Yuichi Matsumoto may have kept the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the game, but Josh Whitesell won it for them.
Matsumoto hit a game-tying two-out pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth inning and Whitesell sent Swallows fans home happy with a sayonara home run in the 10th, as Yakult edged the Yokohama BayStars 2-1 on Friday at Jingu Stadium.
“You can look so bad for four at-bats and one swing can turn your whole day around,” said Whitesell, who was 0-for-4 before his heroics.
The homer was Whitesell’s seventh of the season, and his first walk-off shot in Japan.
“I knew it was gone,” Whitesell said. “I just looked in the dugout and the best part was seeing all my teammates celebrating and knowing I was able to help the team win.”
BayStars closer Shun Yamaguchi, who blew the save in the ninth, retired the first two batters of the 10th to bring the Yakult slugger to the plate. Whitesell swung and missed a first-pitch forkball, but got all of Yamaguchi’s second offering.
“I’m pretty sure that was just a hanging fork that he wanted to bury in the dirt,” Whitesell said. “He just left it right out over the middle, and I was able to get the barrel on it.”
Yamaguchi’s troubles began in the ninth. The BayStars led 1-0 when their closer led off the frame by walking Wladimir Balentien, who was replaced by pinch runner Masayoshi Miwa.
A Shinya Miyamoto sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second, but the next batter popped out to record the second out.
Matsumoto then hit a grounder that would’ve rolled into the outfield if not for a diving stop by second baseman Naoto Watanabe. That was all the Swallows needed, as Miwa made it home ahead of the throw to tie the score.
“That was huge,” Whitesell said. “We had our best pitcher on the mound in (Shohei) Tateyama and he threw an unbelievable game again. For us not to be able to score in the early innings was pretty frustrating.
“So just to be able to scratch that run across and know that going into extra innings we have the ability to bounce back gave us some confidence.”
Prior to the late game fireworks, the story of the game had been the two starting pitchers.
Tateyama (6-1) turned in another good outing, tossing eight innings of one-run ball while allowing four hits and striking out six.
Yuki Yoshimura’s two-out pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth was all the offense the BayStars could muster against the Yakult righty.
BayStars starter Kentaro Takasaki, pitching on his 26th birthday, was nearly as good. Takasaki (1-5) held the Swallows to six hits, struck out three and walked three over seven shutout innings.
Neither starter factored into the decision. Yakult reliever Lim Chang Yong (2-0) retired all three batters he faced in the 10th to earn the win. Yamaguchi (1-2) was charged with the loss.
Maeda lifts Carp
Veteran Tomonori Maeda put Hiroshima ahead with a pinch-hit, two-RBI double in the eighth as the Carp beat the Chunichi Dragons 4-1 on Friday.
Tigers 4, Giants 2
At Koshien Stadium, Matt Murton’s two-out, two-run double in the fourth sent Hanshin past Yomiuri to its fourth win in the last five games.
Fighters 3, Hawks 1
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Yu Darvish again was the man for Hokkaido Nippon Ham, striking out 13 in eight innings to help the Fighters edge Softbank.
Darvish, 9-2 on the year, held the Hawks to one earned run on seven hits, grinding out 131 pitches. He gave up his first home run since the season opener, a solo shot to Tomoaki Egawa in the fifth.
Lions 7, Eagles 4
At Omiya Stadium, Hideto Asamura hit a game-winning three-run shot in a five-run ninth as Seibu beat Tohoku Rakuten.
Buffaloes 6, Marines 4