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Abe's sayonara HR lifts Giants to 3-2 Series lead

by Jim Allen (Nov 6, 2009)

The Giants are going to Sapporo one win away from the 2009 Japan Series title.

Shinnosuke Abe belted a sayonara home run as Yomiuri twice came from a run down to beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 3-2 in Game 5 on Thursday at Tokyo Dome.

Yoshiyuki Kamei tied it with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the ninth off Fighters closer Hisashi Takeda, and one out later Abe came to the plate.

"You know in this park, you can never tell," Abe said of the comeback that saw the Giants tie it 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth only to fall behind in on Shinji Takahashi's solo homer in the top of the ninth.

"Nobody knows better than the guys on our bench how quickly things can change here. After Kamei tied it, I went to the plate thinking just get on it, make something happen."

Instead of just starting something, he finished it, making something happen to an 0-1 hanging curve from Takeda to give the Giants a 3-2 Series lead.

Kamei came to the plate 3-for-15 for the Series but made his mark on this game.

"The team was behind, and I hadn't been hitting," Kamei said. "There was nothing to do but tough it out. I wanted to adjust my timing as soon as I could and just get the bat on the ball.

"I thought it would be OK even if I hit it off the end of the bat."

He launched a high, first-pitch fastball into the seats for his second homer of the Series.

"Kamei overcame his difficulties, so that homer had a lot of meaning for him," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.

For a moment, it looked like the Fighters might go back with the Series lead after Takahashi homered for the second straight night, this time off lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi, who wound up the winner.

"I felt strong going up to the plate although I didn't have a good image of facing Yamaguchi," said Takahashi, who is 8-for-21 in the Series.

"Winning and losing is beyond my control. Somethings are beyond mortal men.

"Still, it was a great game."

For seven innings, Giants right-hander Dicky Gonzalez, 15-2 in the regular season, fought Fighters lefty Shugo Fujii to a 1-0 pitchers' duel with the only run being unearned.

Gonzalez allowed three hits and a walk, while striking out four and left runners in scoring position in three of the first four innings.

Fujii gave up four singles. He walked one batter, hit another and struck out three as the Giants managed to get only one runner as far as second base against him.

"Although we finished big, our inability to get anything going for a long time is an issue," Hara said. "Fujii pitched a great game, but we need to do more."

Poor Giants fielding in the second inning helped the Fighters to a 1-0 lead.

Second baseman Shigeyuki Furuki fumbled a grounder to put Terrmel Sledge on as the leadoff runner.

Eichi Koyano's single advanced Sledge and a groundout put runners on the corners with one out. With two outs, Fujii battled for seven pitches and third baseman Michihiro Ogasawara fumbled his ground ball, allowing a run in.

Fujii put seven zeroes on the scoreboard for the first time since May 9, but the Giants got to the Fighters bullpen.

Yamaguchi pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and the Giants tied it in the bottom of the inning. Nippon Ham righty Yoshinori Tateyama hit pinch-hitter Lee Seung Yeop to open things, and pinch-runner Takahiro Suzuki set up the score with his speed.

A stolen base and an errant pickoff throw by former Giants lefty Masanori Hayashi put Suzuki at third with one-out, and pinch-hitter Noriyoshi Omichi singled over the drawn-in infield.

"With us a run down, Suzuki did a great job with his base running," Hara said. "It was a big effort for him, for the bench, for the whole team."

A night after mistakes helped the Fighters pound them 8-4 to even the series, Abe said his teammates were on top of things.

"Obviously we had issues last night, we regrouped and came back," Abe said. "In the end it's not how we play, but whether we win or lose."

Said Hara: "We're on the verge of a title. We are so eager for the next game."


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