-6), snapping the lefty's scoreless inning streak at 45 in a 3-1 win over the Dragons.
At Hiroshima's Mazda Stadium, Hisayoshi Chono's two-run pinch-hit home run capped the Hiroshima Carp's three-run seventh inning as they fought to a 3-3 10-inning tie with the Yakult Swallows.
In the Pacific League, pinch-runner Go Kamamoto scored from second on a one-out ninth-inning wild pitch by Lotte Marines closer Naoya Masuda (3-5) that brought in two runs and lifted the SoftBank Hawks to a 4-3 walk-off win at Fukuoka's PayPay Dome.
At MetLife Dome, the Rakuten Eagles hammered Zach Neal (5-8) for five runs over two innings in a 13-5 win over the Seibu Lions, who remain one game back of the Marines in the battle for the PL's second and final playoff spot.
At Sapporo Dome, Haruki Nishikawa had three hits and scored two runs -- including the 10th-inning game winner on Ryo Watanabe's sacrifice fly -- as the Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Orix Buffaloes 4-3.