The SoftBank Hawks won their franchise's eighth Japan Series championship on Saturday by beating the Central League's BayStars 4-3 in Game 6 on Keizo Kawashima's 11th-inning sayonara single.
The Pacific League champs returned home to Yafuoku Dome after losing two straight in Yokohama on Wednesday and Thursday as the BayStars clawed their way back into the series. But the Hawks overcame a two-run deficit to seal it and prevent DeNA from tying the series 3-3.
With two outs in the 11th, Kawashima lined a single to right off right-hander Tomoya Mikami to score Akira Nakamura from second with the winning run.
Seiichi Uchikawa, whose one-out home run in the ninth tied the game off BayStars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki, drew a one-out walk in the 11th from DeNA's sixth pitcher, Edwin Escobar. Starting his second inning on the mound, Escobar issued back-to-back four pitch walks to Uchikawa and Akira Nakamura to put the winning run in scoring position.
On a 2-2 count, Kawashima singled to right. The throw gave catcher Hiroki Minei a chance to get the out at home but it got past him to let in the winning run.
Hawks closer Dennis Sarfate, who entered the game in the ninth inning with his team trailing by a run, kept DeNA off the board for three innings. After saving a record 54 games this season, earned the win in Game 6 and recorded two saves to earn the Japan Series MVP Award.
"That was brutal," Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo said. "We won three straight but after losing that first game, we were under the gun."
"When we were losing, all we were thinking was, 'We're coming back.' This is the greatest feeling I've ever had."
Second-year DeNA lefty Shota Imanaga allowed two runs on two hits and three walks, while striking out 11, bettering the season high of 10 he racked up in his impressive Game 2 defeat. But closer Yamasaki surrendered a game-tying home run to Uchikawa in the bottom of the ninth as the game went to extra innings.
Nobuhiro Matsuda opened the scoring in the bottom of the second with a two-out solo homer, the Hawks' first hit of the game and the captain's first extra-base hit of the series. Imanaga got ahead 1-2 with three high fastballs but missed down the pipe with a fourth and Matsuda drove it into Yafuoku Dome's home run terrace in front of the left field wall.
Nao Higashihama, who ran his pitch count up working carefully to DeNA's hitters, was helped out of two jams by double plays. But his luck ran out in the top of the fifth, when Hiroyuki Shirasaki hammered a hanging 1-0 slider into the stands in left to tie it.
A one-out scratch single and line single off another hanging slider spelled the end for Higashihama as SoftBank unleashed its bullpen. Lefty Shinya Kayama got an out on a sacrifice from an attempted bunt single.
With two in scoring position, right-handed rookie Shuta Ishikawa pitched to Jose Lopez. The Central League RBI leader also took advantage of a fat breaking ball up in the zone to plate both runners with a single.
All three runs were charged to Higashihama, who surrendered five hits in 4-1/3 innings, while walking three and striking out five.
Imanaga didn't allow another runner until the sixth, when a pair of one-out walks put him in hot water. But the lefty pitched out of trouble, and didn't leave the mound until he surrendered a leadoff double in the eighth to Yuya Hasegawa.
Three relievers, each facing one batter, got the BayStars out of the inning with one groundout each as pinch runner Ryoma Kidokoro came home to make it a 3-2 game.
Sarfate worked an effortless 1-2-3 ninth, but his BayStars counterpart, Yamasaki was unable to do the same as the Hawks tied it up.