Baseball: Sakamoto's singles propel Tigers into Japan Series

Seishiro Sakamoto put the Hanshin Tigers ahead twice with RBI singles, propelling the Central League champs past the Hiroshima Carp 4-2 on Friday and to a three-game sweep of their Climax Series Final Stage.

The win in front of their frenzied fans at historic Koshien Stadium outside Osaka earned the Tigers their first Japan Series berth since 2014.

With the game tied 1-1 with two outs in the fourth, Sakamoto shot a grounder between third and short to put the Tigers in front. In the sixth, Carp starter Hiroki Tokoda jammed Sakamoto with a 2-2 fastball, but the Tigers catcher's dinky fly floated over second for a lucky RBI single.

The Tigers clinched the best-of-seven series, receiving one automatic win as league champs before victories in the first two games by scores of 4-1 and 2-1.

"We pitched the way we did in the regular season, but our batters weren't able to do that," Tigers manager Akinobu Okada said. "But in the end, we played like a championship team."

"The support we received from the home fans was on a different level from the regular season. At times I thought it made some players emotional to the point of tears."

Sheldon Neuse, whose fourth-inning singled tied it 1-1 after the Carp took the lead against Tigers lefty Kotaro Otake, drew a two-out walk in the sixth to move the go-ahead runner into scoring position and bring Sakamoto to the plate.

The Tigers made it 4-2 in the seventh, when rookie Shota Morishita drew a bases-loaded walk, and preserved that cushion when Morishita's two-out tumbling catch in right field snuffed out an eighth-inning Carp rally.

Tigers closer Suguru Iwazaki, pitching for the third straight game, allowed the tying runs to reach in the ninth but pitched himself out of trouble to earn the save.

In the Pacific League, the Orix Buffaloes broke open a scoreless pitchers' duel in the eighth, and former MLB reliever Yoshihisa Hirano recorded his second save of the postseason in a 2-0 Game 3 victory over the Lotte Marines, who trail their series 3-1 and will need to win all three remaining games to reach the Japan Series.

© Kyodo News