Offense finally made an appearance in the Japan Series in Game 3 — after two games dominated by pitching — and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows had more of it.
Domingo Santana struck the biggest blow of a back-and-forth contest with a two-run home run in the seventh and the Swallows held off the Orix Buffaloes 5-4 at Tokyo Dome on Tuesday night.
“I was just going up there trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Santana said. “I got it, I didn’t miss it and the outcome was great.”
The Swallows hosted the contest at the Big Egg due to a scheduling conflict with Jingu Stadium, their home park. The next two games will also be played at Tokyo Dome. The didn’t stop Swallows fans from making up the majority of the 24,565 in the stands.
Yakult has now won two straight after losing Game 1 and holds a 2-1 edge in the series.
Swallows veteran Norichika Aoki helped set the stage for Santana in the seventh with a leadoff single down the line in right field. Tetsuto Yamada flew out and Munetaka Murakami struck out, bringing Santana to the plate with the Buffaloes one out away from protecting the one-run lead they had taken in the top half of the frame.
Santana had other plans, however, and brought the Yakult fans to their feet from the moment he connected with a 2-0 slider from Ryo Yoshida.
“Off the bat, I knew I got it,” Santana said.
Every game of the series has been competitive and Game 3 was no different. The Swallows rallied into the lead in the bottom of the fifth, only for the Buffaloes to even the score in the top of the sixth. After Orix took a one-run lead in the top of the seventh, Santana put Yakult back on top in the bottom half.
“Every game has been close and low-scoring since the first one,” Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu said. “It was a back-and-forth game and Santana gave us a great hit in the end.”
The Swallows lost the opener after Orix rallied for three runs against closer Scott McGough in the bottom of the ninth to overturn a two-run deficit for a 4-3 victory.
McGough earned a measure of revenge in Game 3, protecting a one-run lead to earn the save after pitching around a leadoff hit and sacrifice bunt in the ninth. McGough retired Yutaro Sugimoto, who hit a two-run homer in the sixth, to close out the game with a runner on third.
Catcher Yuhei Nakamura drove in two runs for the Swallows and the team capitalized on a throwing error by the Buffaloes for its other run.
Taichi Ishiyama earned the win in relief for the Yakult.
If there’s anything the Buffaloes can take away from the loss it’s that their offense fared a better than it has the past two games.
Orix outhit Yakult 7-5, while Sugimoto, the Pacific League home run champion, connected on his first homer of the series.
“I’m happy about it, but we didn’t win,” Sugimoto said. “I’ll come back tomorrow and do my best.”
Yuma Mune and Masataka Yoshida also drove in runs.
Relief pitcher Yoshida took the loss.
Mune’s RBI single in the third was the only run on the board entering the bottom of the fifth.
Aoki got on base with a one-out single and Orix manager Satoshi Nakajima lifted starter Daiki Tajima after 92 pitches.
“He threw with a lot of power,” Nakajima said.
Motoki Higa was first out of the bullpen and retired Tetsuto Yamada before being relieved by Cesar Vargas.
Vargas, however, couldn’t find the strike zone and walked Munetaka Murakami on five pitches and issued a free pass to Santana on four to load the bases.
Nakamura singled up the middle to drive in two runs and an inexplicable throwing error by Mune, who tossed the ball into the outfield, allowed a third to score to put Yakult ahead 3-1.
The advantage was short-lived, as Sugimoto tied the game with his homer in the sixth.
The Buffaloes put runners on first and second with a pair of walks and a sacrifice bunt to start the seventh. Mune had the first crack at breaking the tie, but struck out looking on an inside two-seamer from Kazuto Taguchi.
Yoshida stepped to the plate next and lined a tiebreaking double into left to give Orix a 4-3 lead.
This time it was the Swallows’ turn to answer quickly and they didn’t give up the lead after Aoki and Santana put them in the driver’s seat.
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