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Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012

Giants advance to Japan Series

Staff writer

It took the Yomiuri Giants a few days to get started in the Central League Climax Series final stage.

News photo
Dragon slayer: Yomiuri's Takayuki Terauchi drives in a pair of runs in the second inning of the Giants' 4-2 win over the Dragons in Game 6 of the Central League Climax Series final stage on Monday. KYODO

Once the CL champions got going, there was no stopping them.

Takayuki Terauchi drove in a pair of runs in the second inning, Shuichi Murata homered in the fifth, and D.J. Houlton labored through five scoreless frames on short rest to carry the Giants into the Japan Series with a 4-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons in the decisive sixth game of the series on Monday at Tokyo Dome.

The Giants, who entered the final stage with an automatic one-game advantage as league champions, won three straight games to clinch the series after falling behind 3-1.

"Since we lost the first three games of the series, it is a very sweet victory to come back like this and win three straight," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.

Yomiuri now advances to face the Hokkaido Nippom Ham Fighters in the Japan Series, which begins Oct. 27 at Tokyo Dome. This will be the third meeting between the two teams in the Japanese version of the Fall Classic. The Giants beat the Fighters in the 1981 Series, when both teams called Tokyo's Korakuen Stadium home, and prevailed again in 2009.

"We will represent the Central League with pride when we face the Nippon Ham Fighters and we expect to bring the Japan Championship flag to our fans here at Tokyo Dome," Hara said.

The Giants will play for the title for the first time in three seasons.

"It was a long wait, but we are back," Hara said. "I am proud of my players who kept saying, 'Let's go. We can do it.' "

Yoshihito Ishii, whose sayonara single in Game 5 forced a sixth game, was a surprise selection as the CL Climax Series MVP.

"Compared to the regular season, it is more nerve-racking to play in the Climax Series where there is so much pressure," Ishii said. "I can't believe I was chosen MVP."

News photo
Tough it out: Yomiuri's D.J. Houlton pitches against the Dragons at Tokyo Dome on Monday. KYODO

Terauchi got the Giants off and running in the finale against Chunichi, connecting on a bases-loaded single that scored two runs in the second.

"It didn't matter if it was going to be a clean hit or not," Terauchi said. "I just wanted to drive in a run there."

Hisayoshi Chono added an RBI single later in the inning, and Murata's homer to center in the fifth pushed the lead to 4-0.

The home run was Murata's second of the series.

"I wasn't looking for a home run," Murata said. I was trying to be aggressive. I've been feeling better at the plate, and it feels good to be able to come away with that in a good situation."

The calls didn't go Houlton's way in Game 2, which he lost after allowing three runs in 3⅔ innings, but he bounced back with a gritty performance to earn the win in the finale.

"I'm just thankful I was able to pitch again and go out there and not end on that note, and come out and pitch my game and actually get a win," Houlton said.

Pitching on three days' rest for the first time, Houlton was far from sharp, but made it through five scoreless innings, striking out four and walking three while allowing two hits.

"I just went out there and tried to stay focused," Houlton said. "I didn't want anything else to bother me. I just went out there and tried to pitch my game, focus on (catcher Shinnosuke) Abe's glove, and I was able to do that."

Yomiuri's Hirokazu Sawamura gave up a run in an inning of relief, two days removed from throwing six frames in Yomiuri's Game 4 win, and Tetsuya Yamaguchi worked the seventh and eighth innings without incident.

Junki Ito got the start for Chunichi three days after a brilliant performance in Game 2. Ito couldn't deliver an encore for the Dragons, allowing three runs on five hits in 1⅓ innings.

"I made some mistakes and the Giants offense didn't miss them," Ito said. "I have no excuses. I didn't have enough."

Yoshinobu Takahashi, Murata and Shigeyuki Furuki each singled through the left side of the infield to load the bases with no outs in the second. Terauchi got the Giants on the board with his two-run single, and Chono poked an RBI single over first baseman Tony Blanco to make the score 3-0.

After Murata homered in the fifth, the Dragons finally got on the board in the sixth, when Tony Blanco scored on a groundout by Kazuhiro Wada.

Chunichi pushed a second run across on a hit by Yohei Oshima in the ninth, but would get no closer.

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