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Yoshida HRs help Buffaloes even Series

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Orix’s Masataka Yoshida celebrates with teammates after his walk-off home run in the ninth inning against Yakult on Thursday night in Osaka.

OSAKA — The Orix Buffaloes threw their weight around at the end of a seesaw game to even the Japan Series as Masataka Yoshida slugged a two-run walk-off homer in the ninth inning for a 6-4 victory over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Kyocera Dome Osaka on Thursday night.

The Buffaloes began the final frame of Game 5 down a run, but pulled even with the help of a Yakult error, and Yoshida cracked his second longball of the game to even the best-of-seven series 2-2-1.

The defending-champion Swallows had taken the lead on veteran Norichika Aoki’s RBI double, but Yakult closer Scott McGough wasn’t able to nail it down in the ninth.

Yoshida, whose solo shot in the fifth inning gave the Buffaloes a 3-2 lead and was the team’s first homer of the series, sent the home crowd into a frenzy with the game-winning blast.

“The emotion is deep,” Yoshida said in the on-field postgame interview.

Masahiro Nishino’s single on a comebacker to McGough — and the pitcher’s errant throw — helped the Buffaloes pull even at 4-4 in the ninth ahead of Yoshida’s heroics.

“Everyone battles to try and win each game together, so I’m happy to be able to share this happiness with them,” Yoshida said.

“This series, they’ve been pitching me tough, and I haven’t been able to put a good swing on the ball and get the ball elevated.”

In fact, he was hitting .167 in the Series through the first four games. As a marked man, there have been obvious situations in which they pitched around him, evidenced by his seven walks, four of them intentional, and zero RBIs.

He showed signs of getting his swing back with his home run just to the right of center field off a fastball in the fifth.

Yoshida said he is determined to win in this rematch of last year’s Japan Series.

“To get revenge for last year, I have to perform at my best,” he said.

The Series resumes on Saturday night at Jingu Stadium.