Adam Jones' ninth-inning pinch-hit home run kept the Pacific League champion Orix Buffaloes alive in the Japan Series with a 6-5 Game 5 win over the Central League champion Yakult Swallows.
The Buffaloes' win at Tokyo Dome forced a Game 6 on Saturday when Orix skipper Satoshi Nakajima said he would start Japan's best pitcher this season, Sawamura Award winner Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Because Kyocera Dome Osaka is unavailable, Games 6 and 7 are slated for Hotto Motto Field Kobe, Orix's former home park and the venue for its last Japan Series championship in 1996.
Moments after Yakult clawed back to tie the game 5-5 in the eighth, Jones homered off Swallows closer Scott McGough (0-2) to open the ninth inning.
Former major leaguer Yoshihisa Hirano issued a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth but retired the next three batters to earn the save in his series debut.
Jones, who drew a clutch walk against McGough in the Buffaloes' game-winning three-run ninth inning in Game 1, got ahead in the count 2-0 before blasting a belt-high fastball into the left-field stands.
"We knew today was do or die, we need all the Orix fans to be at Hotto Motto very loud so we can get back in this series," said Jones, who said he was hoping to get a fastball in the at-bat.
"I was glad I was able to get one and did not miss it."
The game remained tight until the seventh when the Buffaloes broke a 2-2 tie against reliever Taichi Ishiyama, the Game 3 winner. Rookie Kotaro Kurebayashi singled and was sacrificed to second. Ryo Ota tripled him home and scored on Steven Moya's pinch-hit single.
"The two youngsters (Kurebayashi and Ota) got us runs and gave us momentum and courage," Nakajima said.
In a series where neither team has been able to cruise, the Buffaloes appeared ready to do that after Torai Fushimi's two-run eighth-inning double scored Kurebayashi to make it 5-2.
Orix setup man Tyler Higgins, however, walked the first two Swallows hitters in the eighth, and slugger Tetsuto Yamada tied the game with his first home run of the series.
"Our bench was down after they tied it, but he (Jones) turned everything around with one swing," Nakajima said. "He really is a player you can depend on."
The Swallows twice took a one-run lead, only for Orix to tie it as each starting pitcher, Yakult's Juri Hara and Orix lefty Sachiya Yamasaki, allowed two runs over 5-2/3 innings.
Yakult's Domingo Santana walked and scored through some good base running in the second. But Orix's Masataka Yoshida doubled and scored the tying run in the fourth.
CL home run leader Munetaka Murakami homered in the bottom of the inning, only for Yoshida to reach on a two-out error in the sixth inning and re-tie the game 2-2 after back-to-back singles.
Taisuke Yamaoka (1-0), the Buffaloes' fifth pitcher, got two outs in the eighth inning, and Jones' home run earned him the win.
"We're still behind in the series," Nakajima said. "But we're not going to give up, and I want to tie it with the help of Yoshinobu Yamamoto."