YOKOHAMA – The Yokohama BayStars wasted a golden opportunity to close the gap in the race for the Central League’s second postseason seed in Wednesday’s 4-4 tie with the Hanshin Tigers.
BayStars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki blew a one-run, ninth inning lead when Yoshio Itoi singled in a run with one out. The right-hander, however, pitched out of a bases-loaded jam, and the game was declared a tie after 12 innings.
“We didn’t need a tie game. It could have been worse, but it doesn’t benefit us. Tomorrow’s another day,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said.
The draw left the third-place BayStars 3-1/2 games behind the second-place Tigers, while the fourth-place Giants pulled to within a half game of Yokohama. The Tigers and BayStars each have six games remaining, while the Giants have three. The top three teams will advance to the playoffs.
The BayStars took an early 4-0 lead, putting some good swings on high, straight fastballs from Tigers right-hander Takumi Akiyama. Masayuki Kuwabara singled off one to open the hosts’ first inning, and Jose Lopez homered with two outs to crack open the scoreboard.
Those same pitches betrayed Akiyama in the second, when Takayuki Kajitani and Shuto Takajo each hammered balls through the infield for back-to-back, no-out singles.
With two outs and runners on second and third following a sacrifice and a strikeout, Akiyama made a beauty of a pitch to Kuwabara, but it didn’t matter. On a 2-2 curveball out of the zone low and away, the BayStars’ leadoff man got the barrel on the ball and lofted it over second base for a two-run single.
Akiyama, pulled for a pinch hitter after four innings, allowed four runs on seven hits and no walks, while striking out two.
His opposite number, rookie Haruhiro Hamaguchi, was rock solid until the fifth, when he dodged a bullet to keep the Tigers off the board.
Hanshin, however, narrowed the gap in the sixth. With a man on, Hamaguchi tried to go up high with an 0-2 fastball to Itoi, and the Tigers slugger got all of it, driving it over the center field wall for his 15th home run.
Kosuke Fukudome followed with a walk and scored from first on a Masahiro Nakatani double. Hamaguchi, who has been plagued by walks this season, walked the bases loaded and was pulled with two outs, but Tomoya Mikami came out of the bullpen to get the BayStars out of the jam and preserve the one-run lead.
Lefty Yoshiki Sunada and right-hander Spencer Patton each contributed a scoreless inning to get the game to Yamasaki.
But after a leadoff infield single and a one-out walk, Itoi put a good swing on a low pitch and lined home the tying run.
Giants 2, Dragons 1
At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri’s Miles Mikolas (14-8), working on four days rest, lost his shutout on a one-out, ninth-inning home run, but won a pitchers’ duel with Chunichi’s Shinnosuke Ogasawara (5-7).
Shuichi Murata homered for the Giants, and Casey McGehee scored a crucial insurance run after he tied Kosuke Fukudome’s CL record with his 47th double.
Fighters 3, Buffaloes 2 (11)
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, rookie Toshitake Yokoo tied it against Orix with a two-strike, two-out, ninth-inning home run, and Hokkaido Nippon Ham won it on Taishi Ota’s 11th-inning solo homer.