So much for the home-dome advantage.
The Fukuoka Daiei Hawks rode a six-run fifth inning and solid relief pitching Sunday night to rally past the Yomiuri Giants 8-3 and take a 2-0 lead in the 2000 Japan Series before 43,850 at the Tokyo Dome.
With Games 3 and 4 slated for the Fukuoka Dome (and Game 5 if necessary), the Hawks can avoid a return trip to Tokyo and wrap up their second consecutive Japan Series title with two wins at home.
Like Saturday’s opener, the home-field Giants took the early lead, but watched helplessly as their starter, then bullpen, frittered it away. And once again, Daiei manager Sadaharu Oh, after a shaky outing by his starting pitcher, got the better of his Yomiuri counterpart and former teammate Shigeo Nagashima in the much-ballyhooed O-N showdown.
“We were able to play our game today,” said Oh after the game. “(Hawks starter Tomohiro) Nagai was tense but the relievers did a good job.
“It was exactly like yesterday’s game and how we played all year,” added Oh. “I knew we had a chance if the starter could hold them to three runs. It wasn’t pretty but this is how we played all year and I want to play the whole series like this.”
After a three-up and three-down first inning, Daiei starter Nagai ran into control problems in the bottom of the second. He plunked Hideki Matsui in the rear-end with a fastball, then walked Kazuhiro Kiyohara and Akira Eto to load the bases with none out. Tomohiro Nioka grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, allowing Matsui to score the game’s first run. Shinichi Murata then cashed in Kiyohara with a wicked liner up the middle that had Nagai ducking for cover.
Nagai’s wildness continued as he walked Giants starting pitcher Darrell May, putting runners on first and second, but he escaped the frame without any further damage when Hawks shortstop Tadahito Iguchi went into the hole to field Toshihisa Nishi’s broken-bat grounder and fired to second for the force-out.
The Giants added another run in the third. With two out, Matsui drilled a double to right and came home on Kiyohara’s double to right-center, giving the Giants a 3-0 lead.
The ineffective Nagai, having given up three runs on three hits, three walks and a hit batsman, was replaced by right-hander Keizaburo Tanoue to start the bottom of the fourth.
After being held in check by May for the first four innings, the Hawks cranked up their offense in the fifth to turn the game around. Koji Akiyama led off with a squibber toward third. May scooped it up and fired to first, but his throw was wild, allowing Akiyama to reach second.
Iguchi followed up with a chip shot to right that fell in for a single. He stole second, putting runners on second and third with none out. After pinch-hitter Takaya Hayashi struck out, Hiroshi Shibahara lined a ball that glanced off a diving Nishi at second, scoring Akiyama.
Yusuke Torigoe then ripped a double to left to drive in Iguchi, bringing the Hawks within one and sending May to the showers.
Ryuji Kimura replaced May and was given a rude greeting by Noriyoshi Omichi. After a three-hit night Saturday, the veteran outfielder singled to left for his fifth hit of the series. Shibahara trotted home and it was a new game at 3-3.
But not for long. Hiroki Kokubo snapped the tie with a double down the left-field line. After southpaw Kazuhiro Hiramatsu replaced Kimura and fanned Nobuhiko Matsunaka, the Hawks were lucky to add two more runs when Kenji Jojima lofted a high fly to center that Matsui, despite playing in the familiar confines of the Big Egg, completely misjudged and allowed to go over his head. Jojima was credited with a double and suddenly a 3-0 deficit was a 6-3 lead for the Hawks. Koichi Misawa, the fourth Giants hurler of the inning, came in and retired Akiyama on a pop-up to first to finally stop the bleeding.
Jojima, who drove in four runs, knew his double over Matsui was a key play.
“It was a lucky hit because Matsui was too shallow,” noted the catcher. “But I feel it definitely turned the game around in our favor. The Giants have a powerful lineup so no matter how big a lead we get, we’re nervous. We always play a close game, let the relievers do their job and wait for offensive support.”
The Giants brought the potential tying run to the plate in the sixth. But after a one-out walk to Kiyohara and a two-out single yielded to Nioka, reliever Masakazu Watanabe induced Murata to ground out to short.
Watanabe was the winner, going two shutout innings, giving up one hit and a walk to follow up a shutout inning of work in the opener.
“I was happy to pitch well yesterday and today,” said the veteran lefty. “I know that if I don’t pitch well, there are other pitchers behind me so I don’t have to worry.”
Jojima provided two insurance runs in the top of the seventh. After Matsunaka drew a two-out walk, Jojima turned on a Misawa delivery and deposited it high into the left-field stands for the final score of 8-3.
“We did get six runs but we wanted anything extra we could get, so I was ready to swing at anything I could get my bat on,” said Jojima.
May, a 12-game winner in the regular season, was charged with the loss. He went 4 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits and four runs, three of them earned.
Before the game, Sydney Olympic gold medal-winning judoka Ryoko Tamura, a native of Fukuoka, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Now it’s the Giants who will need an Olympian effort to turn the Japan Series around.