Sporting a lineup crammed with reserves after using up their bullpen and position players, the Yomiuri Giants settled for a 12-inning draw on Friday night.
With much of the drama squeezed into a game-tying, ninth-inning rally, the Giants and Yakult Swallows played to a 3-3 tie before what remained of the crowd of 42,089 at Tokyo Dome.
After the longest game in the Central League this season--5 hours 27 minutes--the Giants were left with their Japan-high ninth tie against a team they had beaten in 12 of 16 previous meetings.
Twice the Giants bounced popups off the ceiling and both times they fell in as Yomiuri used a little luck to avoid a loss.
Michihiro Ogasawara's off-the-ceiling double with two outs tied the score in the ninth. He also hit a solo homer off Yakult starter Yuki Tanaka in the sixth inning for Yomiuri's first run.
After a couple of lollipop curves helped Tanaka get to a 2-2 count, he misplaced a fastball and Ogasawara found a new home for it--the seats in right. Ogasawara's team-high 28th long ball cut Yakult's lead to 2-1
"I didn't think too much [about the slow curves] and just concentrated on the next pitch," Ogasawara said. "I didn't let them mess up my timing and did well to stay back on the ball. It caught the end of the ball but it was enough to get out."
Seldom-used reserve catcher Ken Kato also found himself out, taking an 0-2 fastball from Hiromitsu Takagi off the helmet in the 11th inning. Kato left the game and Daisuke Nakai ran for him.
That sent emergency catcher Takuya Kimura, who hadn't put on the pads and mask in a game since July 6, 1999, in to work the top of the 12th inning behind the plate.
Kimura is the only active player to appear at every defensive position except pitcher. But he wasn't able to help Yomiuri push a run across, fanning for the second out in the 12th. Yoshitomo Tani then flied to left for the final out.
The Swallows, who recently had to deactivate closer Lim Chong Yong and set-up man Ryota Igarashi because of injuries, had turned to fifth-year Yakult hurler Kenichi Matsuoka for a five-out save.
Matsuoka fanned the first two he faced to get out of an eighth-inning jam, but a pair of singles and a stolen base in the ninth put the tying runs aboard. An RBI groundout by Tetsuya Matsumoto cut Yakult's lead to 3-2.
Ogasawara then sent a towering popup to right that looked like the final out. But it clanked off the ceiling and eluded Yakult fielders for a game-tying double.
The Giants, in cruise control as they head toward their third consecutive CL title, stranded 15 runners, including five in extra innings.
Giants starter Seth Greisinger couldn't work out of a seventh-inning jam, but the late rally spared him the loss. He allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits and four walks while fanning five.
Tanaka outpitched him and was in line for a win after allowing one run over six innings, but the bullpen couldn't hold it. Tanaka frustrated the Giants by scattering seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
Yakult got on the board first by being aggressive. With one out in the second inning, Aaron Guiel dropped a broken-bat single into left field. The Swallows played hit and run and it paid off as Shinya Miyamoto smoked a shot down the line in left. Guiel steamed around from first to score and make it 1-0 Swallows.
In the third inning, Kazuki Fukuchi led off by drawing a walk and took second on a sacrifice. Norichika Aoki sent a bouncer up the middle that snuck through for a single and Fukuchi cruised home, easily beating Tetsuya Matsumoto's throw from shallow center.
But the Swallows wasted more scoring opportunities than they capitalized on, rapping into three double plays by the fourth inning.