Just like in Game 1 the night before, the Chunichi Dragons came out swinging against Giants pitching at Tokyo Dome on Thursday, putting some runs on the board in the first inning.
But unlike in the opener, the Giants starter, Wirfin Obispo, quickly settled down and their slumbering bats finally woke up Thursday, as Yomiuri topped Chunichi 6-4 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Central League Climax Series.
Yomiuri, the league champion, began the series with a one-game advantage. The Dragons won Game 1 on Wednesday, 7-2. Game 3 goes tonight, also at Tokyo Dome.
Veteran pinch-hitter Noriyoshi Omichi came through off the bench for manager Tatsunori Hara's Giants, delivering a clutch two-run broken-bat double down the third-base line in a three-run fourth that also featured a go-ahead leadoff home run by Shinnosuke Abe.
The efforts of Omichi and Abe helped make a winner of Obispo, a Dominican right-hander who was making his first postseason start in Japan. Obispo overcame a shaky start to go 5 2/3 innings to get the win. While he only allowed two runs on three hits--both runs and two of those hits coming in the first inning--Obispo did have control issues, walking four and hitting three batters with pitches.
Obispo also helped out offensively with a pair of singles, two of the 15 hits the Giants produced on the night.
Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai elected to start Chen Wei-yin on four days' rest. Chen, a Taiwanese left-hander whose 1.54 ERA was the best in Japanese baseball this season, started Game 1 in the Stage 1 series against the Yakult Swallows on Saturday.
On Thursday, Chen kept his team in the game through the first three innings, but after Omichi's two-run double in the fourth, Ochiai had seen enough and went to his bullpen. Chen took the loss, allowing a very un-Chen-like five runs on nine hits through just 3 1/3 innings.
Chunichi leadoff-hitter Hirokazu Ibata started the game with a bang, doubling off Obispo to set the stage for Masahiko Morino's two-run homer to right two batters later. When Obispo hit cleanup-hitter Tony Blanco with a pitch and walked Kei Nomoto later in the inning, it looked like we might be in for a repeat of Game 1, in which the Dragons erupted for five runs in the first frame off Dicky Gonzalez.
But Obispo bore down, striking out Kazuhiro Wada and retiring Atsushi Fujii on a fly ball to center to get out of the jam.
The Giants also got to Dragons starter Chen early when their leadoff hitter, Hayato Sakamoto, doubled down the third-base line in the bottom of the first. He would end up scoring when Michihiro Ogasawara lined an RBI single to right.
The Giants tied it in the third when Alex Ramirez chopped an RBI single over the head of first-baseman Blanco with two men on to make it a 2-2 game.
It wouldn't stay tied for long, however. In the Giants' fourth, Abe led off with a solo shot to left-center that barely cleared the wall and, after Shigeyuki Furuki and Obispo both bunted themselves aboard, Omichi, who turns 40 in a few days, came through with his broken-bat RBI double off the bench.
Sakamoto lined an RBI single to left off reliever Yoshihiro Suzuki to make it 6-2 in the fifth.
Chunichi got a pair of runs back in the eighth to make it a two-run game when Fujii clobbered a two-out, two-run homer to right off Daisuke Ochi, prompting Hara to bring in closer Marc Kroon to get a four-out save.
Ogasawara was 3-for-4 with a walk for the Giants. Dragons cleanup-hitter Blanco had a tough day at the dish, getting hit by a pitch and striking out in his four other at-bats.