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Abe’s ninth-inning HR lifts Giants

Cuts Chunichi's series advantage to 3-1 after well-played game

by Hiroki Noda

Kyodo News

NAGOYA — Captain Shinnosuke Abe hit a tiebreaking solo home run in the top of the ninth inning as the Yomiuri Giants edged the Chunichi Dragons 3-2 in Game 3 of the final stage of the Central League Climax Series on Friday.

The Giants managed to cut the Dragons’ series lead to 3-1. Chunichi had an automatic one-win advantage as the league champions before the series started.

“We have our backs against the wall,” Abe said. “We have no choice but to win. I think the win says a lot about our character because we won a game that had to be won.”

“I just want to keep playing baseball as long as I can.”

Leading off the ninth, Abe lined a 1-1 pitch from closer Hitoki Iwase just over the wall in right, after Kei Nomoto’s pinch-hit two-run homer had tied the game at two apiece for Chunichi in the eighth.

“I wanted to do something in the ninth because I hadn’t contributed anything offensively,” Abe said. “But things would be a lot easier for us if I could get a hit or two in my previous two at-bats.

“In a short series like this, you don’t have time to look back at what happened earlier in the series. We stayed alive, and now we try to keep the momentum going.”

Yomiuri finally reached the board on a two-out RBI double by Ryota Wakiya in the fifth, having been shut out in the first two games.

The Giants made it 2-0 an inning later as Yoshinobu Takahashi added a run-scoring double of his own.

Reliever Daisuke Ochi picked up the victory, despite allowing the home run to Nomoto. Tetsuya Yamaguchi closed, pitching the ninth as he struck out two.

Yomiuri starter Hideki Asai allowed just one hit over six scoreless innings.

“Shinnosuke came through for us after we got thrown into a tie game,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “He connected off Iwase. That’s huge.

“Asai came up with a strong outing under pressure to win. He’s following through all the way on every pitch, setting a good example for the other pitchers on the team.”

Hoshino to take job

SENDAI (Kyodo) Senichi Hoshino, who led the Hanshin Tigers and Chunichi Dragons to Central League titles, will take over as manager of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, he said Thursday evening.

Hoshino, 63, who earlier this week left his post as senior director of Hanshin, reached a basic agreement with Rakuten on Tuesday and a formal announcement will be made as early as next week.

When asked about taking the helm at Rakuten when he appeared live on a commercial broadcast news program on Thursday, Hoshino said , “We have reached a basic agreement.”

His contract will likely be a multiyear deal. He will hold a news conference on Wednesday at a hotel in Sendai.

Hoshino said at the earlier news conference at which he announced he was stepping down from his post at Hanshin, “For the past couple of years I have been itching to play baseball. I’ve been a baseball man my entire life.

“I want to make a fresh start with my new life.”

Rakuten fired former Hiroshima Carp manager Marty Brown after just one season this year after the team finished last and team owner Hiroshi Mikitani set his sights on hiring Hoshino.

Hoshino managed the national team for the Beijing Olympics but Japan finished in a disappointing fourth place. He led the Dragons to league titles in 1988 and 1999 and the Tigers to a pennant in 2003.