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Hungry Lions draw level in Japan Series

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TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — Okawari-kun finally got what he was looking for in the Japan Series.

Takeya Nakamura, whose nickname roughly translates to “second helping, please,” hit a pair of two-run home runs, and starting pitcher Takayuki Kishi took care of the rest as the Seibu Lions beat the Yomiuri Giants 5-0 in Game 4 on Wednesday night at Seibu Dome.

“Nakamura came through with those two home runs and Kishi did a great job shutting down the Giants’ hitting attack,” Seibu manager Hisanobu Watanabe said.

Nakamura went deep against Giants starter Seth Greisinger in consecutive at-bats on a 2-for-4, four-RBI night. It’s the second straight contest the Seibu cleanup batter has connected on a multi-run blast.

“From the beginning of the Series, I’ve been looking to hit inside pitches and that’s what I got the first time,” Nakamura said. “On the second one, I just wanted to avoid hitting into a double play.”

Nakamura, who began the series 0-for-10, has three home runs and seven RBIs in the past two games.

“I had gone without a hit in the Series until the home run yesterday,” Nakamura said. “Now I’ve hit three, all with runners on base. So I am happy to contribute to this victory.”

Kishi tossed a complete game shutout in his first career Japan Series start. The second-year pitcher struck out 10 and allowed just four hits in the victory.

“I enjoyed pitching in the Climax Series but this was even better,” Kishi said. “I was nervous at first but felt more comfortable in the middle of the game after Nakamura hit those two home runs.

“I would like to pitch again tomorrow, but that is unreasonable. I hope to get another chance in the Series and I will do my best.”

Kishi showed great control and a knack for making the right pitch at the right time to help prevent the Lions from falling into a 3-1 series deficit.

He relied mainly on his fastball and changeup to keep the Giants off-balance, and was particularly effective with his curve at times.

“He was pitching good,” Giants slugger Alex Ramirez said. “His fastball was good, in and out. There are times when you have to tip your hat and today was the day. He had a great game today.”

Seibu pulled even with Yomiuri 2-2 in the best-of-seven series with the victory. The win also ensures the series will return to Tokyo for a sixth game regardless of which team wins Game 5.

“We did not do well in Games 2 and 3, but we came alive in this pivotal game today,” Watanabe said. “The Series is tied now. So we’ll take it a game at a time and try to get the last two wins.”

Tensions nearly boiled over after Greisinger hit Hiroyuki Nakajima with a pitch in the fourth inning. Taking exception to being hit, Nakajima took a few steps toward the Yomiuri hurler before both benches emptied onto the field.

Order was quickly restored without incident as cooler heads prevailed. There have been seven hit batters in the series, five by the Lions and two by Yomiuri pitchers.

“Certainly he could’ve,” Greisinger said when asked if he thought Nakajima could have avoided getting hit. “Like I said, he’s the leadoff hitter and it was a 2-1 fastball and it hit him on the elbow guard and he didn’t move.

“Then he just started to stare at me. There’s no reason to stare at me. I gave you a free base, take your free base.”

Greisinger had a rough outing, giving up all five runs on six hits with a hit batter. Greisinger also struggled against the Lions during the interleague campaign, going 0-2 with a 14.00 ERA in two starts.

“The pitch calling was out of my hands,” Greisinger said after the game. “Like I said, you’ve got to talk to the person calling the pitches,” he said about Nakamura’s homers.

With regular catcher Shinnosuke Abe unable to catch due to a shoulder injury, backup catchers Kazunari Tsuruoka and Ken Kato are receiving pitch calls from the bench.

“The second one was up. The first one was an inside fastball and he knocked the crap out of it. I don’t know if it was foul or fair but he hit it.”

Seibu second baseman and Pacific League stolen base champion Yasuyuki Kataoka got the Lions off to a quick start with a first-pitch single to lead off the game. He then stole second and scored on Takumi Kuriyama’s double to right.

The Lions added two more runs in the fourth when Nakamura sent a fastball into the left-field seats, just inside the foul pole, prompting an animated celebration from hitting coach Hiromoto “Dave” Okubo.

Nakajima led off the sixth with a single before Nakamura struck again to put the Lions ahead 5-0, accounting for the final score.

The teams will meet in Game 5 on Thursday night at Seibu Dome beginning at 6:15.