Before watching his two former NPB clubs take the field in a crucial late-season game, the retiring Shuichi Murata urged them to give everything they had during the contest.
They must’ve gotten the message, because they gave him a good show.
Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano and BayStars rookie Katsuki Azuma staged a pitching duel and Hisayoshi Chono ended it with a sayonara home run that gave the Kyojin a crucial 1-0 victory over the BayStars.
Chono came to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth and sent reliever Yoshiki Sunada’s forkball over the wall in left-center to spark a Yomiuri celebration.
“I’m really happy,” Chono said. “But I wasn’t able to get a hit when I had a chance in the second inning (with runners on second and third), so that was too bad.”
Chances are, Giants fans won’t hold that against him. Not after the third sayonara home run of his career allowed Yomiuri to leapfrog Yokohama into third place in the Central League standings by a half-game.
With the Hiroshima Carp having secured the pennant on Wednesday and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows currently in second place, the Giants and BayStars are fighting for the third and final spot in the Central League Climax Series.
BayStars manager Alex Ramirez was disappointed with the outcome, but not with his team, which had beaten the Giants in their six previous meetings.
“There are no regrets with today’s game,” Ramirez said. “The two best pitchers in the league were on the mound. The guys did a tremendous job. It was only one swing. That happens.
“We had chances. They had chances. It just came out this way.”
Sugano allowed a leadoff single in the top of the ninth and issued an intentional walk to Yoshitomo Tsutsugo with one out. He retired the next two batters to finish off nine shutout innings on the mound.
When Chono’s ball cleared the fence in the bottom half, Sugano had his 14th victory and seventh shutout (no other pitcher has more than three) of the season.
Sugano (14-8) allowed five hits, struck out two and walked three overall. He also lowered his ERA to an NPB-best 2.25.
“You have be conscious of giving up home runs against the BayStars, especially at Tokyo Dome,” Sugano said.
Azuma was just as good, if not better, for seven innings, striking out nine and walking one while allowing just five hits. Sunada (0-2) was charged with the loss.
“He managed to pitch a great game today,” Ramirez said. “At 107 pitches, he was kind of pushing it at the end. But we couldn’t expect more from him.”
The two pitchers went back and forth for seven frames before Azuma was lifted for a pinch hitter.
“I could really feel his energy,” said Sugano, the reigning Sawamura Award winner. “I feel he’s a really good pitcher.”
There were few offensive highlights, aside from Chono’s home run.
“It barely (went) over the wall,” he said.
The BayStars’ Neftali Soto went 2-for-4 and was the only player with a multi-hit game.
Prior to the contest, there was a retirement ceremony for Murata, who spent his first nine NPB seasons with the BayStars and six with the Giants. Murata spent this season with the Tochigi Golden Braves of the independent Baseball Challenge League after not receiving any offers to play for an NPB club. He announced his decision to retire earlier this month.
“I want to thank the Giants and their staff and officials and the BayStars and their staff and officials for preparing this ceremony before such an important game,” Murata said.
The two clubs came together after the contest to give the former star a final doage toss.
Yomiuri is now in third place with five games left in their season.
“There aren’t many games left, but we’re going to try our best to move up one more spot (in the standings,)” Sugano said.
Yokohama, however, is only a half-game back with seven to play.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” Ramirez said. “That’s part of the game. We lost the game today, we went a step down. We just gotta come back ready to play tomorrow.”
Aizawa lifts Carp
Hiroshima – Tsubasa Aizawa hit a game-winning two-RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth as the Hiroshima Carp came from behind to beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 7-4 in the Central League on Friday night.
In front of 31,169 at Mazda Stadium, Ryuhei Matsuyama hit a single off Swallows reliever Yugo Umeno in the bottom of the seventh to score Aizawa and tie the last game of the series between the pennant winners and second-place Yakult at 4-4.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Seiya Suzuki hit Kazuki Kondo’s 2-0 pitch for a fly single to center. Kondo retired Tomohiro Abe before walking Ryomo Nishikawa, bringing Aizawa to the plate.
With the count at 1-0, Aizawa hit a deep fly to right that split the outfielders and dropped just short of the warning track. He added a third run for the inning by scoring on a Kaisei Sone single.
The Swallows had jumped out to an early 4-0 lead as Carp starter Mikiya Takahashi surrendered four hits and a walk in the first frame.
Tetsuto Yamada scored Tomotaka Sakaguchi and Norichika Aoki with a double to center before rounding the bases on a shot to left by Kenji Obiki — another two-RBI double that also scored Yuhei Takai.
Hiroshima manager Koichi Ogata persevered with Takahashi, who responded with 1-2-3 second and third innings.
The 21-year-old lefty contained the Swallows offense until the fifth, when he made way for former Milwaukee Brewer Johnny Hellweg after walking Yamada to put runners on first and second.
Hiroshima cut the lead to one with a three-run third inning. Aizawa led off with a line drive single to right off Swallows starter Matt Carasiti. The American right-hander then walked Sone before Tanaka drove in both runners with a triple to right. Carasiti made way for Umeno to start the seventh.
Kondo took the loss, while reliever Geronimo Franzua got the win for Hiroshima, who clinched a third straight CL pennant by beating the Swallows 10-0 on Wednesday.
Dragons 4, Tigers 3
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi went seven pitchers deep, after starter Shota Suzuki came out in the fourth, but held on for the win against Hanshin.
Ryosuke Hirata followed Masahiro Araki’s double with a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.
Lions 5, Hawks 3
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Hotaka Yamakawa hit an NPB-leading 45th home run, a three-run effort in the first, as Seibu moved within a game of the PL pennant by beating second-place Fukuoka SoftBank.
Yusei Kikuchi got the win for a seven-inning start in which he fanned six and allowed one earned run on eight hits.
Fighters 5, Eagles 3
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Hokkaido Nippon Ham completed the comeback win over Tohoku Rakuten with a three-run rally in the top of the ninth.
Teenager Kotaro Kiyomiya put the Fighters ahead early with his seventh homer of the season, a solo shot deep into the right-field stands.