Offense finally showed up in Game 3 of the Japan Series – after two games that were dominated by pitching – and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows had more of them.
Domingo Santana dealt the biggest blow of a back-and-forth competition with a double home run in seventh, and the Swallows held the Orix Buffaloes 5-4 at the Tokyo Dome on Tuesday night.
“I just wanted to get a good pitch to hit,” said Santana. “I got it, I didn’t miss it and the result was great.”
The Swallows hosted the Big Egg competition because of a scheduling conflict with Jingu Stadium, their home park. The next two games will also be played in the Tokyo Dome. That didn’t stop Swallows fans from having the majority of the 24,565 spectators in the stands.
Yakult has now won two in a row after losing Game 1 and is 2-1 ahead of the series.
Swallows veteran Norichika Aoki helped set the stage for Santana in seventh place with a leadoff single in right field. Tetsuto Yamada was kicked out and Munetaka Murakami struck, bringing Santana to the plate while the Buffaloes were one away from defending the lead they had taken in the top half of the frame.
Santana had other plans, however, and got Yakult fans on their feet from the moment he hit Yoshida with a 2-0 slider from Ryo.
“I knew straight away that I understood,” said Santana.
Every game in the series was competitive, and Game 3 was no different. The Swallows took the lead in the lower part of the fifth, just for the Buffaloes to even out the score in the top of the sixth. After Orix took the lead with a run in the top of seventh, Santana brought Yakult back to the top in the bottom half.
“Every game has been close since the first game and the points were few,” said Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu. “It was a back and forth game and Santana gave us a great goal in the end.”
The Swallows lost the opener after Orix racked up three runs against closer Scott McGough in the end of the ninth race to overcome a two-run deficit for a 4-3 win.
McGough Avenges McGough pulled Yutaro Sugimoto, who hit a double homer in the sixth, back to finish the game with a runner in third place.
Catcher Yuhei Nakamura drove for the Swallows in two runs and the team used a throwing error by the Buffaloes for the other run.
Taichi Ishiyama took the victory in relief for the Yakult.
If there is one thing the Buffalo can take from defeat, it is that their offense has done better than in the last two games.
Orix defeated Yakult 7-5 while the Pacific League homerun champion Sugimoto hit his first homer of the series.
“I’m happy about it, but we didn’t win,” said Sugimoto. “I’ll come back tomorrow and do my best.”
Yuma Mune and Masataka Yoshida also rode in runs.
Relief jar Yoshida accepted the loss.
Mune’s RBI single in the third was the only run on the board to hit the low end of the fifth.
Aoki came to the base with a one-out single and Orix manager Satoshi Nakajima picked up starter Daiki Tajima after 92 pitches.
“He threw with a lot of force,” said Nakajima.
Motoki Higa was the first out of the bullpen and retired Tetsuto Yamada before being replaced by Cesar Vargas.
However, Vargas could not find the strike zone and walked Munetaka Murakami on five pitches and gave Santana a free pass on four pitches to load the bases.
Nakamura dumped the center to take two runs and an inexplicable throwing error by Mune, who threw the ball out of the field, allowed a third goal to give Yakult a 3-1 lead.
The advantage was short-lived as Sugimoto was able to level the game with his homer in the sixth.
The Buffaloes put the runners in first and second place with a pair of walks and a sacrificial motley to start seventh. Mune had the first sticking point when he could break the tie, but he saw a double-stitched inner fabric by Kazuto Taguchi.
Yoshida stepped on the plate next and reeled a tiebreak double to the left to give Orix a 4-3 lead.
This time it was the Swallows’ turn to respond quickly, and they didn’t give up the lead after Aoki and Santana put them in the driver’s seat.
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