After the Yomiuri Giants finally found a way to score first, Yoshitomo Tani taught the Chunichi Dragons a thing or two about finishing off an opponent.
A Dragons error and an RBI single by Yoshiyuki Kamei spotted the Giants two runs in the first inning, Tani hit a grand slam in the third, and the Kyojin punched their ticket to the Japan Series for the second straight year with a 8-2 win in Game 4 of the Central League Climax Series second stage on Saturday in front of a crowd of 46,535.
“We won the league pennant here at Tokyo Dome,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “Today we won the Climax Series here. It will be good if we can win the Japan Series at Tokyo Dome too.”
The Central League champions will face the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan’s version of the Fall Classic beginning on Oct. 31 in Sapporo.
“I’m happy we’re going to the Japan Series again,” Ryota Wakiya said. “We lost last year but expect to win it this year.”
Wakiya, who hit a go-ahead double in the eighth inning of Game 3, was named the second-stage MVP. After playing in just two games and registering two at-bats, Wakiya was taken aback at receiving the award.
“I only played 10 minutes in three games,” Wakiya joked. “So this is very surprising for me.”
Combined with an automatic one-game advantage, the Giants won the second stage of CL Climax Series four games to one.
“Our team fought hard from Opening Day through today and we’ve got one more series to go,” Hara said.
Chunichi had outscored Yomiuri 9-1 in the opening frame of the first three games. In Game 4, starter Shun Tono changed that with three quick outs.
Leadoff batter Hayato Sakamoto hit a double in the bottom half of the inning and scored on a throwing error by pitcher Kenichi Nakata after a bunt attempt by Tetsuya Matsumoto. Kamei extended the lead to two with a run-scoring single.
Alex Ramirez hit an RBI single in the third and Kamei loaded bases with a bunt with no outs. Tani cleared the diamond with a shot to left which put the game out of reach early.
“Hitting a grand slam is the best home run feeling,” Tani said. “I really hit it good and felt it pretty much put away the game for us.”
All seven runs came against Nakata, who was battered over two-plus innings. The right-hander gave up seven runs — five earned — and struck out three.
The offense was a welcome sight for Tono, who needed the cushion. Tono allowed his first run on a homer by Tony Blanco in the fourth. In the fifth, he gave up singles to Motonobu Tanishige and Hirokazu Ibata — with an error sandwiched in between — to load the bases with one away.
Tono allowed an RBI single to Masahiro Araki before heading to the showers. Reliever Daisuke Ochi inherited the jam and struck out Masahiko Morino and Blanco to end the inning. Ochi pitched 1 2/3 innings and earned the win.
Ramirez picked up another RBI in the sixth the end the scoring with the Giants ahead 8-2. Chunichi’s Kazuyoshi Tatsunami got a standing ovation from supporters of both teams after nearly taking reliever Marc Kroon deep to left in his final professional at-bat.
Tatsunami, who announced his retirement plans earlier in the season, ends a 22-year career with 2,480 hits (seventh all-time in NPB history) and 1,037 RBIs and retires as the active leader in hits and doubles (487).
Nippon Professional Baseball has decided not to penalize Chunichi Dragons pitcher Kazuki Yoshimi for taking intravenous garlic infusions, saying it was for medical purposes, not to help him regain physical strength.
“We judged he has done it for medical purposes,” Atsushi Masujima, chair of the NPB medical affairs department, said on Saturday. “He has taken them more than once, but he is not doing it on a routine basis.”