NPB news: Oct. 23, 2022

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Another Japan Series game between Orix and Yakult meant their 10th straight decided by two runs or less, when a late three-run lead was blown, while the first tie since Game 1 of the 2018 series opened the door to a possible Game 8.

The Japan Series is not technically a best-of-seven series, but is rather the first to four wins, with any 12-inning ties through Game 7 not counting.

Game 2 continued the pattern of both teams struggling to drive in their runners outdoors with timely hits, and Yakult doing the big damage via the home run.

Game 2

Buffaloes 3, Swallows 3, 12 innings: At Jingu Stadium, a pitcher from a designated-hitter league singled in the first run, Domingo Santana, looked cursed in right field, Yakult starter Cy Sneed allowed two runs over four innings, the Swallows struck out 14 times, got the game’s big hit, a three-run pinch-hit homer in the ninth by rookie catcher Soma Uchiyama, and then held on to the tie because a ball took a weird roll.

Orix starter Sachiya Yamasaki struck out five over four scoreless innings while stranding six. With the one out and Kotaro Kurebayashi on third after a leadoff double to right, Yamasaki’s little bouncer got through the drawn-in infield. When Santana lost the handle on Yuma Mune’s one-out single, Yamasaki took off for home and scored on the error.

The Buffaloes made it 3-0 in the fifth against reliever Hiroki Onishi. Ryo Adachi led off with Orix’s third double of the night to right, and scored with two outs on a check-swing dribbler by slugger Yutaro Sugimoto.

Soichiro Yamazaki worked two scoreless innings, and rookie Yuki Udagawa kept the Swallows off the board in the seventh. Jacob Waguespack surrendered a pair of two-out ground singles. Santana missed one of the two pitches he threw that had “three-run home run” printed on them before drawing a walk. Rookie shortstop Hideki Nagaoka missed another before striking out to end the inning.

After a sparkling second inning by Swallows reliever Ryuta Konno in a 1-2-3 ninth, Takeshi Miyamoto doubled to open the bottom of the ninth off Orix rookie Shota Abe. Swallows leadoff man Yasutaka Shiomi walked to reach for the fourth time, and Uchiyama, batting for Konno blasted the game-tying homer. Tetsuto Yamada nearly reached the warning track in center, but Yakult would leave two runners in scoring position in extra innings.

Orix left three runners in scoring position as well, most painfully in the 12th. With two outs, Naofumi Kizawa replaced Kazuto Taguchi, and surrendered a single to Yuma Tongu. Pinch-runner Kodai Sano stole second, and touched home on a wild pitch, only to be ordered to retreat to third, which he hadn’t touched before the ball took a lucky bounce out of play.

Game 3 is at Kyocera Dome Osaka, where the Swallows’ home run power should be slightly less decisive because singles, doubles and triples will be easier to come by in a temperature-controlled environment.

Then we also might learn what is up with Orix sending Yamasaki to the mound to start Game 2 instead of say Taisuke Yamaoka or Hiroya Miyagi.

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