A game might look over, and it might feel over, but as Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and the Yokohama BayStars taught the Yomiuri Giants’ Tomoyuki Sugano, nothing is over until the final out is in the books.
The BayStars went from two outs away from being shut out to improbable victors after Tsutsugo hit a come-from-behind two-run homer in the top of the ninth, and rookie pitcher Yasuaki Yamasaki shut the door in the bottom half to close out the BayStars’ 3-2 victory in front of a crowd of 46,277 on Thursday night at Tokyo Dome.
“I feel really good right now,” said BayStars manager Kiyoshi Nakahata. This was one of our most exciting wins this year. We pulled this one out of the fire.”
The BayStars hadn’t had any luck during the first eight innings against Sugano, the reigning Central League MVP who entered the game as the CL ERA leader. Things looked bleak for the visitors. Yokohama had registered just a pair of singles entering the ninth and the first batter of the final frame, Tomo Otosaka, went down swinging.
Pinch hitter Toshihiko Kuramoto gave the team a charge with a double to right. Takayuki Kajitani drove him in with a two-bagger of his own that made the score 2-1. That brought Tsutsugo to the plate, and the BayStars slugger wiped out the Yomiuri lead with his second home run in as many days and 17th of the season.
“I knew Kajitani was the tying run, so I just wanted to hit the ball hard and drive him in,” Tsutsugo said.
Yamasaki gave up a single to pinch hitter Leslie Anderson to begin the ninth but got Shinnosuke Abe to hit into a double play that alleviated any immediate danger. He then retired Soichiro Tateoka on a grounder to second to nail down his 29th save of the season.
“Our manager always said the game the game is not over until three outs in the ninth and to keep fighting until the end,” Tsutsugo said.
The late-inning dramatics snapped Yokohama’s four-game losing streak.
Yokohama reliever Shuichiro Osada threw a scoreless eighth inning to earn the win in relief. Starter Kenta Ishida allowed both Yomiuri runs in his 5 1/3 innings on the mound and was in line for the loss until the ninth.
“We knew we had a rookie pitcher starting tonight and he pitched well,” Tsutsugo said. “I’m glad we could save him from taking a loss.”
The result was likely a bitter pill to swallow for Sugano (8-8) who led until almost the very end. He went the distance and allowed three runs on six hits while striking out eight and walking two. Sugano saw his ERA rise to 1.86, which remains the best in Japan.
Yoshinobu Takahashi made a rare start and put the Giants in the lead with a solo homer in the fifth and added an RBI double in the sixth.
The third-place Kyojin dropped to 2 1/2 games behind the league-leading Hanshin Tigers and remained one percentage point behind the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Carp clobber Swallows
Kris Johnson threw eight shutout innings on two hits and the Hiroshima Carp scored seven of their runs on three home runs to beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 9-1 in a Central League contest on Thursday.
Before 30,999 at Mazda Stadium, Johnson (9-5) struck out six and walked three in his 105-pitch outing, while Takahiro Arai, who went 4-for-4, blasted a one-out grand slam in the third off Masanori Ishikawa (7-8) for a 6-0 lead.
“I was just trying to stop the losing streak, get the team on the right track and start winning some more games,” said Johnson. “It takes a lot of pressure off me (having the big lead). I have to give it up to the offense.”
Jesus Guzman struck a solo shot off reliever Tetsuya Yamamoto in the seventh, before Yoshihiro Maru slugged a two-run homer off Ryohei Kiya to make it 9-0.
“Everyone set me up and when I had the chance, I wanted to bat aggressively,” Arai said of his grand slam.
Seiya Suzuki’s one-out sacrifice fly off Ishikawa handed Hiroshima the lead in the second, its first run in 20 innings, and Guzman drew a bases-loaded walk in the third off the southpaw before Arai slammed one over the left-field wall.
Ishikawa threw four innings and gave up six runs on eight hits as he walked one in 73 pitches.
Takahiro Imanami hit a sac fly off Deunte Heath for Yakult, now 2½ games behind the CL-leading Hanshin Tigers.
Tigers 4, Dragons 1
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Keisuke Kano broke a 1-1 tie with a two-out, eighth-inning solo homer, and Ryota Imanari singled in two more runs in the inning as CL-leading Hanshin pulled away from Chunichi.
The Dragons’ Yudai Ono and the Tigers’ Takumi Akiyama each allowed a run in seven innings.
Eagles 4, Marines 1
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Kenji Tomura (6-7) and three relievers allowed nine singles and a hit batsman but held Lotte to a run, while Mitsutaka Goto and Wily Mo Pena homered for Tohoku Rakuten against Chiba Lotte.
Hawks 12, Buffaloes 5
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, league-leading Fukuoka Softbank tattooed Orix rookie Sachiya Yamasaki (2-4) for five runs in three innings and matched its season high in runs scored.
Lee Dae-ho homered and drove in four runs for the Hawks, while ace Tadashi Settsu (7-5) allowed three runs over seven innings.
Fighters 10, Lions 8
At Tokorozawa’s Seibu Prince Dome,cleanup hitter Sho Nakata homered twice and drove in five runs to power Hokkaido Nippon Ham, which survived a six-run Seibu sixth inning.
Fighters ace Shohei Otani pinch hit in the ninth inning and smacked his fifth homer of the season.
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