HIROSHIMA – Pinch hitter Takahiro Arai tied the game in the bottom of the eighth before Ryosuke Kikuchi blasted a three-run homer as the Hiroshima Carp came back to beat the Yomiuri Giants 4-1 in Game 2 of the Central League Climax Series Final Stage on Thursday.
The Carp are now one win away from a trip to the Japan Series after taking a 3-0 series lead over the Giants. They began with a one-win advantage by virtue of having won the league championship.
Hiroshima manager Koichi Ogata lauded his team for gritting its way through a tough battle against a Yomiuri side looking to send outgoing skipper Yoshinobu Takahashi off on a winning note.
“The team really showed their inner strength, bouncing back from a tough situation on the biggest stage. They had great concentration,” Ogata said.
After leading from the first inning of their 6-1 win in the series opener on Wednesday, the Carp found themselves trailing late in Game 2 at Mazda Stadium.
Hiroshima starter Kris Johnson threw eight solid innings but allowed the Giants to take a 1-0 lead in the sixth when Casey McGehee followed Hayato Sakamoto’s single with an RBI double to center.
Takahashi removed starter Kazuto Taguchi after six innings. The left-hander struck out six and gave up only one hit.
With two out in the eighth, Giants reliever Seishu Hatake walked Ryuhei Matsuyama, bringing Arai to the plate.
The right-hander made his one at-bat count. With the count at 2-2, he hit Hatake’s 128-kph forkball high to left for an RBI double that made it 1-1.
“It was as though the entire atmosphere in the stadium changed with that one hit,” Ogata said.
Hatake walked the next batter, Kosuke Tanaka, bringing Kikuchi to the batter’s box. After two balls and a called strike, Kikuchi got the middle of his bat on Hatake’s cutter, sending the ball into the left-field stands.
Closer Shota Nakazaki allowed a hit and a walk, but got three outs in the final frame for the save.
Johnson, a former Pittsburgh Pirate and Minnesota Twin, got the win after striking out five and giving up one earned run on two hits and two walks. Hatake took the loss after surrendering all four of Hiroshima’s runs in 1-2/3 innings.
The Carp will look to close out series in Game 4 at Mazda Stadium on Friday.
Lions 13, Hawks 5
At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Takumi Kuriyama and Hideto Asamura belted three-run homers in the first and second innings, respectively, as Seibu’s league-leading offense punished Fukuoka SoftBank pitching.
Hawks starter Ariel Miranda lasted just two innings, giving up seven runs on six hits and a pair of walks. The SoftBank bullpen continued to yield runs, leading manager Kimiyasu Kudo to keep closer and PL save leader Yuito Mori off the mound.
The victory gave the pennant-winning Lions a 2-1 lead in the six-game series a day after the Hawks won the opening clash 10-4.
Kuriyama put Seibu ahead with his three-run blast off Miranda in the bottom of the first. With Sosuke Genda on first, Cuban left-hander Miranda plunked slugger Hotaka Yamakawa with a pitch, bringing up Kuriyama.
Kuriyama hit Miranda’s seventh pitch, a 129-kph changeup, deep to right.
SoftBank answered in the top of the second, tying the game against Seibu starter Shinsaburo Tawata with a one-run single by Tomoki Takata and Takuya Kai’s two-RBI double.
The Lions took the lead for good in the bottom of the second when Asamura followed Sosuke Genda’s RBI single with his three-run blast.
On Friday, Game 3 is set to be played at Seibu Dome.