The Tokyo Yakult Swallows came out on top in their season series against the Yomiuri Giants this year. Now they’re halfway to a triumph that may be even more satisfying.
Kyohei Muranaka delivered a solid performance out of the bullpen, Shinya Miyamoto drove in a tiebreaking run in the sixth inning, and the Swallows edged the Giants 3-2 in Game 1 of the first stage of the Central League Climax Series on Saturday night at Jingu Stadium.
The Swallows are now one win away from knocking their crosstown rivals out of the postseason and moving on to face the CL champion Chunichi Dragons in the final stage.
“We’re only halfway there,” Miyamoto said. “We have to win one more against a tough Giants team to make it to the final stage, but I think we can do it tommorow.”
Muranaka (1-0) entered the game in the sixth after the Swallows pinch-hit for starter Shohei Tateyama. The left-hander came through with 3⅔ innings of relief to earn the win. Muranaka gave up one run on two hits and struck out three.
“I didn’t think about it and just pitched as though this was a game we could not afford to lose,” Muranaka said. “I want to thank my senpai (Miyamoto) for his hitting tonight.”
Tateyama wasn’t too shabby himself, holding the Giants to one run on six hits and striking out seven over five innings.
Closer Lim Chang Yong entered the game in the top of the ninth after Muranaka yielded a two-out solo home run to Saburo Omura. Lim retired the only batter he faced to earn the save.
Atsushi Fujimoto, Miyamoto and Wladimir Balentien each drove in runs for the Swallows. Hiroyasu Tanaka went 2-for-4, and Ryosuke Morioka and Ryoji Aikawa each finished 2-for-3.
Rookie Hirokazu Sawamura got the start for the Giants. He didn’t factor into the decision and allowed one run on five hits in five innings. Sawamura struck out five. Reliever Yasunari Takagi (0-1) allowed a pair of unearned runs to take the loss.
Alex Ramirez got the Giants going in the fourth with a one-out single against Tateyama. The Yomiuri slugger then showed a rare burst of speed, going from first to third on a single from Michihiro Ogasawara. Yoshinobu Takahashi brought Ramirez home with a hit to right that put Yomiuri ahead 1-0.
Sawamura retired the first two Yakult batters in the fifth, then gave up consecutive singles to Morioka and Aikawa. Fujimoto was sent up to pinch-hit for Tateyama and came through with an RBI single to tie the score.
Tanaka connected on an infield single against Takagi with one away in the sixth. Ogasawara then misplayed a grounder hit by Norichika Aoki and dove to first too late to beat Aoki to the bag.
The play resulted in Ogasawara tweaking his injured wrist — he left the field briefly — and the Swallows with runners at first and second.
Takagi walked Kazuhiro Hatakeyama to load the bases and surrendered Miyamoto’s tiebreaking sacrifice fly. Balentien drove in an insurance run with a bloop single to right.
Omura ended the scoring with his homer in the ninth.
The two teams meet in Game 2 of the series on Sunday at Jingu Stadium. Masanori Ishikawa is expected toe the rubber for the Swallows against Yomiuri lefty Tetsuya Utsumi.
Texas Rangers reliever Koji Uehara says Friday’s 6-2 defeat to the St. Louis Cardinals in the decisive seventh game of the World Series has deflated the team and reckons the Rangers’ failure to win the Series in an epic Game 6 proved to be a psychological blow.
Defeat inflicted more heartbreak on the Rangers, who lost to the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 World Series and had twice been one strike away from winning this year’s Fall Classic in Thursday’s Game 6.
“Everybody is depressed,” said Uehara, who along with fellow reliever Yoshinori Tateyama was left out of the Rangers roster for this World Series.
“We should have won it yesterday and I think we came into (Friday’s) game still on a downer. Hopefully, I will be playing next year (in the World Series) and won’t be a spectator.”
Uehara was traded to the Rangers in July from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for first baseman Chris Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter.
He went 2-3 in a combined 65 games for both teams and had a 2.35 ERA, but became the first relief pitcher in major league history to allow a home run in three straight postseason appearances as Texas lost to the Detroit Tigers 7-5 in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
Tateyama added, “It is disappointing but our opponent was better. I think everyone battled hard. We have learned how difficult it is to win.”