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Abe's blast keeps Giants alive in CL series

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Abe's blast keeps Giants alive in CL series

by John E. Gibson (Oct 22, 2010)

The Chunichi Dragons thought they had a magic moment, but Shinnosuke Abe erased it and stopped the Yomiuri Giants' worst single-season, single-venue road skid in club history.

Abe lined a solo home run just over the wall in right off Chunichi closer Hitoki Iwase to lead off the ninth inning as the Giants halted an 11-game skid at Nagoya Dome and extended the final stage of the Central League Climax Series on Friday night with a 3-2 win.

The shot came moments after Kei Nomoto's two-run, pinch-hit homer off Yomiuri reliever Daisuke Ochi tied the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning and electrified the partisan crowd of 38,432.

With the win, the Giants avoided a series sweep and extended the CLCS to Game 4 here on Saturday night. The Dragons, who had a one-win advantage at the start of the best-of-seven series, still hold a 3-1 lead and can seal a trip to the Japan Series with a win or tie.

"We have our backs against the wall and we can't lose," said Abe, who had a career-best 44 longballs in the regular season.

"I just wanted to get on base and I was hoping something would happen. I didn't think the ball would go out, but it carried out for me and I'm glad.

"We want to keep playing as long as we can, so I hope we can come back and win tomorrow, too."

The defending Japan Series-champion Giants won the past three CL titles, but the Dragons outlasted them for their eighth league title this year. They also dominated Yomiuri at home with a 10-2 mark here and kept that hot streak going with consecutive shutouts in the first two games of the series.

Giants righty Hideki Asai, though, worked six innings of one-hit ball, walking two and fanning one for a no-decision that changed the momentum.

He retired his last 13 batters before watching Ochi blow the lead on just two pitches in the eighth.

Yomiuri struggled early at the plate before managing to create a scoring chance in the fourth inning. Ryota Wakiya led off with a single and with one out Michihiro Ogasawara walked. But cleanup hitter Alex Ramirez lofted a lazy fly to right for the second out and Abe bounced out to second to end the inning.

Yomiuri finally broke through in the fifth. A pair of one-out singles from the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters set the table and, after a strikeout, Wakiya whacked a shot inside third base and down the line for the club's first run in 22 2/3 CLCS innings.

The hit raised Wakiya's average to .600 in the final stage, and gave the Giants their first lead against the Dragons.

In the sixth, Ramirez picked up his second hit of the series and hustled around from first to score on a two-out double to left center by Yoshinobu Takahashi to make it 2-0.

Replays showed Chunichi catcher Motonobu Tanishige appeared to block the plate, but umpire Hideshi Honda called Ramirez safe. The Dragons argued briefly before returning to play and starter Daisuke Yamai induced a groundout to end the frame.

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