Fighters tie series

Nippon Ham's Koyano predicts Game 5 victory


The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters already knew they’d be heading back to Sapporo on Friday.

Shinji Takahashi helped make sure they’d have some company.

Takahashi gave Nippon Ham an early advantage with a two-run single and Eiichi Koyano drove in four runs as the Fighters topped the Yomiuri Giants 8-4 in Game 4 of the Japan Series on Wednesday night at Tokyo Dome.

The victory ties the series at 2 and assures there will be a Game 6 in Sapporo on Saturday.

“I’m happy we’re going back to Sapporo,” Koyano said. “But before we go, we’ll win one more game here (Thursday).”

Nippon Ham loaded the bases in the third inning and took the lead when Takahashi hit a single to left to score two runners. Koyano added a two-run double to center later in the inning to put the Fighters ahead 4-0.

“The hitters before me set the table,” Koyano said. “So I’m glad I was able to come through and drive in the runs.”

Takahashi, who also homered in the fifth, finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Koyano went 3-for-4 at the plate.

“I wasn’t sure if it would go out because it was a liner,” Takahashi said of the homer. “But I was relieved when I saw it clear the wall.”

The Giants wasted a number of chances, finishing 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Yomiuri also hit into three double plays after not having any during the first three games.

Fighters starter Tomoya Yagi threw five innings of one-run ball to pick up his second career victory in the Japan Series. The left-hander walked two and didn’t record a strikeout, but was effective enough to hold the Giants at bay.

Yomiuri outfielder Tetsuya Matsumoto was one of the few bright spots at the plate, finishing 3-for-5 with an RBI.

Giants starter Hisanori Takahashi struck out the side in the first inning and that was as good as it got for the veteran lefty. Takahashi allowed five runs on six hits and struck out seven in the loss.

Yomiuri was behind 4-0 in the third when shortstop Hayato Sakamoto led off the inning with a double. A wild pitch allowed him to go to third and he scored the Giants’ first run on a single by Matsumoto.

Takahashi brought the lead back to four with his homer in the fifth.

Fighters second baseman Kensuke Tanaka tripled in the seventh and came home on Hichori Morimoto’s squeeze bunt to pad the lead.

Koyano drove in two more runs with a single in the eighth to make the score 8-1.

Matsumoto reached on an error and Michihiro Ogasawara collected a hit as the Giants showed signs of life in the eighth. Alex Ramirez followed with a three-run homer to cut the lead to four against reliever Takayuki Kanamori.

Kanamori then walked Yoshiyuki Kamei and gave up a single to Yoshitomo Tani before heading to the showers.

Former Yomiuri hurler Masanori Hayashi entered with two on and one out and retired Shinnosuke Abe on a long fly ball to center, then struck out Takuya Kimura to end the inning.

“The end was a little scary,” Fighters manager Masataka Nashida said. “But I’m happy we could hold the lead.

“In baseball, you never know. We had an 8-1 lead and had to hang on at the end.”