Adam Jones spoiled the title celebration the Tokyo Yakult Swallows were planning to have on manager Shingo Takatsu’s birthday, but he did give his fellow former major leaguer a gift.
A ticket to Kobe for Game 6.
Jones hit a tiebreaking pinch-hit home run to lead off the top of the ninth and the Orix Buffaloes avoided elimination with a 6-5 win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in Game 5 of the Japan Series at Tokyo Dome on Thursday night.
“I’m just trying to do anything I can to help the team, and I’m glad I finally was able to come through,” Jones said.
Jones drew a walk that helped spark the Buffaloes’ three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth in Game 1, but struck out swinging in his next three pinch-hit appearances Games 2, 3 and 4. He went to the plate to start the ninth against Yakult closer Scott McGough on Thursday with Tokyo Dome still rocking after Tetsuto Yamada’s game-tying three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth.
He let two pitches pass by out of the zone before sending a fastball down the line in left and into the stands.
“I’m not trying to hit a home run ever,” Jones said. “I’m just trying to hit the ball hard and my last three at-bats, I’ve struck out. So I’m just trying to get a good pitch and be more patient, I wasn’t as patient in the last few at-bats. I wanted to be more patient and get a good pitch to hit, and I got one, and I didn’t miss it.”
With that, the Buffaloes will live to see another day.
“He’s a really reliable player,” Orix manager Satoshi Nakajima said. “The mood on the bench was going down after the tie and he’s the type of player who can change everything with one hit.”
The series heads to Hotto Motto Field in Kobe for Game 6 on Saturday with the Swallows leading 3-2 and still one win away from the title.
“We continue to fight,” Jones said. “The Swallows continue to play hard, they play great baseball and we just continue to do our own thing. We knew that today was do or die, and we did. We’re moving back home, Game 6.”
Buffaloes pitcher Taisuke Yamaoka made his return from having elbow surgery in September and picked up the win in relief. Yamaoka was pitching for the top team for the first time since June 22.
“It was a good setting to pitch in,” Yamaoka said. “I’m grateful.”
Yamaoka took the mound in the eighth in relief of Tyler Higgins, who walked two batters before allowing Yamada’s home run and was pulled after recording just one out. Yamaoka got Orix out of the inning without any further damage to keep the score tied.
“The atmosphere in the stadium had changed, I just wanted to put up a zero any way I could,” he said.
The Buffaloes finished with 14 hits, led by Yutaro Sugimoto’s 3-for-4 night. Sugimoto also drove in a run. Ryo Ota, making his first appearance of the series, went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Kotaro Kurebayashi also recorded a pair of hits. Takahiro Okada, Torai Fushimi and Steven Moya each finished with a hit and an RBI.
“This was my first start and I was probably a little excited and a little nervous,” Ota said. “But I think I was able to have good at-bats.”
Ota singled to left in his second at-bat and drove in a run with a seventh-inning triple in his next trip to the plate.
He found out he’d be in the lineup earlier in the day.
“I don’t have any nerves during the season, but this is different,” he said. “So I was pretty excited.”
The Swallows are still one win away from the title.
Yakult scored the first run of the game on double play in the second, Munetaka Murakami hit a solo home run in the fourth, and Yamada gave the team new hope with his blast in the eighth.
McGough, however, suffered his second loss of the series after giving up another ninth-inning run. He allowed three in the ninth during the team’s Game 1 loss.
Orix put runs on the board in five of the final six innings, but could not completely put away the Swallows.
“We fight until the last out,” Jones said. “We don’t get nervous, we don’t get down on ourselves, we just fight until the last out. That’s what I try to teach my kids, fight until the last out and never give up. The game is not over until someone is high-fiving.”
Domingo Santana drew a leadoff walk and Yuhei Nakamura singled into left to get the Swallows started in the second. Jose Osuna grounded into a double play, but a run scored to give Yakult an early advantage.
Buffaloes outfielder Masataka Yoshida hit a two-out double in the fourth and scored from second on a single by Sugimoto to even the score.
Munetaka Murakami put the Swallows right back on top, connecting on a fastball that fell over the middle of the plate and sending a rocket into the stands in center to start the bottom of the fourth.
Yoshida reached on a two-out throwing error by Osuna at first base in the sixth, and Sugimoto kept the inning going with a hit to left. Okada followed with an RBI single to right that tied the score at 2-2. Sugimoto tried to follow Yoshida home when Okada got caught in a rundown between first and second, but was thrown out at the plate.
Kurebayashi singled to begin the seventh and moved to second on Fushimi’s sacrifice bunt. Ota then drove in his first run of the series with a tiebreaking triple to give Orix a 3-2 lead.
Moya then hit a fly ball to right that landed just in front of a sliding Santana as Ota came home to add on another run.
Kurebayashi picked up his second hit of the game with a single in the eighth and Fushimi drove him in with a double to make the score 5-2.
Swallows outfielders Yasutaka Shiomi and Norichika Aoki drew walks against Higgins to start the eighth and Yamada put a charge into the Swallows fans at Tokyo Dome with a home run that tied the score.
Jones came to the plate to start the ninth and hit a deep shot to left that stayed fair and put the Buffaloes ahead.
“I’m a foreigner, we love fastballs and I’m glad that I was able to get one and I did not miss it,” he said.
Yoshihisa Hirano took the mound for Orix in the ninth and pitched around a walk to keep send the series back to Kobe where the Buffaloes will try to force a Game 7.
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