Tetsuto Yamada blasted a three-run home run and lefty Keiji Takahashi threw six scoreless innings as the Yakult Swallows beat the Orix Buffaloes 7-1 in Tuesday's Japan Series Game 3 to take a two-game series lead.
Yamada broke up a scoreless game in the fifth inning at Kyocera Dome Osaka. Hitless in the series until a third-inning infield single, Yamada drove a fastball from Hiroya Miyagi off the facing of the second deck in left with two outs.
"I was only looking for a fastball and trying to put a really good swing on it," Yamada said.
Takahashi, who beat Miyagi in a 2-0 Game 2 shutout at the same ballpark a year ago, allowed three hits and two walks while striking out seven over six innings.
"Miyagi got off to a strong start and wasn't making it easy on us," Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu said. "Takahashi did well to keep up, and with that home run, go six innings."
The Swallows, who repeated this year as Central League champions just as the Buffaloes repeated in the Pacific League, need two more wins to clinch their second straight Japan championship after vanquishing Orix in six games a year ago.
Tuesday's game was the first in the teams' last nine series games, including Sunday's 3-3 tie, to be decided by more than two runs.
"It's been really hard to have games like this. That first run has been so hard to come by," Takatsu said. "Yamada's home run opened things up for us."
"He is a man with an incredible sense of responsibility, and I think not having a hit weighed heavily on him. I guess this eased his burden."
The home run was Yakult's fifth of the series, while Orix has yet to clear the fences.
Miyagi left with one out and one on in the sixth, but Motoki Higa stranded two runners without a run scoring. Yakult added a run in the seventh with a bunt single, two walks and a hit batsman but left the bases loaded.
Yakult cleanup hitter Munetaka Murakami, who this year became the youngest to win a Japanese batting Triple Crown, drew the bases-loaded walk. His second double of the game drove in two ninth-inning runs before he scored to make it 7-0 on a Jose Osuna single.
Taichi Ishiyama picked up for Takahashi in the seventh, and setup man Noboru Shimizu worked a 1-2-3 eighth. With a big lead in the ninth, Takatsu turned to a pair of relievers who had yet to pitch in the series, and the Buffaloes scratched out a consolation run.
The Buffaloes will send right-hander Taisuke Yamaoka to the mound in Wednesday's Game 4 in Osaka against 42-year-old Yakult lefty Masanori Ishikawa.