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Giants one win away after clutch homers

by Jason Coskrey

Yoshiyuki Kamei showed everyone why he won this year’s new NPB award for dramatic home runs with a shot in the ninth inning of Game 5.

Two batters later, Yomiuri Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe did him one better.

Kamei sent the first pitch of the ninth flying into the seats in right field to tie the game and Abe hit a sayonara shot later in the inning to bring the Giants within a victory of the Japan Series title with a dramatic 3-2 win over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on Thursday at Tokyo Dome.

“It was decided at the end,” Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara said. “Kamei set up the tie and Shinnosuke did some nice batting to put away the game for us.”

The Giants now take a 3-2 series lead into Sapporo for Game 6, scheduled for Saturday night.

Nippon Ham brought closer Hisashi Takeda in to work the ninth after first baseman Shinji Takahashi homered to right in the top half of the inning to give the Fighters a 2-1 advantage.

The lead was short-lived as Kamei crushed a first-pitch fastball to tie the score at 2.

“I went in the box thinking I would get only one good pitch to hit and it happened to be the first pitch,” Kamei said.

Takeda retired Yoshitomo Tani on one pitch before Abe took him deep on a ill-placed high curve ball to seal the win.

“I felt the energy after Kamei’s home run,” Abe said.

“I got the sayonara hit, but these guys made it possible,” he added, referring to Kamei and Noriyoshi Omichi, who tied the game with an RBI single in the eighth.

Yomiuri entered the eighth behind 1-0 when Fighters reliever Yoshinori Tateyama led off the frame by hitting pinch hitter Lee Seung Yeop.

Pinch runner Takahiro Suzuki then stole second.

Suzuki went to third when Fighters reliever — and former Giants pitcher — Masanori Hayashi’s pick-off attempt sailed into center field.

Omichi capitalized on the opportunity with his clutch RBI single.

“I just wanted to get a hit or get the run in somehow,” Omichi said.

Omichi has looked spry in the playoffs, after getting his number called only 37 times during the regular season. The 40-year-old also came up with a big two-run double in Game 2 of the Central League Climax Series against the Chunichi Dragons.

“After a win like this, I cannot imagine we will lose,” Omichi said of Game 6.

It was a victory that nearly didn’t happen thanks to a superb night by Fighters starter Shugo Fujii.

Fujii benefited from Nippon Ham’s solid night in the field and pitched the game of his life to silence the powerful Yomiuri attack.

He tossed seven brilliant innings of shutout ball, allowing four hits and striking out three but did not factor into the decision.

Giants starting pitcher Dicky Gonzalez was just as good, giving up an unearned run and holding the Fighters to three hits on the night.

Gonzalez pitched well but was in line to take the loss after a pair of costly errors in the third inning.

Yomiuri’s late-game flurry made a winner of pitcher Tetsuya Yamaguchi, who gave up Takahashi’s go-ahead homer in the ninth.

The Giants are expecting to duplicate their Game 1 triumph in Sapporo and claim the Japan Series title on Saturday.

“I expect we will win in Sapporo even though we will be the visitors,” Hara said.

Kamei was even more direct in his thoughts on the outcome in Hokkaido. “We will win for sure.”