Former U.S. President George W. Bush bounced his ceremonial first pitch to Yomiuri Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe.
It was probably a good thing, too. Someone might’ve knocked the ball out of the park had it gotten near the plate.
The Yomiuri Giants and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters combined to hit six solo home runs, but a two-run double by Michihiro Ogasawara was the difference as the Giants prevailed 7-4 in Game 3 of the Japan Series on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.
The win, the 100th Japan Series victory in franchise history, gives the Giants a 2-1 lead in the series.
“It feels good to know that,” Abe said. “We’ll be going for number 101 tomorrow.”
The two squads staged an impromptu home run derby with solo homers accounting for six of the game’s first eight hits.
Atsunori Inaba, Eiichi Koyano and Kensuke Tanaka homered for Nippon Ham, while Lee Seung Yeop, Abe and Ogasawara each went deep for Yomiuri.
The record for home runs in a Japan Series contest is seven, achieved by the Giants and Kintetsu Buffaloes during Game 7 of 1989 Japanese Fall Classic.
The Giants’ biggest hit against the Fighters was the one that didn’t get over the fence.
With the score tied at 3-3 and runners at first and second with two outs in the fifth, Ogasawara just missed hitting a home run on a deep shot to left-center. The ball came up short, caroming off the wall for a two-run double.
“The first and second batters set up the chance by getting on base with two outs,” Ogasawara said. “I wanted to do something by any means.”
Ogasawara finished with a three-RBI night and went 2-for-3 at the plate. Abe also drove in three runs, going 2-for-4, including a two-run single in the eighth.
“The timely hits by Ogasawara and our captain Abe were the big blows following the big three homers,” Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara said.
Giants starter Wirfin Obispo notched the win despite giving up three home runs. Obispo allowed four hits and struck out six over six innings.
Daisuke Ochi took over in the seventh, and Tetsuya Yamaguchi gave up a run during a stressful outing in the eighth. Marc Kroon worked the ninth for the save.
Fighters starter Keisaku Itokazu gave up five runs on six hits over five innings in the loss.
“I couldn’t locate the ball where I wanted and made a lot of bad pitches,” Itokazu said. “What’s worse was that I gave up runs after the team tied the game.”
Bush watched the game from a suite with former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, NPB Commissioner Ryozo Kato and home run king Sadaharu Oh. Bush was safely far from the mound by the time the fireworks got started.
Inaba began things with his homer in the first, and Koyano followed suit in the second.
Yomiuri tied the score on consecutive homers by Lee, who hit a towering 135-meter shot to right, and Abe, whose blast was the team’s 200th in Japan Series history.
The Giants took the lead on a shot by Ogasawara in the third but the score was retied in the fifth on Tanaka’s solo drive.
Ogasawara’s double gave the Giants a two-run lead in the fifth, but the Fighters had one last rally in them.
Tanaka was hit by a pitch leading off the eighth and advanced to second after an errant pick-off attempt by Yamaguchi.
Tanaka took off for third as Hichori Morimoto grounded to the shortstop, then rounded third to make the score 5-4 when Lee was unable to field Hayato Sakamoto’s throw to first.
Abe’s bases-loaded single gave the Giants some breathing room in the eighth, driving in two runs to make the score 7-4.
The teams will return to the Bg Egg for Game 4 of the Japan Series on Wednesday.