HIROSHIMA – The Yokohama BayStars moved to within one win of their first Japan Series berth in 19 years with a 4-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp on Monday in the final stage of the Central League Climax Series.
In a game that was postponed for two days due to rain at Mazda Stadium, Joe Wieland worked five-plus innings, while reaching base three times, scoring a run and earning the win for the BayStars.
Wieland allowed three runs in the first, and after he ran into trouble, the BayStars bullpen, including a two-inning cameo from starting pitcher Shota Imanaga, slammed the door. The win gave the BayStars a 3-2 lead in the six-game final stage. As league champs, the Carp began with a one-win advantage, and won the opener 3-0, but have lost three straight since.
The stage winner will advance to the Japan Series against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, starting in Fukuoka on Saturday. Should the series end in a tie, the Carp will advance. If the BayStars win here, they will become just the second third-place team to reach the season finale.
Jose Lopez made up for a rally-killing double play by singling in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning off reliever Allen Kuri.
“We fell behind, but no one was putting their heads down,” Lopez said. “Prior to that (fifth-inning) at-bat, I hit into a double play with the bases loaded. I hoped for another chance and it came my way.”
In the bottom of the first, Hiroshima No. 3 hitter Yoshihiro Maru continued to own Wieland after hitting six home runs off him in the regular season. The left-handed hitter golfed a low-curveball off the end of his bat into the right field stands for a two-run homer.
Wieland threw a couple of high fat fastballs that Ryuhei Matsuyama and Takahiro Arai each hit doubles off to make it 3-0, but the right-hander continued to challenge hitters and got himself out of trouble. He gave up five hits and walked four, while striking out four.
The BayStars pitcher, who batted .229 with three home runs during the regular season, started a pair of scoring opportunities. Wieland singled to lead off the third, when Yokohama loaded the bases only to have the inning end with Lopez.
After Yoshitomo Tsutsugo put the visitors on the board with a leadoff homer in the fourth, Wieland drew a leadoff walk in the BayStars’ three-run fifth. No. 9 hitter Toshihiko Kuramoto hit a liner to the warning track that went for a double when right fielder Xavier Batista missed it.
Leadoff man Masayuki Kuwahara doubled in two runs to tie it and knock Kazuki Yabuta from the game. Kuri took over, and Lopez grounded a 2-2 pitch up the middle. Another hit followed, but Kuri stopped the bleeding with a double play.
Wieland was knocked from the mound in the sixth after a ringing single by Arai followed a leadoff walk. With no outs and the bases loaded, Tomoya Mikami struck out two before Edwin Escobar retired Tanaka.
The BayStars turned to Imanaga in the seventh and eighth, and the lefty retired all six batters he faced. Closer Yasuaki Yamasaki worked a perfect ninth to set-up an elimination game for the Carp on Tuesday.
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