Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Tomo Otosaka delivers another clutch home run for BayStars

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Sometimes, you just have a feeling.

Two years ago, Tomo Otosaka hit a big three-run home run for the Yokohama BayStars in the seventh inning of a road playoff win over the Hanshin Tigers.

With that vision dancing around in his head, BayStars manager Alex Ramirez sent Otosaka to the plate against the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth in another playoff game on Sunday.

“I just kind of had a flashback there and thought, ‘let me use him.'” Ramirez said.

Otosaka did it to the Tigers again, this time coming up with a tiebreaking pinch-hit sayonara two-run home run that gave the BayStars a 6-4 victory at Yokohama Stadium and evened the best-of-three Central League Climax Series First Stage at 1-1.

Otosaka, though, didn’t have quite the same blast from the past as his manager.

“That one went to left,” Otosaka said of the homer in 2017 at Koshien Stadium. “Today’s went to right. The stadiums were different. It didn’t really feel like that time for me. But to have a winning home run in the Climax Series is a really exciting thing.”

As for the team’s future, Yokohama has another date with the Tigers on Monday in Game 3. The winner will head to Tokyo Dome to face the Central League champion Yomiuri Giants in the final stage beginning Wednesday. The loser will head home for the winter.

The victory came one night after the BayStars blew a late six-run lead to lose Game 1. Yokohama needed Otosaka’s heroics in Game 2 after losing yet another lead.

BayStars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki came out an inning earlier than usual and retired the side in the eighth. He sat down the first two batters of the ninth before 42-year-old veteran Kosuke Fukudome hammered a fastball and tied the game at 4-4.

Yokohama’s Toshiro Miyazaki hit a one-out single off Tigers reliever Suguru Iwazaki in the bottom of the ninth. Ramirez then sent the left-handed hitting Otosaka to the plate as a pinch hitter against the lefty reliever.

“That’s 120 percent feeling right there,” the manager joked after the game.

Otosaka showed bunt on Iwazaki’s first pitch and sent the next into the seats in right as Yokohama Stadium erupted.

Yokohama got most of its points on home runs. Jose Lopez hit a two-run shot in the first and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo had a solo homer, his second of the series, in the third. The other run was a tiebreaking single by Kazuki Kamizato in the sixth. Ramirez was pleased with the output after the game.

“Especially against the Hanshin Tigers,” he said. “Their pitching staff has been doing great against us. For us to be able to score early in the game, that’s huge.”

Yamasaki blew the save but earned the win. Iwazaki was charged with the loss.

BayStars reliever Edwin Escobar retired both batters he faced in the seventh one night after being tagged for five runs in the Game 1 loss.

“He came in that situation and did a tremendous job after the game last night,” Ramirez said. “But Escobar is that kind of guy. He needs to pitch every day. Otherwise he gets kind of rusty. So I’m pretty sure if I need to use him tomorrow, two innings, he will be ready for two innings.”

Yokohama was already ahead 3-0 when Game 1 hero Fumiya Hojo got the Tigers on the board with an RBI double in the fifth and went to third on a throwing error on the same play. That extra base paid off when Fukudome lined a ball to right, allowing Hojo to trot home.

Kento Itohara led off the sixth with a single, went to second on a sacrifice bunt and later reached third on a two-out wild pitch with Hiroki Uemoto at the plate. Uemoto then tied the game with a single.

Yamato Maeda drew a one-out walk for Yokohama in the bottom of the sixth and advanced to second on Daisuke Nakai’s groundout. Kamizato, who saw Hojo’s go-ahead hit sail over his head in the eighth inning of Game 1, delivered with a RBI hit to left that gave Yokohama a 4-3 lead.

“When we took the lead, I told Miura-san to get Yasu ready for the eighth inning,” Ramirez said, referring to pitching coach Daisuke Miura.

Relievers Spencer Patton and Escobar got the BayStars through the seventh and Yamasaki cruised through 1⅔ before giving up Fukudome’s home run. He struck out Jefry Marte to end the inning.

Otosaka took care of the rest.

“I’m really happy, but this was a win the entire team had a hand in,” he said.

Fukudome drove in a pair of runs for the Tigers, while Hojo and Uemoto finished with one RBI apiece.

Kentaro Taira is scheduled to get the ball for the BayStars to start Game 3, with the Tigers opting for Haruto Takahashi.