Utsumi gives Giants big lift in Game 2


Staff Writer

Tetsuya Utsumi took the mound knowing the Yomiuri Giants’ season hung in the balance. He did a little bit of everything to make sure his team lived to fight another day.

Utsumi threw six innings of one-run ball — registering a hit and an RBI along the way — before Yoshinobu Takahashi put things out of reach with a three-run double in the ninth inning as the Giants staved off elimination with a 6-2 victory over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in Game 2 of the Central League Climax Series first stage on Sunday night at Jingu Stadium.

“I was very nervous about today but I was determined not to lose no matter what happened,” Utsumi said. “Each pitch I threw tonight had more weight than in the regular season but I was just glad that I could shut them down.”

Yomiuri’s win evens the series at 1-1, setting the stage for a winner-take-all Game 3 on Monday. The victor moves on to face the CL champion Chunichi Dragons in the final stage, while the loser begins making plans for the offseason.

“We’ve got good momentum for tomorrow,” said Giants outfielder Alex Ramirez.

Pitching with the season on the line, Utsumi (1-0) allowed three hits, struck out four and walked two. He recorded the team’s first hit of the night in the third and laid down a squeeze bunt to help his own cause in the fifth.

“That was a fluke,” said Utsumi about his squeeze, adding that he felt confident the Yomiuri bullpen would get the job done in the end. “We want to win tomorrow, so we have a chance to go to Nagoya. We only have one chance, so we’ll pull together as a team for the win.”

He was relieved by Shun Tono to start the seventh. Tono threw two-thirds of an inning before yielding to Tetsuya Yamaguchi, who entered the game with two away and a man on second in the seventh.

Yamaguchi struck out Yoshiyuki Noguchi to end the inning and was lifted after putting runners on the corners with two outs in the eighth. Yuya Kubo ended that frame and recorded the first out of the ninth. He was relieved by Kentaro Nishimura, who nailed down the win despite allowing a run.

Shinnosuke Abe led the way for the Giants at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 with a solo home run in the fourth. Takahashi finished with three RBIs, while Takayuki Terauchi and Utsumi each drove in a run. Swallows starter Masanori Ishikawa (0-2) was charged with the loss after allowing two runs on four hits over 4⅔ innings. Ishikawa struck out six.

The Giants got scoreboard first, taking a 1-0 lead on Abe’s solo shot to center.

Yoshitomo Tani got the Kyojin going with a one-out double in the fifth, and Shigeyuki Furuki’s infield single put runners on the corners. The Giants executed a squeeze play with Utsumi at the plate to increase their lead to 2-0.

Utsumi walked Swallows batter Wladimir Balentien to start bottom of the fifth. Balentien moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ryosuke Morioka and took third on a Ryoji Aikawa groundout. Pinch hitter Ryohei Kawamoto cut the lead in half with a two-out RBI single.

The Giants put the game away with a four-run ninth that was highlighted by Takahashi’s pinch-hit three-run double.

Yakult pinch hitter Josh Whitesell added an RBI double in the ninth to make the score 6-2.

The two teams will meet in the third and final game of the series on Monday at Jingu Stadium.

The starting pitchers are expected to be former Swallows player Dicky Gonzalez for Yomiuri and left-hander Katsuki Akagawa for Yakult.