Shuichi Murata singled in the tie-breaking run in the seventh inning as the Central League champion Yomiuri Giants came from behind to defeat the Hiroshima Carp 3-2 in the opener of the Climax Series' final stage Wednesday.
Trailing by a run in the sixth, Hayato Sakamoto homered off Carp starter Kan Otake before Murata drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh off right-handed reliever Ryuji Yokoyama.
"I was looking for that pitch and I put a good swing on it," said Murata, who was the game's wildcard.
A throwing error by the third baseman let in Hiroshima's runs in the second, but two of his three singles contributed to a run, and he applied the final tag to end the game on a Carp base running error.
As league champs, the Giants started Game 1 with a 1-0 advantage and now lead the best-of-seven series 2-0. The Carp entered the series having swept the best-of-three first stage on the road.
They are expected to start ace right-hander Kenta Maeda on Thursday.
After stranding a runner on third in the first, the Carp cashed in two runs in the second against lefty Tetsuya Utsumi.
With runners on second and third, Murata tried to make a play at the plate, but his throw hit the back of Hiroshima runner Eishin Soyogi. Both he and the runner on second, Tetsuya Kokubo, scored on the play.
"I made a good pick but I had nowhere to throw it, because the runner and the catcher were in the same line," Murata said. "The good thing is that it happened early. I could feel the energy they brought to the game. Whenever they had runners on, I thought anything might happen."
Jose Lopez halved Hiroshima's lead in the fourth with a sacrifice fly, driving a low pitch to center with one out and the bases loaded.
With the bags juiced again, Giants manager Tatsunori Hara pulled his ace for pinch-hitter Yoshihito Ishii. But the man who was named MVP of last year's CLCS final stage, for going 1-for-3 with a pinch-hit RBI single back then, struck out.
Utsumi allowed two unearned runs on three hits and two hit batsmen over four innings. He struck out two.
Yomiuri right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura survived a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the fifth to work two scoreless innings and Sakamoto tied it in the next frame with his first homer since Aug. 24.
Otake allowed two runs, both earned, in six innings. He gave up four hits and walked three, while striking out four.
Otake allowed the leadoff runner to reach in the inning, but the pitcher who led the CL in inducing double-play ground balls, turned a 1-6-3 twin killing.
But just when the tide appeared to turn his way, Sakamoto took a 2-0 slider in the zone out to left field.
"I had struck out with the bases loaded (in the fourth) and had I made another out my third time up, I would have been dragging into tomorrow's game," Sakamoto said. "So it's a good thing I hit that."
Murata gave Yomiuri the lead in the bottom of the seventh, when Yokoyama walked Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe to load the bases with two outs.
Murata lined a 2-1 fastball low and away to right for an opposite-field single. The Carp got out of the inning when Hisayoshi Chono was out at the plate trying to score from second.
The Giants' bullpen finished with one scoreless inning apiece from Tetsuya Yamaguchi, Scot Mathieson and Kentaro Nishimura, who got the final out of the game, when Murata tagged out pinch-runner Masato Akamatsu after he overran third base on an infield single that should have loaded the bases with two outs for slugger Kila Ka'aihue.
"We played a good game, we had our chances, but you've got to give them credit, too," Ka'aihue said. "We didn't lose it, they beat us."