Japan Series Game 5 was played Thursday and it was a thriller.
We also learned Hiroshima Carp pitcher Masato Morishita, the Central League’s 2020 rookie of the year, had orthoscopic surgery on his right elbow to treat a bone spur and loose tissue within the joint on Wednesday.
Morishita, who the Carp said will not be able to resume throwing in the bullpen for three to four months was to be on Japan’s roster for Novembers internationals against Australia.
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Let’s get to the game, shall we?
Buffaloes 6, Swallows 4: At Osaka Dome, Masataka Yoshida lowered the boom as Orix, with two home runs, Orix’s first of the series, including a two-run tie-breaking ninth-inning walk-off blast against Yakult closer Scott McGough.
Trailing by a run in the ninth after three scoreless innings, including two 1-2-3 outings by Yoshihisa Hirano and Jacob Waguespack (1-0), McGough came on to secure a 3-1 Yakult Series lead, and instead gave an encore of his three-run ninth in last year’s Game 1 loss to Orix at the same ballpark.
McGough issued a leadoff walk, and after a sacrifice, bobbled a sharp comebacker that was ruled an infield single. His off-balance throw to first tied the game. With two outs, he hung an 0-1 splitter to Yoshida and the Buffaloes’ big wheel got all of it.
Until that moment, Norichika Aoki, who had three hits, scored a first-inning run and doubled in Yakult’s sixth-inning tie-breaker was set up to be the hero along with setup man Noboru Shimizu who sliced through Orix’s order for six straight outs in the seventh and eighth.
Orix starter Daiki Tajima struck out five as he allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks over 4-1/3 innings, thanks to some more of the good work Orix has got in the series from 39-year-old side-armer Motoki Higa.
Yamashita followed the Yakult formula of attacking the zone from the start and racked up a pile of ground outs through the first three innings, but lost the script in the fourth.
He began falling behind and when he did get ahead in the count to Kotaro Kurebayashi with two outs and two on, Yamashita couldn’t put him away and a ground ball bounced through the infield for an RBI single. He fell behind No. 9 hitter Kenya Wakatsuki, who tied it with a double.
Yakult got two on with no outs against Tajima in the fifth, when he was pulled after a scorching grounder for the first out, but Higa came in, got a double play, and Yoshida gave Orix the lead in the bottom of the inning. His homer was the first allowed by Yamashita at any level as a pro.
Orix’s lead didn’t survive the Swallows’ sixth, when everything bounced Yakult’s way against new pitcher Taisuke Kondo. Yuhei Nakamura got a rare smash past Yuma Mune at third for a one-out double, and a two-out flare fell for a Hideki Nagaoka RBI single. After a dribbled infield single prolonged the inning, Aoki smashed a ball past first for a double. Speedster Yasutaka Shiomi declined to test the arm of right fielder Yutaro Sugimoto, who’d ended the first with a strike to the plate, and the Swallows would not score again.
The Buffaloes got a lucky leadoff double in the bottom of the sixth, only to sacrifice their lead runner at third with a poor bunt, and end up stranding two. Orix reliever Shota Abe survived a scary seventh, and Swallows setup man put Yakult on track for the win.
Games 6 and 7 will be at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium starting from Saturday, when we will find out if Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s injury in Game 1 will keep him from the mound or not. Should the team’s split those two games, we have the possibility of a Game 8 on Monday at Jingu Stadium.
Yamashita posted a 1.54 WHIP in two starts in the majors this season. The Swallows’ top signing from last year’s draft was 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in the Eastern League, where he only struck out 11 batters in 22-2/3 innings. Of his outs in play with the first team, 27 were on the ground, 14 in the air, and Delta Graphs suggests his minor league numbers with a 1.41 ground-to-fly ratio, were similar.