Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Giants' Yoshiyuki Kamei delivers sayonara sacrifice fly in 10th to down Swallows

Central League leaders overcome 7-0, 8-1 deficits for improbable victory

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Yomiuri Giants got knocked down.

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows, however, didn’t quite knock the Kyojin out.

Kazuma Okamoto hit a game-tying three run homer in the eighth and Yoshiyuki Kamei won it with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the 10th inning as Yomiuri surged late for a 10-9 win over the Swallows in extra innings on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.

“There were a lot of things going through my mind,” Kamei said of his at-bat. “But I thought if I could hit it well, I could at least get a sacrifice fly. So I wanted to do whatever I could to get something there.”

The Giants were down 7-0 after the top of the fourth inning and 8-1 after the top of the fifth. They overturned a seven-run deficit for the first time in 13 years.

“This was an amazing game with a great atmosphere,” Kamei said.

The atmosphere on the Yakult side of the Big Egg was markedly different.

“It’s just frustrating,” Swallows slugger Wladimir Balentien said. “Anytime you have a big lead and you end up losing the game it’s frustrating. But in the end, it is what it is. Tomorrow is a new day.”

The result allowed the first-place Kyojin to maintain their slim lead at the top of the Central League standings. Yomiuri remained one game ahead of the Yokohama BayStars, who beat the Chunichi Dragons earlier Friday. The Hiroshima Carp also won, beating the Hanshin Tigers, to stay 1½ games out of the top spot.

There was plenty of offense on display at Tokyo Dome.

Okamoto had a solo blast in the sixth and his three-run shot in eighth.

“It was an amazing scene,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said of Okamoto’s performance.

Alex Guerrero hit solo homers in the fifth and eighth innings and Hayato Sakamoto had a solo homer for Yomiuri in the fourth.

Balentien had a three-run blast for Yakult in the first inning and Taishi Hirooka went deep in the fourth.

Rubby De La Rosa (1-0) earned the win for Yomiuri in relief while Yakult’s All-Star deliver Scott McGough (4-3) was charged with the loss.

The Swallows shot out to a seven-run lead early.

Balentien smacked a three-run homer in the first and Hirooka singled in a run in the second. Yuhei Takai hit an RBI single in the third and Yakult added another run when Balentien came home from third after Yuhei Nakamura hit into a double play. Hirooka homered in the fifth to make it 7-0.

The Giants got on the board when Sakamoto hit a solo shot in the fourth, before the Swallows added a run in the fifth to push the lead back to seven.

Yomiuri crept closer in the bottom of the fifth, with an RBI groundout by Takumi Oshiro and a two-run homer from Guerrero making the score 8-4. Yomiuri cut the lead to three when Okamoto went deep in the sixth.

The Swallows added what they hoped was an insurance run in the eighth, when Tetsuto Yamada drove in an run to make it 9-5.

Guerrero led off the bottom half with his second homer of the game to cut the lead to three. Shingo Ishikawa then drew a walk before Sakamoto flew out to near the wall in left. Yoshihiro Maru singled to bring the tying run to the plate and Okamoto brought himself home with a game-tying three-run shot to right.

Mejia ignites Carp

KYODO

Alejandro Mejia’s three-run, fifth-inning home run overturned a 4-2 deficit as the Hiroshima Carp pulled out an 11-5 victory over the Hanshin Tigers on Friday night in the Central League.

Carp 11, Tigers 5