NISHINOMIYA, HYOGO PREF. - The Hanshin Tigers advanced to the final stage of the Central League playoffs on Sunday thanks to a 0-0 tie with the Hiroshima Carp in Game 2 of the Central League Climax Series first stage.
Nippon Professional Baseball’s rules limit Climax Series games to 12 innings and award any series that is tied to the higher-seeded team. The Tigers were therefore declared the winner of the best-of-three series on the strength of one win and one tie.
The Carp, who swept Hanshin in two games here last year, were held scoreless in 21 innings, including their 1-0 Game 1 loss on Saturday. The Tigers will take on the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome in a best-of-seven final stage that gives the Giants a one-win advantage and allows Yomiuri to advance should that series end in a tie.
Tigers closer Oh Seung-hwan picked up for ace Atsushi Nomi in the eighth and worked three scoreless innings. Shinobu Fukuhara got the requisite three outs in the top of the 12th to seal the tie and knock the Carp out of the playoffs.
The Carp wasted a golden opportunity to score in the seventh, when they put runners on second and third with one out. The Tigers intentionally walked the bases loaded, but Nomi escaped to set up the bizarre walk-off tie.
“Before the series started, we were resolved to do whatever it took to play some more games at Tokyo Dome, and we managed just that,” said Tigers skipper Yutaka Wada.
“Nomi in that seventh inning was huge. For Seung-hwan it was the first time for him to go three innings — he was just superb. We allowed runners on but the defense held.”
Carp rookie Daichi Osera threw seven shutout innings before leaving for a pinch hitter and was rarely in trouble thanks to Hiroshima’s top-notch infield defense.
Right-handed starter Deunte Heath worked two scoreless innings for the Carp, while rookie Shota Nakazaki took over and held Hanshin scoreless for two more innings.
This is the first time the Tigers have reached the final stage, having lost each of their four previous first-stage series.
Buffaloes 6, Fighters 4
At Kyocera Dome, retiring Hokkaido Nippon Ham veteran Atsunori Inaba snapped a 3-3 tie with a pinch-hit single in the top of the eighth inning, but Takahiro Mahara got Orix out of the inning without another run scoring and Takahiro Okada belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to lift Orix to its first postseason win since 1996.
Orix’s victory means Game 3 is scheduled for Monday, with the Buffaloes needing just a tie to advance to the second stage against the league champion Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. The crowd of 36,012 was Kyocera Dome’s largest since NPB teams abandoned the practice of announcing vastly inflated attendance figures in 2005.