The Orix Buffaloes faced their first elimination game of the season on Thursday at Tokyo Dome, and in a series that has switched back and forth between outstanding pitchers’ duels and crazy see-saw battles, we had more of the latter with Adam Jones getting his time in the spotlight, ensuring there would be a Game 6
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Thursday’s game was not only a “win or go home” game for Orix, it was a “win and really go home” game, since Games 6 or 7 will be played, not at Kyocera Dome Osaka–the park Orix took over from the defunct Kintetsu Buffaloes–but at the park that last hosted an Orix Japan Series championship in 1996. To add spice to the scenario, Buffaloes manager Satoshi Nakajima said he’d start Sawamura Award winner Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Saturday.
Japan Series Game 5
Buffaloes 6, Swallows 5
At Tokyo Dome: Adam Jones broke a 5-5 tie with a pinch-hit home run off closer Scott McGough (0-2), and former Diamondback and Mariner Yoshihisa Hirano earned the save in the ninth inning of his Japan Series debut.
Twice the Swallows snatched a one-run lead against lefty Sachiya Yamasaki, once through some aggressive base running by Domingo Santana, and once on Munetaka Murakami’s second homer of the series.
Masataka Yoshida, who returned in the playoffs after missing a month due to a wrist fracture, twice scored the tying runs off Swallows starter Juri Hara, who was himself knocked out of his playoff start by a comebacker to the wrist, and was making his first series appearance. Both starters lasted 5-2/3 innings, and when they were gone things got spicy and dicey.
Former closer Taichi Ishyama, solid so far in the series, wasn’t this time, when he allowed the Buffaloes to take a 4-2 lead in the sixth. Rookie shortstop Kotaro Kurebayashi opened with a single, was bunted to second and when Yakult’s outfield came in, Ryo Ota took advantage with a triple into the gap that would have, at-best, been a double at normal depth. That mattered when Steven Moya chased Ishiyama with a pinch-hit flare RBI single.
Ryuta Konno got the Swallows out of the inning, but they wasted a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning and fell a run further behind in the eighth. Kurebayashi singled with two outs and scored on catcher Torai Fushimi’s first hit of the series.
Tyler Higgins came in to protect Orix’s three-run eighth-inning lead but couldn’t throw strikes. After back-to-back walks, Tetsuto Yamada absolutely crushed a fat 3-1 changeup for his first homer of the series to tie it.
McGough, who saved Games 3 and 4, missed all three of his pitches to Jones. The third one came in belt high and looking for trouble, and found it on the barrel of Jones’ bat.
Hirano, who returned midseason to the Buffaloes after three seasons in the States, issued a leadoff walk in his first game in two weeks. He then gave up a hard-hit out and got a fortunate strike call on a 2-2 pitch below the knees before an easy out sent a Japan Series to Kobe for the first time since Ichiro Suzuki and the Orix BlueWave won Game 5 there to clinch the 1996 championship.