Baseball: Yakult sweeps Hanshin to reach Japan Series

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Yakult Swallows completed a sweep of the Hanshin Tigers with a 6-3 victory in Game 3 of the Central League Climax Series’ final stage Friday, earning a second consecutive trip to the Japan Series.

The Swallows won the final stage four games to none at Jingu Stadium after entering the series with a one-win advantage as the pennant winner.

Hanshin reliever Masumi Hamachi made an errant glove toss to first base as he tried to field a slow roller hit by Triple Crown winner Munetaka Murakami with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning, allowing all three baserunners to score at Jingu Stadium. Yakult scored five runs in the frame.

Murakami, who hit 56 home runs in the regular season, had a pair of hits in four at-bats, including the RBI infield single.

“I’m so happy,” Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu said. “We just couldn’t lose here. Our players drew walks and were hit by a pitch to set the stage for Murakami in the seventh. Once again, we’ll go for the Japan Series title with all of our fans.”

The Tigers had built a 3-0 lead through five innings.

At Kyocera Dome Osaka, SoftBank ace Kodai Senga and four relievers combined on a six-hit shutout as the Hawks beat the Orix Buffaloes 3-0.

The win cut the Buffaloes’ lead to 3-1 in the final stage of the Pacific League Climax Series.

Senga limited Orix to three hits — all singles, while striking out five in six-plus innings.

Alfredo Despaigne had an RBI single in a two-run first inning. Isami Nomura added a solo home run in the seventh.