Two mistakes were about to cost the Yomiuri Giants a win, until one key hit sent the Kyojin, and one of the biggest crowds of the season, home happy.
Hayato Sakamoto drove in two runs with a two-out, sayonara double and the Giants escaped with a 3-2 victory over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in front of a crowd of 46,810 on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.
“I just wanted to not make an out and to keep the game going,” Sakamoto said. “We did not play well defensively and I made an error, so I wanted to make up for it.”
The Swallows had been dominated by Yomiuri starter Tomoyuki Sugano for most of the night, but were only down 1-0 entering the ninth.
Sugano walked pinch hitter Takahiro Imanami to begin the inning. Takahiro Araki, hitting for pitcher Yoshihisa Naruse, tried to move pinch runner Wataru Hiyane over with a bunt, but popped the ball up just behind him, where catcher Seiji Kobayashi caught it, and fired to first to try and catch Hiyane in a double play.
His errant throw hit Hiyane, who was sliding back into first, and the ball landed in the seats along the first-base side. The umpires sent Hiyane to third, creating a jam for Sugano.
The next batter, Tomotaka Sakaguchi, singled in the tying run with a hit up the middle. Shingo Kawabata then safely got on base, thanks to an error by Sakamoto, to give the Swallows runners at first and second with one out. Sugano retired Tetsuto Yamada and Wladimir Balentien to end the inning.
The Swallows had runners on the corners in the 12th when Keiji Obiki hit a grounder back to the mound. Reliever Seiji Tahara fielded the ball, but instead of throwing home, he turned and fired to second base with no fielder covering the bag. The tiebreaking run scored as the ball rolled into center field.
Swallows reliever Logan Ondrusek retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the 12th, but Hisayoshi Chono kept the Giants in it with a double to right, before being lifted for pinch runner Tetsuya Matsumoto. Taishi Ota drew a walk, and Sakamoto swung at a 1-2 forkball and laced a hit into left that was enough to bring both runners home and end the game in dramatic fashion.
“The game wasn’t over until there were three outs and I was thinking to at least get a hit and tie the score,” Sakamoto said.
The contest had been defined by solid starting pitching before the late-inning fireworks.
Sugano has been brilliant all season, and his most recent turn against the Swallows, a team he had no luck against in 2015, was no different. The right-hander pitched one-hit ball until allowing the tying run on a one-out single in the ninth. That run was unearned because of Kobayashi’s error. Sugano allowed two hits, struck out 10 and walked one.
Yakult’s run in the ninth spared Naruse, who also pitched well, from taking a loss. Naruse allowed only Shuichi Murata’s solo homer in his eight innings on the mound. He gave up five hits, struck out four, walked two and hit a batter.
Neither starter factored into the decision. Tahara (2-1) was credited with the win despite his miscue in the 12th, while Ondrusek (0-1) was charged with the loss.
With both starting pitchers dealing, there wasn’t much offense.
Sakamoto, the CL’s leading batter with a .361 average, finished with a pair of hits and Murata was 2-for-5.
Yuhei Takai had three singles for Yakult, which finished with six hits.
Giants won for the second time in as many games.
“It’s nice to start a winning streak and we will try to extend it tomorrow,” Sakamoto said.
Carp prevail in 10th
Nagoya — Takahiro Arai’s ninth-inning RBI double tied the game and Yoshihiro Maru’s two-run triple capped a three-run 10th as the Hiroshima came from behind to defeat the Chunichi Dragons 6-3 in 10 innings in the Central League on Friday night.
Tigers 3, BayStars 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Hanshin’s Ryota Arai broke a 2-2 tie with a one-out solo homer in the ninth inning off Yokohama closer Yasuaki Yamasaki (1-2).
Fighters 5, Lions 4
At Sapporo Dome, back-to-back errors in the bottom of the ninth allowed Hokkaido Nippon Ham to rally from a run down against Seibu closer Tatsushi Masuda (1-2), when Daiki Asama singled in the tying run and Kensuke Kondo singled in the game winner.