Baseball: Masataka Yoshida blasts Buffaloes back into Japan Series tie

October 27, 2022 (Mainichi Japan)

OSAKA (Kyodo) — Masataka Yoshida belted two home runs, including a ninth-inning walk-off blast that tied the Japan Series, as the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes beat the Central League’s Yakult Swallows 6-4 in Thursday’s Game 5.

The series between Japan’s two repeat league champs, a rematch of last year’s clash won in six games by Yakult, stands at two wins apiece with one tie.

Trailing by a run in the ninth, Orix tied it on a walk, an infield single by Masahiro Nishino, and a one-out throwing error on pitcher Scott McGough. With two outs, the Swallows closer hung an 0-1 splitter for Yoshida to hit out and end it at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

“I went to the plate just trying to produce my kind of swing,” Yoshida said. “It was emotional.

“Each and every one of us has been grinding, trying to win every time out, so to see them all rewarded for their efforts makes me really happy.”

Games 6 and 7 are set for Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, where Game 8 will be played Monday if necessary.

With the game tied 2-2 in the fifth, Yoshida hit Orix’s first home run of the series off Swallows rookie Hikaru Yamashita to put the Buffaloes up by one.

That lead, however, quickly evaporated against Orix’s third pitcher, Taisuke Kondo. With two outs and a runner on second, a pair of lucky two-out hits tied it and set up Norichika Aoki’s go-ahead RBI double.

“What a great game,” Orix manager Satoshi Nakajima said. “We made a lot of mistakes tonight, and it’s great to have won, but we need to do better.”

The series appeared to be slipping away from Orix after a scoreless sixth from Yakult reliever Taichi Ishiyama and two-perfect innings from Swallows setup man Noboru Shimizu preserved the visitors’ lead.

McGough, however, issued a leadoff walk, and Orix played for a tie by bunting the runner over. McGough got a sharp comebacker from Nishino, but fumbled it and threw wildly. His error allowed the tying run to score and set up Orix’s dramatic finish.

“That leadoff walk from McGough hurt,” Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu, a former closer, said. “You have to get the outs that are within your grasp.”

The Swallows took the early lead when Aoki singled and scored on a two-out Jose Osuna single off lefty Daiki Tajima, who surrendered Jose Osuna’s second-inning solo home run.

Orix tied it in the fourth on four hits off Yamashita. With two on and two outs, Kotaro Kurebayashi put the hosts on the board, and No. 9 hitter Kenya Wakatsuki followed with an RBI double.

After the Swallows regained their lead, relievers Shota Abe, Yoshihisa Hirano and Jacob Waguespack each held Yakult scoreless to keep the Buffaloes within a run.

Waguespack, a first-year import, retired the heart of the Swallows’ order 1-2-3 in the ninth to earn the win after picking up the save in Wednesday’s 1-0 Buffaloes win.