The Giants handed the ball to a third-year pitcher who has made more career appearances on the farm than on the top team. The result: Wirfin Obispo plowed through the Chunichi Dragons.
The 25-year-old right-hander wobbled in the first inning, allowing two runs, but got better as the game went on and beat the Dragons 6-4 in Game 2 of Stage 2 the Central League Climax Series before 40,452 at Tokyo Dome on Thursday.
The three-time CL-winning Giants, who opened the six-game series with a one-game advantage, lead the CLCS 2-1 thanks to Obispo, who yielded just three hits--two in the first and one in the sixth--while walking four, hitting three and fanning four in 5-2/3 innings.
Obispo, 6-1 in the regular season, wasn't overpowering, but he didn't allow a hit after the first-inning homer until a leadoff single in the sixth.
"I felt good in the bullpen and I thought I had my best stuff when I went to the mound," said Obispo, who during the regular season made 14 CL appearances while pitching in 20 Eastern League games.
"When the game started, I was trying too hard and, as you saw, I had trouble with my control. But I think I did what I had to do as a starter," said Dominican, who also had two hits.
The Dragons didn't go down without a fight. In the eighth inning Atsushi Fujii slugged a two-out, two-run homer off reliever Daisuke Ochi, who started the frame.
Motonobu Tanishige doubled and Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara called upon closer Marc Kroon for a four-out save. The hard-throwing righty uncorked a wild pitch before inducing a groundout from pinch-hitter Kazuyoshi Tatsunami to end the threat.
Kroon allowed a one-out single in the ninth, but fanned the last two batters to save it.
Hara said he was satisfied with Obispo's outing, which got the Giants to their bullpen with the lead.
"He lasted five innings and gave up just two runs. I think he did a good job," said the skipper, whose club lost the first Stage 2 game to Chunichi in last year's CLCS before advancing in four games.
The Giants pounded out 15 hits, Shinnosuke Abe clubbing a solo homer off Chunichi starter Chen Wei-yin to open the fourth to give them their first lead. Yomiuri went on to score two more runs in the inning.
"Chen is a good pitcher and I just wanted to get on base to start the inning, and I ended with a good outcome," Abe said.
After the game, Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai was in the same frosty mood he was in following Wednesday's Game 1 win.
"The only thing that matters is winning or losing," he said. "You guys don't listen. I've been saying the same thing for a week," was his only comment.
The Dragons, who stranded nine, had more than pitching problems. Kazuhiro Wada ran Chunichi out the sixth inning, trying to score from second on an infield single that bounced off the glove of second baseman Shigeyuki Furuki and into shallow center. Wada rounded third but was nailed easily at the plate to end the frame.
Obispo struggled in the first inning and was behind 2-0 after three Chunichi swings. Hirokazu Ibata doubled down the line in left to start the game and moved to third on a groundout.
Masahiko Morino made Obispo pay for a misplaced fastball, belting his first long ball this postseason halfway up the seats in right for a two-run Chunichi lead.
Chen, the CL ERA leader who lost Game 1 of the first stage against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, surrendered a run in the first inning. He lasted just 3-1/3 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits and a walk with three strikeouts to fall to 0-3 in his career in Climax Series play.
"When I needed to make pitches, I ended up making mistakes," the left-handed Chen said.
Hayato Sakamoto smoked his first pitch down the left-field line for a leadoff double, and one out later, Michihiro Ogasawara stroked a single to left to cut the lead in half.
"We were down a run, but just one run. We were just looking to get back one run at a time," Ogasawara said.
The Giants, though, had a chance to extend the rally. Yoshiyuki Kamei lined a single to right, and Ogasawara hustled around to third to put the go-ahead runs in scoring position. But Chen got a flyout from Yoshitomo Tani to end the inning.
The Giants got even by forcing Chen through a laborious 40-pitch third inning. Sakamoto drew nine pitches before fouling out, Tetsuya Matsumoto singled on the 12th pitch of his at-bat and Ogasawara walked on six pitches.
Alex Ramirez, who hit .435 this season against Chunichi at Tokyo Dome, continued to burn the Dragons, hitting a chopper that bounced past Tony Blanco at first and into right field for an RBI single to tie it 2-2.
One inning later, Chen had nothing left. He gave up an opposite-field leadoff homer to Abe on a 2-2 slider he left up to give Yomiuri the lead, and back-to-back bunt singles put two on before a sacrifice accounted for the first out.
With the infield drawn in, pinch-hitter Noriyoshi Omichi then doubled just inside third and down the line to plate two for a 5-2 Giants advantage, sending Chen to the showers.
"I just didn't want to strike out, so I was sitting on a fastball," said Omichi, who had just three RBIs in the regular season. "The infield was in and the runner [at third] was Furuki, so I just wanted to chop the ball somewhere. I'm glad it went in a good place."