Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Mercedes drives Giants past Tigers, to 3-0 lead

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

C.C. Mercedes, on more than one occasion, skipped off the mound at the end of a scoreless inning and pointed upward with his index finger.

It wasn’t meant to be a “No. 1” gesture, but that certainly fits.

One more win in the books. One more win to go.

Mercedes threw seven scoreless innings, Alex Guerrero hit a two-run home run and the Yomiuri Giants moved within one win of reaching the Japan Series with a 6-0 victory over the Hanshin Tigers in Game 2 of the Central League Climax Series Final Stage on Thursday night at Tokyo Dome.

“I just want to do my best along with everyone so that I can pitch in the Japan Series and become a champion,” Mercedes said.

The Giants began the series with a 1-0 advantage as the pennant winners and now lead it 3-0 after two straight wins on the field.

“We’ve gotten good pitching,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.

After Shun Yamaguchi threw 7 1/3-innings of one-run ball in Game 1, Mercedes kept the ball rolling in Game 2. The 25-year-old native of the Dominican Republic proved to be too much for the Tigers under the bright lights at Tokyo Dome.

“I was aware of trying to keep the same form with my fastball and breaking pitches early on and I just wanted to try to pitch aggressively,” Mercedes said. “I’m happy with the results.”

Mercedes struck out six, allowed just three singles — in the first, third and fifth innings — and didn’t issue a walk during his 104-pitch outing.

“It was his best game of the year,” Hara said. “He was sharp and he also had speed.”

Yomiuri was already ahead 1-0 when Guerrero hit his two-run shot to left to make it 3-0.

“The score was 1-0 and the game felt really tense,” Guerrero said. “There was a runner in scoring position and I just wanted to do something to get him in and I’m glad the result turned out well.”

While the three-run lead felt larger with the way Mercedes was pitching, the Giants added to it anyway. Yoshihiro Maru drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth and Kazuma Okamoto made it 5-0 on an RBI single later in the inning. Akihiro Wakabayashi padded the lead with a run-scoring hit in the eighth.

The Kyojin can close out the series in Game 3 on Friday night at Tokyo Dome. Shosei Togo will get the start for Yomiuri against Hanshin pitcher Koyo Aoyagi.

Should the Tigers win Game 3 and extend the series, Game 4, originally scheduled for Saturday night, has already been postponed due to Typhoon Hagibis, which is expected to hit Japan this weekend. Game 4, if necessary, will take place Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Yomiuri veteran Yoshiyuki Kamei had a big night out of the leadoff spot, finishing 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. He also picked up a stolen base when he and Hayato Sakamoto executed a double-steal in the fourth.

Sakamoto finished 2-for-3 with a walk and Okamoto was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Haruto Takahashi got the start for Hanshin on two days’ rest after starting in Game 3 of the first stage against the Yokohama BayStars. He threw three scoreless innings in that game.

On Thursday, he allowed a first-inning run on a double play and was pinch-hit for to start the third. He struck out one, walked one and was charged with the loss.

Koji Chikamoto, Fumiya Hojo and Ryutaro Umeno were the only Tigers to record a hit.

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