Takayuki Terauchi and Hisayoshi Chono secured return tickets to Sendai for the Yomiuri Giants and breathed new life into the Japan Series in the process.
Chono drove in three runs to keep the Giants in the game early, and Terauchi delivered a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh to help the Giants edge the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 6-5 in Game 4 of the Japan Series on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome.
“Terauchi has been a hot hitter for us, but we also got big hits from Chono and (Tetsuya) Matsumoto,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.
The Giants avoided falling into a 3-1 hole and instead evened the series and ensured there will be a Game 6 in Sendai on Saturday.
Rakuten will be trying to take the series lead back home with them by bouncing back from a tough loss and winning Game 5 on Thursday.
“It was a tough one,” Eagles third baseman Casey McGehee said. “They did a good job of coming back. It was a good game all around. There were some things we would’ve liked to have done a little differently, some things they probably would like to have done differently. But you know, the series just gets shorter. It’s a best-of-three now.
“This is what you want. You want a dogfight, and we got one.”
Yomiuri pulled out all the stops to snap out of their Japan Series funk. The Kyojin did morijio (the act of placing salt by an entrance to bring good luck) at the top of each of the three sets of steps in the home dugout, changed up their postseason pregame video, and more importantly Hara made a number of changes in the lineup.
The manager kept tinkering with the lineup during the game as well, as he tried to get the best of Eagles skipper Senichi Hoshino.
“I changed some of the starters tonight and we wound up using most of our players,” Hara said. “It was a full team win tonight.”
Chono was in his usual spot at the top of the order and finished 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
“This was a game we could not lose, so I was determined to make the most of every chance,” he said.
The Eagles intentionally walked Chono to get to Terauchi in the seventh, and the Yomiuri second baseman made them pay with his go-ahead single.
“After they walked Chono, I was hoping I could come through one more time and I was lucky the ball I hit landed just inside the line,” Terauchi said.
Neither team was particularly sharp in this one.
The Eagles’ pitching was shaky from the beginning, though starter Jim Heuser pitched around four walks to deliver three innings of one-run ball.
Heuser got the Eagles into the fourth with a 4-1 lead, but the Kyojin chipped away at a Rakuten bullpen that proved to be full of holes but, to its credit, never let Yomiuri bust the game open.
Rakuten pitchers walked 10 batters, and also hit two, during the game, hardly a recipe for success.
“You can’t expect to be on the winning side,” Hoshino said of the walks.
Rakuten also added to its own woes with a pair of errors.
The Eagles reached double-digit hits (10) for the second straight night and have out-hit the Giants in every game of the series.
Andruw Jones was 2-for-4 for Rakuten, launching a three-run homer into left field in the top of the first. It the third home run of the postseason for Jones, who had 10 during the 11 years he reached the playoffs in the major leagues.
“The home run was all about the scouting report,” Jones said. “I saw what (starter D.J. Houlton) did against previous guys that had power. He threw them high fastballs, and that’s what I was looking for.”
Ryo Hijirisawa finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and Kazuo Matsui had a pair of hits for the Eagles.
Scott Mathieson picked up the win in relief for Yomiuri, with Kohei Hasebe taking the loss. Yomiuri’s Tetsuya Yamaguchi was credited with a save.
Houlton had a disastrous start to the game, walking leadoff man Takero Okajima and hitting Rakuten’s second batter, Kazuya Fujita. He retired Ginji Akaminai for the first out of the inning, but then gave up Jones’ three-run shot. Houlton gave up another run in the second inning, but kept Rakuten off the board in the third.
His day was over after allowing four runs over three innings.
With his team trailing 3-0 after the top of the first, Yomiuri’s Shuichi Murata ripped an RBI single into left after walks put a pair of Giants on base with two outs in the bottom half of the inning.
“We had a chance to score, so I tried to be aggressive,” Murata said.
The Eagles struck back in the second with Heuser beating the throw to first on a fielder’s choice, advancing on a single byOkajima and scoring on Fujita’s single to center to make the score 4-1.
“It was lucky the ball went the way it did so that Heuser was able to come home,” Fujita said.
The Giants began to find cracks in the Rakuten armor in the fourth against reliever Sho Miyagawa.
Daisuke Nakai and Yoshiyuki Kamei drew walks to start the inning, and Chono singled in a run to make the score 4-2.
“The guys ahead of me were really patient and set the table,” Chono said. “So I just tried to do the same.”
The Giants later loaded the bases when a pitch hit Terauchi’s helmet, which also resulted in Miyagawa being thrown out of the game.
Shinichiro Koyama came on in relief to strike out Hayato Sakamoto, but gave up a sacrifice fly to Shinnosuke Abe as Yomiuri cut the lead to one run.
“It was a kind of difficult pitch to hit,” Abe said. “I was relieved that I at least still managed to drive in a runner.”
Matsumoto drew a one-out walk in the fifth and an error at third allowed Kamei to reach first safely. Chono drove in both runners with a come-from-behind double, making the score 5-4.
Matsui led off the sixth with a single for Rakuten, and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. Hijirisawa drove in Matsui with a double that tied the game.
“The Giants have strong relievers for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, so we definitely wanted to score some runs before getting to them,” Hijirisawa said.
The Giants put a runner on second with one away in the seventh, and Eagles pitcher Hasebe intentionally walked Chono. Terauchi responded by driving a run with his bloop single to shallow right field that just did land in fair territory.
Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.