Fukuoka – Matt Moore and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks didn’t get their Japan Series no-hitter, but they’ve just about got the title wrapped up.
Moore threw seven no-hit innings and the Hawks came within an out of a combined no-hitter in a 4-0 win in Game 3, moving them to the precipice of their fourth straight Japan Series title at PayPay Dome on Tuesday.
“I was just trying to take it like my last few games,” Moore said. “Just like a regular season game. It’s hard not to get extra nervous and get anxious for a game like this in the Nippon Series. I was just trying to keep my nerves in check.”
SoftBank leads the series 3-0 and can sweep Yomiuri for the second straight year with a win in Game 4 on Wednesday.
“Being here with these guys everyday, I know they’ll be prepared and ready to go,” Moore said. “I’m really looking forward to watching (Tsuyoshi) Wada-san pitch.”
Akira Nakamura provided most of the offense with a two-run home run and an RBI single. Yurisbel Gracial also drove in a run.
Moore, an American in his first NPB season, did the heavy lifting on the mound with five strikeouts and two walks on 93 pitches. He was aware of the no-hitter but focused on protecting a two-run lead.
“With a slim lead, 2-0, I still was just trying to keep focused on getting ahead of every hitter,” Moore said. “I was doing my best not to think about that.”
Moore was six outs away from the first no-hitter in Japan Series history when manager Kimiyasu Kudo pulled him to start the eighth.
“You don’t expect someone to not allow a run on big stage like this,” Kudo said. “I think his performance is proof of how much he prepared for this game.
“But he was showing a signs of fatigue and we wanted to win. We didn’t want to lose here at PayPay Dome. So I’m sorry we chose to take him out after the seventh.”
Moore was pitching for the first time since throwing 54 pitches over three innings on Nov. 9.
Kudo’s move was reminiscent of the one Chunichi Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai made in the 2007 Series, when he pulled Daisuke Yamai out of a perfect game after eight innings in Game 5, the series clincher. Dragons closer Hitoki Iwase closed out that combined perfect game.
Hawks reliever Livan Moinelo struck out Akihiro Wakabayashi to start the eighth before hitting Hiroyuki Nakajima and walking Yukinori Kishida. Moinelo struck out the next two batters to keep the no-hitter alive.
Yuito Mori took over in the ninth and got two outs before giving up a single up the middle against Yoshihiro Maru.
That was the only hit the Giants would get.
The Hawks kept a few streaks alive with the victory. They’ve now won 11 consecutive Japan Series games, 15 straight Japan Series games at home and have won their last 15 postseason games overall.
“We have to give the credit to our players, who have prepared in the best possible way on a daily basis,” Kudo said. “We’ve had a tough season, but our players kept their focus on the games and that’s also paid off in this series.”
SoftBank got off to another quick start, with Nakamura putting two runs on the board with his homer in the third.
“I was behind in the count, but I tried to be patient and tried to avoid swinging at a low pitch,” he said. “I got a hittable pitch, so it paid off in the end.
Giants starter Angel Sanchez kept the game close before giving up an RBI single to Nakamura in the seventh.
“We had a chance and I wanted to add another run,” Nakamura said.
Gracial provided another insurance run with an RBI single off reliever Kan Otake.
Gracial, who finished 1-for-4, has a hit in all three games of the series. Ryoya Kurihara was 0-for-3 after three hits in Game 1 and four more in Game 2.
The Giants have struggled to get anything going during the first three games and stand on the brink of elimination. A no-hitter would’ve only been rubbing salt in the wound for a team that’s been outscored 22-3.
Sanchez was charged with three runs over 6 ⅓ innings and the loss.
Wada, who earned the win for SoftBank in Game 4 in 2019 will get the start in Game 4 this year as well. Seishu Hatake will get the ball for the Giants with their season on the line.
“We’ve tried to take it one game at a time and we happened to win three straight,” Kudo said. “We’re pleased to deliver another win to our fans and hopefully we’ll do the same tomorrow.”
Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.
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