Tokyo Dome was rocking and the Chunichi Dragons were reeling. All it would take was one final blow to finish putting the nail in the coffin.
As he has so many times this year, Yoshihito Ishii turned out to be the man for the job.
Ishii singled in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to keep the Yomiuri Giants’ season alive with a 3-2 victory over the Dragons in Game 5 of the Central League Climax Series final stage on Sunday night.
The win means there will be a decisive sixth game Monday at the Big Egg.
“We have evened the series, so we are in a situation where whoever wins tomorrow wins the series. The momentum is on our side now,” Ishii said.
While the Giants will be riding high into Game 6, the Dragons will be trying to overcome their second tough loss in as many nights. Chunichi lost 5-4 in 10 innings in Game 5.
“They won the game,” Dragons slugger Tony Blanco said. “We want to play our best game (tomorrow). Do our best, and enjoy the game, even if it’s a hard situation.”
The Giants led 2-0 early, but Blanco tied the game with a two-run homer in the fifth.
Both bullpens made sure the score remained tied entering the bottom of the ninth.
Kenji Yano led off the frame with a pinch-hit single off reliever Hitoki Iwase and was replaced by pinch runner Takahiro Suzuki. Shigeyuki Furuki singled with two strikes after failing to get down a sacrifice bunt, putting runners on first and second.
“Yano’s hit inspired us,” Ishii said. “That was the spark. Then when Furuki followed with his hit, we could feel the victory coming.”
Pinch hitter Takayuki Terauchi advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, and an intentional walk to Hisayoshi Chono loaded the bases.
Chunichi sent Daisuke Yamai to the mound at that point, and Giants manager Tatsunori Hara countered with Ishii, who ended up winning the game for the Kyojin.
“I was put in a tough situation,” Yamai said. “I was trying to get a strikeout.”
Ishii said he became nervous after falling behind in the count, but sat on a fastball and delivered when he got it.
“The ball I hit fell in,” Ishii said. “I was lucky to get under it and just get it over the infield.”
Yomiuri’s Scott Mathieson earned the win in relief.
“Mathieson threw two good innings for us and kept the score tied,” Hara said. “He deserved to be the winning pitcher.”
Tetsuya Utsumi got the start for the Giants, working on three days’ rest for the first time in his career. The lefty, who threw 107 pitches in a Game 1 defeat, made it through the first four innings without allowing a run. Utsumi allowed a one-out single to Hirokazu Ibata in the fifth, and Blanco deposited Utsumi’s 100th pitch of the night into the seats in right.
Soma Yamauchi got the start for the Dragons and allowed two runs on four hits in three-plus innings. Yamauchi left the game after being struck on the left shin by a line drive from Shuichi Murata in the fourth.
After the game, the Dragons starter hopped out of the clubhouse on one leg and eventually had to be carried on a teammate’s back.
The scene now shifts to the sixth and deciding game of the series.
“We had pressure yesterday and today,” Hara said. “Now we are all even and the Dragons will feel the pressure tomorrow.”