Japan Series Game 7 was held Sunday, and Japanese baseball didn’t have to wait for Halloween for tricks and treats. The victory was Orix’s fifth championship in franchise history. All of the Hankyu Braves’, Orix BlueWave’s, and Orix Buffaloes’ series have been again against the Yomiuri Giants, the Hiroshima Carp and the Yakult Swallows, the only team the franchise had yet to beat until Sunday night after losing in 1978, 1995 and 2021.
Buffaloes 5, Swallows 0: At Jingu Stadium, Ryo Ota hit a tough first pitch for a leadoff homer and laid down one of the best bunts you’ll see to energize a four-run fifth-inning rally that ended when normally reliable center fielder Yasutaka Shiomi missed a liner for a three-run error.
Cy Sneed burned himself by hitting a couple of batters, walking another and throwing a poor fastball out of the zone that went for a fifth-inning leadoff single.
Orix starting pitcher Hiroya Miyagi, who had great movement on his changeup and took advantage of an umpire calling low strikes by absolutely painting the bottom of the zone, laid down a bunt that just got past Munetaka Murakami at third for a single. With Murakami staying back to cover third, Ota bunted in front of him for another single.
With two outs thanks to a superb play at first by Jose Osuna, Sneed had a chance to get out of the inning and failed to grab it. He walked the bases loaded and forced in a run by hitting Masataka Yoshida. Sneed hung a 1-1 slider to Yutaro Sugimoto who lined it to left center, where Shiomi missed it.
Miyagi issued a one-out walk and surrendered a flare single in the bottom of the fifth and that was it for him. Yuki Udagawa pitched two scoreless innings, but Soichiro Yamazaki let Yakult back into the game. He gave up two well-placed bouncers through the infield to open the inning. With one out, Munetaka Murakami hammered an RBI single and Osuna followed with a shot into the seats to make it a one-run game.
As he had throughout the series, 39-year-old side-armer Motoki Higa got the Buffaloes out of a tricky spot with two easy outs and Jacob Waguespack came on in the ninth to end it with his third save. Waguespack could easily have been series MVP with three saves and a win in relief after his scoreless but fraught first appearance in Game 2.
Instead, it went to Yutaro Sugimoto, who had three impactful RBI singles. He threw out a runner at the plate in in Game 5 from right field, and because of that, prevented Yakult from scoring another in the sixth in a game Orix came back to win by two on Masataka Yoshida’s two-run sayonara homer.
The Swallows outscored Orix 23 to 22, but seven of those were unearned, while the Buffaloes allowed no unearned runs. The Swallows, who had a substantial advantage in double plays turned to double plays turned by their opponents during the season, turned three, the Buffaloes who were worse at turning two than their opponents all year, turned six.