Yoshinobu Takahashi picked up the biggest RBI of the Yomiuri Giants’ season without even swinging his bat.
Giants closer Hirokazu Sawamura kept the Tigers off the board in the ninth and 10th innings, and Takahashi drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th to give the Kyojin a 3-2 victory over the Hanshin Tigers in Game 1 of the Central League Climax Series first stage on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
“It would’ve been more exciting if I could’ve gotten a hit,” Takahashi said. “(Yoshiyuki) Kamei walked before me, so I just wanted to be patient and not swing at a bad pitch.”
The Giants lead the best-of-three series 1-0. The teams will meet for Game 2 on Sunday, with the first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. Yomiuri will be looking to advance to the final stage against the CL champion Tokyo Yakult Swallows with a victory or a tie. Hanshin will simply be trying to extend its season for at least one more game.
“We will do our best to wrap up the series tomorrow,” Takahashi said.
The teams entered the top of the ninth with the score knotted at 2-2, and Giants manager Tatsunori Hara called on Sawamura, who saved 36 games during the regular season. Sawamura allowed one hit in the ninth and retired the side in order in the 10th.
The Giants’ Hayato Sakamoto drew a walk against Tigers reliever Yuya Ando to begin the 10th. Hanshin manager Yutaka Wada then dipped into the bullpen again to bring in Kazuya Takamiya. The left-hander retired Shinnosuke Abe on a groundout to third, but Sakamoto advanced to second on the play.
Yomiuri benefitted from Takamiya’s control issues, as the next two batters, Hisayoshi Chono and Yoshiyuki Kamei, each drew walks to load the bases. Having reached the pitcher’s spot in the lineup, Hara sent Takahashi to the plate as a pinch hitter.
Takahashi, who was greeted with thunderous applause from the Yomiuri faithful, worked the count full before taking a fastball out of the zone to end the game.
“I’m just happy we were able to win, even though it was by a bases-loaded walk,” Sawamura said.
Sawamura was credited with the victory and said the two innings he threw won’t affect him going forward.
“I will be ready to pitch again tomorrow if needed,” he said.
Starting pitcher Miles Mikolas drove in the Giants’ first run with a double to right-center in the fifth inning. Mikolas drove in three runs during the regular season, two of which came against the Swallows on Sept. 18.
Yomiuri’s other run came off the bat of Kamei, who hit a run-scoring single in the sixth.
Giants manager Hara gave Hirozaku Ibata a spot in the starting lineup, and the veteran responded with a 3-for-4 day at the plate. Soichiro Tateoka also had a multi-hit afternoon, finishing 2-for-5.
On the mound, Mikolas allowed a pair of runs on six hits in seven innings. Tigers reliever Ando was charged with the loss.
Shintaro Fujinami got the start for Hanshin and yielded two runs — one earned — over six innings.
Neither team could put much together in the early stages of the game.
Ibata began the home half of the fifth with a single, his second of the game, and moved up a base when Seiji Kobayashi laid down a successful sacrifice bunt. Mikolas then gave the Giants the lead with his RBI double.
Chono connected on a one-out single in the sixth. He later advanced to third when a pickoff attempt by Fujinami went awry. Kamei made Hanshin pay for the mistake with a grounder to the mound that bounced off Fujinami and allowed a run to score.
The Tigers got off to a fast start in the top of the seventh, putting men on first and second after consecutive singles from Kosuke Fukudome and Matt Murton. Shunsuke Fujikawa moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, and Ryutaro Umeno got Hanshin on the board with an RBI single. Pinch hitter Tsuyoshi Nishioka then tied the score with a sacrifice fly to center.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.