The Yomiuri Giants came within one win of booking a spot in the Japan Series after a 5-5, 12-inning tie with the Chunichi Dragons in Game 3 of the Central League Climax Series second stage on Friday night.
Lee Seung Yeop hit a three-run homer off Kenshin Kawakami in a four-run sixth inning that put Yomiuri ahead 5-3, but the Dragons fought back to send the game into extra innings with a Tyrone Woods solo homer in the eighth and an RBI double by Motonobu Tanishige in the ninth at Tokyo Dome.
Neither broke the deadlock and the result left Yomiuri needing a win on Saturday to reach the Japan Series for the first time in six years under the tiebreaking system of the Climax Series.
Yomiuri now leads the second stage two games to one with a tie after being given a one-game advantage for its first-place finish in the regular season. The league champion also enjoys an advantage of going through if both teams have the same number of wins after Game 6.
“Our relief pitchers such as (Tetsuya) Yamaguchi did a great job. It was a tough decision to pull (Marc) Kroon in the ninth inning, but I brought in the left-hander to keep a runner from stealing second,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.
Hara made a bold decision to replace CL saves leader Kroon after the closer took the mound with a one-run lead and hit Norihiro Nakamura leading off the ninth. Yamaguchi took over and allowed Tanishige’s game-tying double but went on to pitch three solid innings, his longest outing this year.
Yomiuri used seven pitchers and Chunichi six in a game that lasted 4 hours and 42 minutes and was worth a victory for the Giants.
Offensively, South Korean slugger Lee played a pivotal role with his second homer in as many nights.
“It was one of the best home runs I’ve hit in my career,” Lee said of his shot to left-center on a 1-0 forkball from Dragons ace Kawakami with two outs and runners on second and third.
“In that situation, I wanted to come through no matter what, especially after our No. 3 and cleanup hitters were retired. It ended in a tie but we came from behind, so it’s great,” Lee said.
Yomiuri backup catcher Kazunari Tsuruoka, who has played in the series in place of an injured Shinnosuke Abe, hit a solo home run in the third.