Buffalo and swallows roll to the clash of the Japan Series

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The Orix Buffaloes from the Pacific League defeated the Chiba Lotte Marines 2-0 on Thursday, while the Tokyo Yakult Swallows from the Central League defeated the Yomiuri Giants 5-0 when both league champions narrowly won or drew in the Japan Series.

Yutaro Sugimoto scored a double home run for the Buffaloes at the Kyocera Dome Osaka. In Tokyo’s CL contest, Yasutaka Shiomi hit a groundbreaking triple triple to strengthen the swallows. Both Orix and Yakult led 3-0 in their final stages of the best-of-seven Climax series.

Sugimoto broke a goalless impasse with a home run in the sixth inning in two runs on Reliever Yusuke Azuma’s first pitch. The PL home run leader prevailed his first two times against the starter Manabu Mima.

With two outs in the sixth, PL hit champion Masataka Yoshida hit an infield single from Mima’s leg. Azuma took the hill and hung a first pitch slider in the heart of the zone, which Sugimoto placed over the left wall of the field for his first home run of the postseason.

“Sugimoto seemed a little tight in yesterday’s game, but today he was relaxed and as always,” said Buffaloes manager Satoshi Nakajima.

Orix Lefty Daiki Tajima allowed three hits and a walk for six shutout innings while hitting five. With a lead to protect, Ryo allowed Yoshida a two-out hit on the seventh before Tyler Higgins and Yoshihisa Hirano each hit a 1-2-3 inning to end it.

“I’m in good shape and I was happy to be able to line up well in front of the fans today,” said Tajima. “I was prepared for the game but I wasn’t nervous when I went up against the rackets.”

At Jingu Stadium, Yakult left player Keiji Takahashi fell from a base-filled jam in the first inning on his way to six goalless innings. The left-handed went three and allowed two hits while striking eight.

“I was really tight in the first inning, but after that I was able to calm down and pitch well and just concentrate on one batter at a time,” said Takahashi.

The swallows started the scoring when cleanup hitter Munetaka Murakami opened the second inning with a single and after two walks met Naomichi Nishiura’s victim fly in front of Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano.

A couple of Giants mistakes opened the door to a sixth four-run Swallows run. An outfield misplay turned a Murakami leadoff single into a double, and a sloppy infield game resulted in another runner with no outs. With two outs and an open base, the Giants deliberately went the bases loaded, but pinch-hitter ace Shingo Kawabata pulled a walk before Shiomi delivered a triple with three runs.

“Shingo drew this aisle under very difficult circumstances and that took the pressure off me as I went to the plate,” said Shiomi. “I got stuck on this court, but since the outfield was flat, it came through.”

Yakult’s Albert Suarez gave a leadoff walk in seventh place, but the last nine Giants hitters were eliminated in turn when Suarez, Noboru Shimizu and Scott McGough completed the shutout with two hits.

Every league champion starts the best-of-seven finals with a win lead and is now 3-0 ahead. The team with the most wins will be promoted to the Japan Series, while the league champion will be promoted if the series ends in a draw. Neither the buffalo nor the swallows have allowed any escape.

A Japan Series spot for the Buffaloes would be the first in their franchise since Ichiro Suzuki led the Orix BlueWave to the Japan Series championship in 1996. The Swallows last appeared in the Japanese championship series in 2015.

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