CHIBA — The story of the Japan Series had been the play of the Chiba Lotte Marines rookie Ikuhiro Kiyota. In Game 4, Chunichi Dragons first-year player Yohei Oshima evened the score and the series.
Oshima hit a tiebreaking triple in the top of the 11th inning and the Dragons edged the Marines 4-3 in a game that lasted 4 hours and 41 minutes on Wednesday at Chiba Marine Stadium.
“Oshima is doing a great job for a rookie,” Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai said. “He has the poise of a veteran player.”
Chunichi’s victory ties the series at 2-2 and ensures there will be a sixth game in Nagoya.
“We wanted to go back to Nagoya,” Ochiai said. “Now we know the final game of the series will be played in our home park.”
With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Oshima put the Dragons on top with a ball to center that got over the head of outfielder Yoshifumi Okada, resulting in a go-ahead triple.
“I saw the ball clear the outfielder and roll to the wall,” Oshima said. “Then I knew we were going to take the lead.”
Oshima was 2-for-4 at the plate in Game 4. While Kiyota had rightly been garnering much of the attention for his play, the series’ other rookie has quietly hit .333 with two RBIs for Chunichi.
“I’m nervous playing in the Series in my first year,” Oshima said. “But the nervousness goes away in the excitement of the game.”
While Dragons fans can thank Oshima for his hit in the 11th, they should reserve some praise for reliever Akifumi Takahashi for getting them that far.
“I followed (Takuya) Asao, who had done a good job,” Takahashi said. “So I just wanted to continue that and not walk off the field a loser.”
Takahashi entered the game with the bases loaded and one out in the 10th. He endured a long at-bat against Kazuya Fukuura, before getting the Lotte hitter to line a ball to rookie third baseman Naomichi Donoue for the second out. Donoue then alertly stepped on the bag for an unassisted double play to end the inning.
“Fukuura didn’t hit the ball well, so I thought it would be caught for the second out,” Takahashi said. “Getting the double play and ending the threat was a huge bonus.”
Takahashi retired both batters he faced in the 11th before handing the ball off to Hitoki Iwase, who closed out the game for the save. Lotte’s Yoshihiro Ito was charged with the loss.
Takahashi threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win.
“It’s good Iwase and I could end the game,” Takahashi said. “He got a save, and I got the win.
“I am really happy about that.”
The game began with a matchup of 45-year-old starting pitcher Masahiro Yamamoto toeing the rubber for Chunichi against 21-year-old Yuki Karakawa.
The pitching matchup fizzled early as both were out of the game by the fourth inning.
Yamamoto is the oldest player to appear in a Japan Series game allowed three runs on four hits in three innings. Yamamoto is in his 27th season and is still looking for his first Japan Series win. He fell to 0-4 with a 5.47 ERA in six appearances.
Karakawa gave up a pair of runs over 3 1/3 innings, striking out four and walking one.
In the third inning, the Marines got on the board first with Tsuyoshi Nishioka following a single by Yoshifumi Okada and a wild pitch from Yamamoto with an RBI double to left. One batter later, Tadahito Iguchi added to the lead with a two-run homer to right.
“I managed to make contact with a pitch that was outside,” Iguchi said. “I didn’t really swing big on that one but it flew well. I think our fans in the right-field stands helped it.”
Chunichi’s Masahiko Morino led off the fourth with a triple and was driven home on a double by Kazuhiro Wada.
“Since the runner was in scoring position, I was only focused on driving him home,” Wada said.
Tony Blanco moved Wada to third with a sacrifice fly and Kei Nomoto put Chunichi on the board with a run-scoring sacrifice fly to center.
“Since I couldn’t do anything in my previous at-bat, I was only thinking about driving in a run by any means,” Nomoto said.
Motonobu Tanishige reached first on an error by reliever Shingo Ono to lead off the fifth and the next batter, Oshima, was hit with a pitch, putting runners on first and second.
Masahiro Araki attempted to advance the runners with a sacrifice bunt. Anticipating bunt, first baseman Kim Tae Kyun ran in toward home plate, but second baseman Iguchi stayed at second. The confusion left first base uncovered, allowing the Dragons to load the bases with no outs.
Hirokazu Ibata hit into a run-scoring double play to tie the game before Morino was retired to end the inning.
In the ninth, Marines first baseman Kim led off with a single. With Hisao Heiuchi on first as a pinch runner, Tomoya Satozaki laid down a sacrifice bunt to put the runner in scoring position.
Okada went down on strikes for the second out bringing Tsuyoshi Nishioka to the plate. Nishioka nearly ended the game with a ball deep to right that set off celebrations around the stadium, that turned out to be premature as the ball was foul by just a few feet. Nishioka later struck out breaking his bat on the ground in frustration.
In the 10th, Dragons reliever Takuya Asao began the bottom of the inning by hitting Ikuhiro Kiyota. Iguchi followed with a single to right field.
Outfielder Hidenori Kuramoto tried to field the ball on the bounce and misjudged it, which allowed both runners to advance. Kuramoto was charged with an error on the play.
The next batter, Saburo Omura, failed to advance the runners with a flyout to shallow left, bringing Toshiaki Imae to the plate.
The Dragons then intentionally walked Imae to load the bases. That brought in Takahashi, who got out of the jam.