We should title Game 4, “the junkman cometh,” when 41-year-old Yakult Swallows lefty side-armer Masanori Ishikawa brought his varied low-velocity arsenal against the Orix Buffaloes and gave them fits.
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The only overhand pitcher in Japan’s majors with a slower average fastball velo than Ishikawa’s 132.7 kph, is Seibu Lions lefty Ryuya Ogawa (131.1). Ishikawa even threw one at 120 kph (74.6 mph), which brought a great reaction from the Fuji TV broadcast crew, “…that’s a breaking… no that’s a fastball! Incredible.”
Ishikawa, who throws a four-seamer, a two-seamer, a cutter, a change, a slider, a curve and a sinker—essentially a screwball, gave up a few hard-hit balls, but all but one of those were caught, walked one and struck out five over six innings to become the second-oldest pitcher to win a Japan Series Game. The last over-40 winner was Hawaii-born Tadashi “Bozo” Wakabayashi, who beat the Hanshin Tigers in Game 1 of the inaugural 1950 Series at the age of 42 for the Mainichi Orions.
Lest Ishikawa get a swell head, Wakabayashi threw a 161-pitch 12-inning complete game.
The win was his first in the Series after losing Games 1 and 5 to the SoftBank Hawks in 2015.
Japan Series Game 4
Swallows 2, Buffaloes 1
At Tokyo Dome: Masanori Ishikawa (1-0) allowed an unearned run over six innings, Domingo Santana hit a solo homer and scored the go-ahead run, and three relievers worked a scoreless inning apiece as Yakult improved to 3-1 in the best-of-seven series with a chance to clinch at home—well at the Central League’s home park—with Jingu Stadium down the road unavailable.
Domingo Santana, whose two-run homer in his final at-bat on Tuesday brought the Swallows from a run down and completed the scoring, opened the scoring by homering to lead off Yakult’s second against rookie right-hander Soichiro Yamazaki, belting a high straight 2-1 fastball out to the opposite field.
Yamazaki snuffed out a Swallows opportunity in the third, when Yamazaki allowed a leadoff single and a one-out walk, but retired Munetaka Murakami and Santana, allowing the Buffaloes to tie it up on two singles and an error in sixth.
Shuhei Fukuda singled with two outs and was going when Yuma Mune got his sixth hit of the series and scored when Santana was charged with an error for failing to collect the ball in right field.
Right-hander Hirotoshi Masui (0-1) took over for Yamazaki in the home half of the sixth and was completely ineffective. He faced four batters, allowed two hits and a walk, and a hard-hit liner that first baseman Takahiro Okada turned into a double play. He left with two outs and two on, and Jose Osuna rolled a single up the middle to drive in Santana for the go-ahead run off Tomoki Higa.
Taichi Ishiyama, supplanted as closer by Scott McGough, worked a scoreless seventh a night after earning the win. CL saves leader Noboru Shimizu, who wasn’t called upon to work the eighth on Tuesday, worked a scoreless eighth before McGough recorded his second straight save.