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Marathon Game 6 ends in rare 2-2 tie

by Jason Coskrey

NAGOYA — The Chiba Lotte Marines and Chunichi Dragons played longer than any two teams in Japan Series history.

That still wasn’t enough to decide anything.

Saburo Omura hit a game-tying single for the Marines in the eighth and Chunichi’s Yohei Oshima grounded out to first seven innings later to end it as the Marines and Dragons played to a 15-inning 2-2 tie in Game 6 of the Japan Series at Nagoya Dome on Saturday.

“We didn’t win, that’s the bottom line,” Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai said. “If we didn’t lose, we would have another chance. If we win tomorrow, we’ll have another game the next day.”

The result for all intents and purposes leaves the Marines leading the series 3-2. A win in Game 7 clinches the title for Lotte. A victory for the Dragons will force a decisive Game 8.

Omura led the way for the Marines, going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. First baseman Kim Tae Kyun also had a pair of hits. Masahiko Morino and Tony Blanco each drove in a run for Chunichi while both finishing 1-for-6.

The game lasted 5 hours and 43 minutes and was by far the longest in the 61-year history of the Japan Series. The previous record of 4:49 was set during Game 4 of the 1975 Series between the Hankyu Braves and Hiroshima Carp. That game ended in a 4-4 tie after 13 innings.

“Only 13 innings?” Ochia asked. “We played two more innings, so it’s not strange at all.”

By comparison the longest MLB game, where there is no limit on the number of innings, was an 8:06, 25-inning struggle between the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. The White Sox won 7-6. The longest World Series game took 5:41, with the White Sox winning 7-5 in 14 innings against the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the 2005 series.

Mistakes, clutch plays and a litany of failed bunts on both sides kept the Dragons and Marines tied at 2-2.

Both sides put runners on in the later stages, but there were few chances for either to score after the 11th.

The Dragons led 2-1 in the eighth, when the Marines staged a late rally, tying the game on an RBI single from Saburo Omura, who also drove in a run for the Marines in the first inning.

The Dragons, trailing 2-3 in the series, had a chance to force a decisive seventh game in the 10th after putting runners on the corners with two away. The chance fell by the wayside after Kazuhiro Wada grounded out to end the inning.

Lotte’s Tadahito Iguchi led off the top of the 11th with a hit but Omura popped up his sacrifice bunt attempt which allowed Dragons pitcher Akifumi Takahshi to scoop up the ball and fire to first for one out while second baseman Hirokazu Ibata chased down Iguchi for a 1-4 double play.

The Marines had also bunted into a double play in the 10th. Takahashi walked the next batter, Toshiaki Imae and reliever Junichi Kawahara gave up a single to Kim Tae Kyun.

With runners on first and second, catcher Tomoya Satozaki nearly ended the series with a deep ball to center. Rookie outfielder Yohei Oshima turned on the jet in center and ran down the ball for out three, earning himself a standing ovation.

Motonobu Tanishige drew a one-out walk in the home half of the 11th, but was thrown out at second on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt by pinch hitter Tatsuro Iwasaki. The next two batters drew walks bringing Masahiro Araki to the plate with the bases loaded.

Araki lined out the end the inning.

Until the bottom of the sixth, the story of the game had been the starting pitchers. Needing a win to force a Game 7, the Dragons sent Chen Wei-yin to the hill and he didn’t disappoint.

The Taiwanese star threw seven innings of one-run ball, aided by a surprisingly strong defensive performance out of a group that finished second in the NPB with 91 errors during the regular season.

Chen allowed four hits, struck out two and walked a pair on 107 pitches. He did not factor into the decision.

“Our starting pitchers have not done very well recently,” Chen said. “But I was able to have a good pitching performance with the support of my teammates.”

Lotte ace Yoshihisa Naruse gave up a pair of runs and struck out seven over six solid innings. After giving up a run in the first, he carved up the Chunichi lineup before running into trouble in the sixth, during which he gave up a go-ahead double to Tony Blanco.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka led off the game with a single but Ikuhiro Kiyota popped out while trying to move him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Nishioka went to second on a sacrifice fly by Iguchi and came home on a single from Omura.

“I’m so pleased I could drive in a run in the first inning of such an important game,” Omura said. “I stepped to the plate with a mind-set that we were going to win by any means today.”

Chunichi’s Masahiro Araki led off the bottom half of the first with a hit and reached second after a successful sacrifice bunt by Hirokazu Ibata.

Masahiko Morino followed with a double to right that tied the score. The game was still tied in the bottom of the sixth when Naruse when gave up a one-out single to Ibata.

The next batter, Morino, struck out, bringing Wada to the plate. Ibata stole second to open up first while Wada, one of the few Dragons having a good series was ahead 2-1 in the count.

Naruse threw two more balls to put Wada on first and bring the slumping Blanco out of the dugout. Blanco came through with a double to right that nearly crept over the fence for a home run. He settled instead for a go-ahead RBI double that made the score 2-1.

A one-out double by Kiyota got the Marines started in the eighth and Omura tied the score with a run-scoring single later in the inning.