The Central League champions wrapped up their prolific season with bang on Sunday, pinch hitter Kenji Yano hitting a game-ending home run to lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 10-inning, 2-1 victory over the last-place Yokohama BayStars on Sunday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
The Giants, who went 2-5 with one tie in the eight games after clinching the CL pennant on Sept. 21, turned things around against the BayStars. Yano had the last word with his drive into the visiting fans section in left on a first-pitch fastball from reliever Hitoshi Fujie (3-5) to complete a three-game sweep.
The Giants will host the Climax Series first-stage winner in the final stage, beginning at Tokyo Dome on Oct. 17.
“This was the last game of the season, so I wanted to make sure we won it,” said Yano. “I want to keep contributing to the team as we look forward to the Climax Series.”
Yano, who was sidelined with a left foot sprain before the start of the season until June 24, said he got some advice from Yomiuri captain Shinnosuke Abe on how to approach right-handed pitching, which he had been struggling with as of late.
“I wanted to jump on a pitch in an early count. I started the season with an injury, so I wanted to go out on a winning note. Since I got back from the farm team, I have been focused on not wasting any opportunities in my at-bats. Abe-san gave me some sound advice on how to hit off righties — some technical advice,” he said, without elaborating.
Both teams had opportunities early on, the Giants loading the bases in the first on a hit and two walks, only for Taishi Ota to ground out to end the inning.
Yokohama similarly had a chance in the second, when Norihiro Nakamura and Tatsuhiko Kinjo both singled, and catcher Shoto Takajo was intentionally walked to load the bases for BayStars starter Kisho Kagami, who struck out looking to end the threat.
The Giants finally got on the scoreboard in the fifth, when leadoff man Hayato Sakamoto, who was 3-for-4 on the day, doubled down the left-field line, went to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored one out later on a wild pitch.
But Shotaro Ide hit a one-out solo drive to the stands in left to tie it in the seventh.
The Giants’ D.J. Houlton gave up one run and three hits in seven innings of work. He struck out seven and walked one. Kagami went nine innings, yielding one run and seven hits while fanning five and walking one.
“I felt I pitched very well,” said Houlton, who went 12-8 with a 2.45 ERA in 25 starts in his first year with Yomiuri. “I tried to stay around the zone and be aggressive. I think if I can pitch like I did today in the Climax Series, I should be fine.”
Yomiuri’s Hisayoshi Chono went 0-for-2 with one walk, finishing with a league-high 173 hits, while Abe, who has secured both the RBI and batting titles, did not play.
Yokohama’s Alex Ramirez, who is seven shy of his 2,000th career hit, did not play for the second day in a row due to pain in his left knee. The BayStars have two games remaining, but Ramirez is not expected to start either one. He told reporters after the game he would resume the pursuit of the 2,000-hit milestone next season.
Carp 1, Swallows 0
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Soichiro Amaya broke a scoreless deadlock with a bases-loaded RBI single in the ninth inning as fourth-place Hiroshima edged third-place Tokyo Yakult in the Swallows’ final game of the regular season.
Wladimir Balentien went 0-for-3, but finished with a Japanese baseball-high 31 homers. Ryuji Yokoyama (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the win. Kam Mickolio worked the ninth for his 21st save. Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi (2-7) was charged with the loss.
Buffaloes 7, Lions 0
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Pacific League RBI leader Lee Dae Ho had a two-run double in the first inning and last-place Orix erupted in a five-run fifth, featuring a two-run double by Takahiro Okada, in a blowout of second-place Seibu in the Lions’ last game of the season.
Yuji Maeda (3-2) threw eight shutout innings of five-hit ball, striking out five and walking one. Seibu starter Kazuhisa Makita (13-9) allowed two runs in two innings and Yusei Kikuchi was tagged for five runs in 2 2/3 shaky innings of relief. Buffaloes first baseman Hirotoshi Kitagawa doubled in a run in the 40-year-old’s final home game before his retirement.
Marines 3, Eagles 2
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, pinch hitter Kazuya Fukuura drew a bases-loaded walk from Yoshinao Kamata, whose relief debut in the bottom of the ninth inning consisted of eight straight balls, giving Chiba Lotte a walkoff win over Tohoku Rakuten.
Naoya Masuda (2-2) tossed a scoreless ninth for the win. Takahiro Shiomi (6-10), who pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief and hit Yoshifumi Okada to lead off the ninth, was charged with the loss. Tohoku Rakuten’s Jose Fernandez hit a game-tying two-run double in the eighth inning.
Iwamura won’t return
The Tohoku Rakuten Goolden Eagles announced Sunday that they will not offer a contract to former major league infielder Akinori Iwamura.
The 33-year-old, who has been hampered by a host of injuries since he signed with the club prior to the 2011 season, intends to continue his career. Iwamura played 152 games at second base for 2008 American League champion Tampa Bay, and was 5-for-19 in their World Series defeat to the Philadelphia Phillies.
A career .293 hitter in Japan with 189 home runs, Iwamura has played in just 26 games for Rakuten this season, batting .209 with one home run.