Takahiro Arai playing in the final games of his 20-year-career, failed to bring home the bacon in the 12th inning as his Hiroshima Carp and the SoftBank Hawks settled for a 2-2 tie in Japan Series Game 1 on Saturday.
With series games shortened this year from their previous 15-inning limit, the Central League champion Carp and the Pacific League’s Hawks were forced to leave Mazda Stadium early after neither Arai nor leadoff man Kosuke Tanaka could bring the potential winning run home in the bottom of the 12th.
Arai pinch hit after Tomohiro Abe drew a one-out walk off submariner Rei Takahashi. But the 41-year-old Arai grounded back to the rookie pitcher for the second out. With two outs and the potential winning run on second and a tie looming, Cuban lefty Livan Moinelo prevented the Carp from taking the series lead by striking out Tanaka swinging.
The teams, meeting in the Japan Series for the first time, used a total of 15 pitchers in a game in which neither team would score after the fifth inning.
The Carp, beaten 8-0 the last time starting pitchers Daichi Osera and Kodai Senga locked horns, wasted no time getting on the board against Senga in the bottom of the first.
With one out, Ryosuke Kikuchi homered to bring in the game’s first run. Yoshihiro Maru, who walked 130 times in the regular season, drew a free pass and scored after Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama singled off Senga sliders.
«Because I was in a hitter’s count, 3-1, I wanted to be aggressive,» Kikuchi said. «The home run was a result of batting intensely as I put a really good swing on it.»
Osera struck out six of the first 13 batters he faced and did not allow a hit until Akira Nakamura and Seiichi Uchikawa singled to open the Hawks’ fifth. Both tried to score from third on groundouts and were put out on the baseline, but good team base running left two men in scoring position.
That paid off when Alfredo Despaigne, pinch hitting for Senga, rolled a ball up the middle that Kikuchi did well to snare from his second base position. The five-time Golden Glove winner’s throw was too low for his first baseman to scoop up, and the ball rolled away.
One run scored on Despaigne’s single, while Kikuchi’s throwing error accounted for the second.
Senga settled down with two on and one out in the first and did not allow another runner, retiring 11 straight, five on strikeouts. Shota Takeda, a starter who has been a big factor in middle relief, pitched two spotty-but-scoreless innings, while Shuta Ishikawa allowed just a hit through two innings.
Closer Yuito Mori worked around a walk in the ninth with the help of catcher Takuya Kai, who easily gunned down pinch runner Takashi Uemoto as he tried to steal second. Ren Kajiya worked two solid innings, with SoftBank’s second catcher, Hirotaka Takaya ending the 11th by throwing out Takayoshi Noma trying to steal second.
The Carp bullpen, too, held its own. Akitake Okada pitched out of trouble in the sixth, while Ryuji Ichioka struck out two in a 1-2-3 seventh. Geronimo Franzua, a revelation this year for Hiroshima, worked two effortless innings.
Closer Shota Nakazaki worked a 1-2-3 10th inning but made way for Jay Jackson in the 11th, who left with two outs and runners on the corners.
Keizo Kawashima, who entered as an eighth-inning pinch hitter, singled for the second time to open the 11th and was sacrificed to second. Yanagita was walked intentionally. With the outfield shallow to cut off a play at the plate, center fielder Maru did well to haul in a deep drive off the bat of Nakamura.
That was enough for Carp skipper Ogata, who handed the ball to Johnny Hellweg. The new right-hander hit a batter to load the bases but stranded all three on an easy flyout.
Right-hander Ren Nakata, the eighth Carp pitcher, worked around two walks to work a scoreless 12th to give his team one more chance to win it.
All — Kyodo News+