NAGOYA — Yoshifumi Okada hit a tiebreaking RBI triple in the 12th inning as the persistent Lotte Marines prevailed to beat the Chunichi Dragons 8-7 in Game 7 to clinch their first Japan Series title in five years on Nov. 7.
The Marines, who won the series four games to two with one tie, became the first third-place team in history to win a championship.
Chunichi, the Central League pennant winner, failed in its bid to win its first crown since 2007.
Just when all seemed lost in the bottom of the ninth, Kazuhiro Wada hit a leadoff triple off the wall in left-center and Tony Blanco followed with a sac fly to straightway center to tie it 7-7, pushing the game into extra innings.
Nagoya Dome was rocking with 38,075 jubilant fans and the decibel level only seemed to get louder as the series went into extra innings for the second night in a row after Game 6 ended in a 15-inning 2-2 tie.
But Okada deflated the Dragons fans’ spirits with one swing.
Toshiaki Imae, who became the only player with three four-hit games in a Japan Series, was named MVP for the second time after winning the honors in 2005.
“I am very happy. Everyone fought together for this victory,” said Imae, who went 4-for-5 with one RBI. He went 12-for-27 with six runs batted in the series. “This has been a valuable experience for me.”
Lotte manager Norifumi Nishimura won the title in his first year at the helm.
Imae had a leadoff walk in the decisive frame and moved to second on pitcher Yoshihiro Ito’s bunt. One out later, Okada connected to right-center on a 3-2 fastball by Takuya Asao for the game winner.
Kim Tae Kyun broke the first tie with an RBI single in the seventh after the Marines overcame a 6-2 deficit. Chunichi starter Kazuki Yoshimi gave up three runs and seven hits with two strikeouts in four innings.
“My balls and strikes weren’t distinct enough. I have many things to reflect on,” said Yoshimi.
Lotte took a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Leadoff man Tsuyoshi Nishioka swung at the first pitch he saw from Game 1 starter Yoshimi, smacking a single to left and Ikuhiro Kiyota followed with a high chopper that third baseman Masahiko Morino failed to field when he was crisscrossed with shortstop Masahiro Araki, hurting his right leg in the process.
Tadahito Iguchi then doubled to left for the first run and Saburo Omura hit a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-0.
But Chunichi rebounded in the bottom half with RBI singles by Morino, who was later replaced by Naomichi Donoue at third, and Kei Nomoto before Motonobu Tanishige’s sac fly gave the Dragons a 3-2 lead.
Lotte submarine hurler Shunsuke Watanabe, who was pitching on four days’ rest after winning Game 3, started experiencing trouble with his arm, falling behind in the count in the at-bat against Morino. It was obvious somethingwas wrong as he occasionally wrung out his shoulder.
The right-hander saw more trouble in the second. Leadoff hitter Araki reached on a one-out single to shortstop and stole second when catcher Tomoya Satozaki had the ball slip from his hand while attempting a throw in Morino’s at-bat.
Yohei Oshima then singled to right for a 4-2 cushion. That was enough for Watanabe, who allowed four runs in two innings of work.
Oshima added his second RBI single of the night in a two-run third, making it 6-2 before Lotte made its dramatic rally.
Okada had an RBI single in the fourth and Satozaki delivered a two-run bases-loaded double with two outs in the fifth to make it a 6-all ballgame before Kim’s single gave Lotte the lead.
The Marines swept the second-place Seibu Lions in two games in the first stage of the Climax Series, and overcame a 3-1 deficit in the final stage against the Pacific League champion Softbank Hawks to book a date with Chunichi.