NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Pref. — Big Daddy came up with the big hit.
Alex Ramirez hit a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning and the Giants didn’t let the lead slip away as they advanced to the final stage of the Central League Climax Series with a 7-6 victory over the Hanshin Tigers on Sunday at Koshien Stadium.
The victory gives the Giants a two-game sweep over their hated rivals in the first stage of the Climax Series. The Kyojin will face the regular-season champion Chunichi Dragons in the final stage.
“It was a total team effort,” Ramirez said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to win here. I’m just so happy. Hopefully we can carry this to Nagoya.”
The Tigers had led for the entire game and were ahead 6-5 when manager Akinobu Mayumi called on closer Kyuji Fujikawa in the eighth.
Fujikawa recorded two quick outs before walking Yoshiyuki Kamei. He then gave up a double to Michihiro Ogasawara, which put runners on second and third.
That brought Ramirez to the plate and the slugger came through with a grounder up the middle that just got past diving second baseman Keiichi Hirano, allowing both runners to round third and score.
“I was facing the best closer in the league,” Ramirez said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I was just trying to put the ball in play. Luckily he gave me something to hit. “
Ramirez fell behind 0-2 to Fujikawa and said he was just trying to give his team a chance.
“I told myself I’m going to look for a breaking ball or a forkball, hoping it was high enough for me to take it back up the middle or into right field. He threw it to me and I was able to put it in play.”
Ramirez, who had an RBI single earlier in the game, finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Yoshinobu Takahashi was 3-for-5 with a big two-run homer in the seventh that cut Hanshin’s lead to 6-5.
“Takahashi’s two-run homer completely changed the flow of the game,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “You could see the other team looking uncomfortable after that.”
Michihiro Ogasawara was 3-for-5 with an RBI. He batted .750 and drove in three runs over the two-game series.
Reliever Daisuke Ochi threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the win and Tetsuya Yamaguchi worked 1 2/3 for his second save in as many days.
Hanshin second baseman Keiichi Hirano hit a two-run triple in the sixth and made a pair of stellar defensive plays in the fourth. He also had two costly errors, which both led to runs.
Hirano misplayed a double-play ball with one out in the fifth, which kept the inning alive long enough for the Giants to score two runs and make the score 3-2. Hanshin led 6-2 in the seventh when his error on a ball hit by Shinnosuke Abe allowed a run to score with two outs. Takahashi’s two-run shot came in the next at-bat.
Craig Brazell drove in a pair of runs for the Tigers. Takahiro Arai and Kodai Sakurai each had an RBI.
Fujikawa took the loss, allowing two runs on two hits and walking four in two innings. Starter Yasutomo Kubo gave Hanshin a decent outing, giving up two unearned runs on nine hits and striking out seven over six innings.
The Giants can now look ahead to their matchup in the final stage against the Chunichi Dragons, who begin the series with a one-game advantage as the regular-season champions.
Chunichi won the season series against Yomiuri 15-9. The Dragons went 9-0 against the Giants at Nagoya Dome from July until the end of the season. The final stage begins Wednesday.
“I haven’t thought about it,” Hara said. “I haven’t even thought about tomorrow. At least we cleared this hurdle. Now we can go to Nagoya.”