Osaka – The Tokyo Yakult Swallows held onto the lead this time.
Keiji Takahashi made sure of that himself.
Takahashi threw a shutout and got all the support he needed from a pair of late runs as the Swallows edged the Orix Buffaloes 2-0 in Game 2 of the Japan Series at Kyocera Dome Osaka on Sunday night.
“I just pitched with a lot of heart,” Takahashi said.
The Swallows tied the series at 1-1 and ended the Pacific League’s 13-game winning streak in Japan Series games. The Birds also stopped the PL’s winning streak in Japan Series home games at 20, becoming the first Central League team to win on the road since the Yomiuri Giants defeated the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Game 6 in 2013.
Buffaloes starter Hiroya Miyagi, a 20-year-old rookie, was on fire at the start and took a perfect game into the sixth, but it was the 24-year-old Takahashi who came out on top of a pitcher’s duel between young stars.
“Miyagi was throwing really well over there and I thought I’d be the one to come off the mound first,” Takahashi said.
Norichika Aoki broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single off Miyagi in the eighth and the Swallows added another run on an error in the ninth to take a 2-0 lead.
“I was able to pitch at a higher gear after that,” Takahashi said about Aoki’s hit.
The Swallows took a two-run lead into the ninth in Game 1, only for the Buffaloes to rally for three runs against closer Scott McGough. Takahashi went out to finish what he started on Sunday, and retired the Buffaloes in order to secure the win.
Takahashi allowed five hits, struck out five and walked two on 133 pitches over the distance.
“He’s a really good pitcher,” Buffaloes manager Satoshi Nakajima said.
The Swallows needed every scoreless frame with Miyagi pitching even better for the Buffaloes at the start.
Miyagi hadn’t pitched in a month, but showed no signs of rust and celebrated his postseason debut by retiring the first 16 batters he faced before allowing a hit against Naomichi Nishiura in the sixth.
“My balance was good overall,” Miyagi said. “That helped me pitch well.”
He had to pitch his way out of a jam in the sixth, but found himself in another in the eighth.
Nishiura walked with one out in the eighth and moved to second on a two-out single by Yasutaka Shiomi.
That brought the veteran Aoki to the plate, and he lined a fastball into center for a single that scored Shiomi to give the Swallows a 1-0 lead.
“I tried to do my best, but they were able to get some good hits off me,” Miyagi said, “I think it would be good if I could make some adjustments. I have to practice throwing more precisely and work on things like taking outs and getting foul balls.”
Aoki’s hit also ended Miyagi’s night, as the rookie finished with 7⅔ innings of one-run ball. He allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked one batter.
“Rather than the Aoki at-bat, I think walking the batter earlier and giving up the hit is what gave them a chance to score a run,” Miyagi said.
Domingo Stantana drew a one-out walk in the ninth and pinch runner Hiyu Motoyama moved up on a sacrifice bunt. Jose Osuna then singled into right and Motoyama scored from second to make it 2-0 when Yutaro Sugimoto fumbled the ball in the outfield.
The scene now shifts to Tokyo, but the Swallows won’t exactly be heading home. Yakult will host the next three games at Tokyo Dome, because of a scheduling conflict with Jingu Stadium, their home park.
The series will resume with Game 3 on Tuesday at the Big Egg.
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