There was a little more spring in Tony Barnette’s step when he made his Japan Series debut in the ninth inning of Game 3.
“I thought about that myself too,” he said after the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ 5-4 win on Tuesday night. “I was like, ‘that was a little extra hoppy tonight.’
“Maybe all that pent-up energy that’d been building up, and the fans are just going crazy. It’s hard not to get excited for a situation like this.”
The Swallows closer could be forgiven for being a little excited. It had, after all, been nine days since he’d last pitched in a game — Oct. 17, the night he converted the save in the clinching game of the Central League Climax Series.
Besides that, Jingu Stadium was rocking, as the majority of the 31,037 fans in attendance were in a jubilant state with the Swallows three outs away from their first victory over the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in this year’s Japanese Fall Classic.
“You try to sit there and think about it as just another game, which obviously it’s not just another game,” Barnette said. “But the mentality doesn’t change. You don’t psych yourself up any more than you have to. You trust yourself, trust what you’ve been doing all year.”
Barnette entered Tuesday’s game with a four-run lead in a non-save situation.
He got a swinging strikeout against the Hawks’ Kenta Imamiya, who had homered earlier in the night, to end a six-pitch at-bat for the first out of the ninth. Barnette needed just two pitches to coax a grounder to the shortstop out of the next batter, hulking pinch hitter Barbaro Canizares. He retired another pinch hitter, Yuki Yoshimura, on two pitches to end it on a flyout to center.
“I felt good, I felt fresh,” Barnette said. “Just a little wild there to begin with. But I calmed it down and just went in there and started challenging guys. You just have to trust it. You’ve got four runs, no reason to throw balls.”
Barnette is in his sixth year in Japan. The 31-year-old made 59 appearances during the regular season and finished with a franchise-record 41 saves, which tied him with the Hawks’ Dennis Sarfate and Hanshin Tigers closer Oh Seung-hwan for the most in Japan in 2015.
It was also a banner year for Barnette in terms of team accomplishments. The Swallows, who last reached the postseason in 2012, won the Central League pennant and Climax Series crowns, and also reached the Japan Series for the first time since 2001.
Barnette didn’t pitch during the two losses in Fukuoka, but is looking forward to helping the team get thing fully turned around going forward. Softbank leads the series 2-1.
“It’s been a good run this entire year for us as a team,” Barnette said. “We’re just going to try to keep the ball rolling, just keep that momentum moving forward.”
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