Yu Darvish struck out 12 in eight dominant innings as the Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Softbank Hawks 2-1 on Thursday to end their winless streak at 10 games.
Darvish (17-5) picked up his career-high 17th win after allowing one unearned run and two hits without a walk in a 117-pitch outing at Yahoo Dome.
Hisashi Takeda picked up his 100th career save and 34th of the season with a perfect ninth.
The magic number for the Hawks to clinch the Pacific League title remained at three. The second-place Fighters had dropped nine of their previous 10 games while tying one.
''It took a while to get this 17th win, but I knew I was pitching well in my recent outings,'' said Darvish, who won for the first time in September after he had been victimized by a lack of run support.
''I located my pitches surprising well tonight. (On striking out four batters in a row between the seventh and eighth), I just went all out without caring about what would happen later.''
Yoshio Itoi broke a 1-1 tie with a two-out RBI single in the top of the eighth before Darvish struck out all three batters in the bottom half.
Nippon Ham took a 1-0 lead in the sixth on a run-scoring single from backup second baseman Kenshi Sugiya.
Softbank answered right back in the bottom half as Shuhei Fukuda reached on Sugiya's error leading off the inning and moved to third on a steal and a sacrifice bunt before scoring on Toru Hosokawa's sacrifice fly.
Marines 4, Buffaloes 3
At Kyocera Dome, Hiroki Ueno (4-4) pitched eight innings of one-run ball as Lotte downed Orix to win for the first time in 13 games.
Lotte built a 3-0 lead through the first three innings, chasing Yuki Nishi (9-6) in the process. The 2010 Japan Series champion Marines had lost 11 of their previous 12 games, with one tie.
Lions 1, Eagles 0
At Kleenex Stadium, Takeya Nakamura hit his baseball-leading 43rd home run in the seventh inning as Seibu edged Rakuten.
Kazuyuki Hoashi (9-5) went 7-2/3 innings and combined with rookie closer Kazuhisa Makita on a seven-hit shutout. Kenji Tomura (0-2) took the loss.
Swallows 7, Tigers 4
At Jingu Stadium, Wladimir Balantien homered and drove in four runs as Yakult rallied to beat Hanshin for its fourth straight victory.
Balantien hit a three-run homer in the first inning, his CL-leading 30th, and a sacrifice fly in a four-run eighth that also included a two-run double by Shingo Kawabata.
Takehiko Oshimoto (2-2) won in relief. Atsushi Nomi (8-9) gave up six runs in 7-1/3 innings.
Dragons 4, Carp 3
At Mazda Stadium, Tony Blanco broke a 3-3 tie with an RBI single in the eighth inning as Chunichi topped Hiroshima.
Kazuki Yoshimi (16-3) became the first 16-game winner in the CL after holding Hiroshima to three runs in eight innings. Kiyoshi Toyoda (2-1) took the loss.
BayStars 5, Giants 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Shuichi Murata highlighted a four-run third inning with a two-run double, leading Yokohama over Yomiuri.
Futoshi Kobayashi (3-3) allowed two runs in six-plus innings for the win. Kentaro Nishimura (7-3) lasted only 2-1/3 innings.