TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. – Takahiro Suzuki is usually the one scoring the runs for the Yomiuri Giants.
On Tuesday night, he tried his hand at driving them in for once.
Suzuki led off the game with a double, hit a three-run homer and threw in a nice grab in center field for good measure to lead the Yomiuri Giants past the Seibu Lions 6-4 in Game 3 of the Japan Series at Seibu Dome.
“I wanted to get us off to a good start as we’re on the road,” Suzuki said about his leadoff two-base hit. “So I swung at the first pitch and was lucky to hit it fair down the right-field line.”
Suzuki sent a slider from Lions starter Kazuhisa Ishii into the left-field seats, just inside the foul pole, in the second to put the Giants in control of the game early on.
The home run was Suzuki’s first outside of Tokyo Dome, where he hit all three of his regular-season homers. He finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and is batting .333 in the series.
“As for the home run, I got a sweet pitch to hit and was able to get it out,” Suzuki said. “More than the home run, I am proud that I got three hits.”
Alex Ramirez also hit a homer off Ishii, his former Tokyo Yakult Swallows teammate. Ramirez and Ishii won a Japan Series title together with the Swallows in 2001.
“I was looking for an inside pitch after he threw me three fastballs away,” Ramirez said. “He left it in the strike zone and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
The blast was Ramirez’s second homer of the series.
Michihiro Ogasawara joined in the fun with his first home run of the series in the seventh inning off reliever Chikara Onodera. Including the regular season and Climax Series, the Giants are 17-0 when Ogasawara and Ramirez homer in the same game.
The win gives the Giants a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and ensures in the worst-case scenario — losses in Games 4 and 5 — they will return to Tokyo Dome for Game 6 if necessary.
The series resumes in Game 4 on Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. at Seibu Dome, and the starters are expected to be Takayuki Kishi for Seibu and Yomiuri’s Seth Greisinger.
“This game was huge for us,” Ramirez said. “The guys did an outstanding job. We got a huge break from Takahiro. You gotta give him all the credit. He came through huge.”
Seibu’s Takeya Nakamura broke out of a slump with a crucial three-run homer in the sixth, his first hit of the series. The Pacific League home run champion had been 0-for-8 with three strikeouts before connecting off reliever Kentaro Nishimura.
While Suzuki and Ramirez had the Yomiuri offense rolling, starter Tetsuya Utsumi got off to a fast start on the mound.
Utsumi was sharp for the majority of his 5 2/3-inning outing but started to fade in the sixth.
He began the inning by giving up one-out singles to Yasuyuki Kataoka, who later stole second, and Takumi Kuriyama to put runners on the corners. Hiroyuki Nakajima then drove in a run with a timely single up the middle to end Utsumi’s night.
The Giants hurler was charged with two more runs when Nishimura gave up Nakamura’s three-run shot. Utsumi picked up the win despite allowing three runs on six hits and striking out seven.
“Utsumi had a good breaking ball and good control today and that carried us through the first half of the game,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.
Ishii’s last go-round in the Japan Series went a lot better than his outing on this chilly Saitama night.
In Game 1 of the ’01 Series, Ishii took a no-hitter into the seventh, striking out 12 and ending up with the first one-hitter in the history of the Japanese Fall Classic.
This time, he gave up a double on his very first pitch and watched the night go downhill from then on.
Ishii gave up five runs on six hits, struck out four, walked two and threw a costly wild pitch over six innings to take the loss.
“My condition wasn’t bad,” Ishii said. “But I lacked some energy. I was disappointed in myself.”
After a quiet performance at the plate in Games 1 and 2, both clubs began to look more like their old selves in this meeting.
Suzuki led off the game with a double then went to third on Takuya Kimura’s ground out. He came home after Ishii’s wild pitch to make the score 1-0.
Giants right fielder Yoshiyuki Kamei led off the second by running out an infield single and advanced to third on a passed ball four to Kazunari Tsuruoka, putting runners at first and third.
Suzuki cleared the bases with his home run to give the Giants a four-run lead.
Nakajima responded to Ramirez’s sixth inning homer with an RBI single up the middle to cut the lead to 5-1. Nakamura pulled the Lions within one with his homer later in the inning.
The Giants stretched the lead to two runs on Ogasawara’s homer in the seventh.
“The home runs by Ramirez and Ogasawara that gave us runs five and six were really big after we let the Lions get to within one run,” Hara said.