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Rob Smaal

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Giants rebound in 8th

by Rob Smaal (Oct 24, 2009)

Ryota Wakiya's pinch hit two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning Friday night at Tokyo Dome put the Yomiuri Giants a win away from their second straight trip to the Japan Series.

Trailing 4-2 in the eighth, the Giants scored on an error by normally sure-handed shortstop Hirokazu Ibata and Wakiya followed by sending a Takuya Asao pitch into the gap in right-center as Yomiuri edged the Chunichi Dragons 5-4 in a classic nail-biter.

The win gives the Giants a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Central League Climax Series. A victory Saturday night will put them into the Japan Series.

The Dragons got off to a quick start, but just like in Thursday's game, they stumbled down the homestretch.

Masahiko Morino whacked a two-run homer to right-center in the top of the first as the Dragons scored in their first trip to the plate for the third straight game. Morino's jack came after Masahiro Araki hit a one-out single off Giants left-handed starter Hisanori Takahashi.

The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth when Alex Ramirez and Yoshiyuki Kamei both turned on Kazuki Yoshimi deliveries, connecting for back-to-back solo home runs into the right-field bleachers with two out.

But the Dragons bounced right back, plating a pair of runs in the seventh off reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi, who had come in to replace Daisuke Ochi. Morino hit a high chopper to second that allowed Kazuki Inoue, who had a pinch-hit single earlier in the inning, to race home with the go-ahead run and slugger Tony Blanco then ended a barren run at the plate by tapping an RBI single to right to make it 4-2 Dragons. Both runs were charged to Ochi.

Chunichi second-baseman Araki saved at least one run when he made a diving stab on a groundball off the bat of Ramirez with two men on in the bottom of the eighth. The men on base each moved up 90 feet, but Araki threw out Ramirez at first on a close play for the second out of the inning and reliever Asao looked like he might get out of the jam unscathed. But then one run scored on an error charged to shortstop Ibata before Asao stroked his two-run go-ahead pinch-hit double to the wall in right-center.

Wakiya would later get thrown out at home trying to score on a Shigeyuki Furuki single, but he had done his job.

Takahashi went five innings for Tatsunori Hara's club, allowing two runs on five hits and a pair of walks. He struck out nine, including all three batters he faced in the fifth, but Hara elected to pinch hit for him in the bottom of the inning.

Closer Marc Kroon worked a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up his second save in two nights for the Giants.


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