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Baseball: Hawks move 1 win shy of Japan Series sweep

Alfredo Despaigne caps a four-run fourth inning with a two-run single off rookie reliever Shosei Togo in the SoftBank Hawks' 6-2 Game 3 win over the Yomiuri Giants in the Japan Series. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Alfredo Despaigne drove in three runs and the SoftBank Hawks moved to within one win of their third straight Japan Series championship with a 6-2 Game 3 win over the Yomiuri Giants on Tuesday.

The Giants are trying to become the first Central League club to win Nippon Professional Baseball's championship since their 2012 triumph. The Hawks are eyeing the first Japan Series sweep since the PL's Lotte Marines won all four games in 2005.

Despaigne put the Hawks ahead 2-1 in the third inning with a two-out RBI single off rookie Giants starter Yuki Takahashi. The Cuban slugger capped a four-run fourth inning with a two-run single off rookie reliever Shosei Togo. The hits were his first of the series.

"The team won the first two games without much help from me, so I was motivated to get things going today," said Despaigne, who hit a career-high 36 home runs this season. "With a runner in scoring position, my only thought is getting him home. I'm not thinking home run."

After Hawks starter Rick van den Hurk pitched out of a fourth-inning bases-loaded jam, the Hawks bullpen shut down the hosts at Tokyo Dome, allowing just three runners to reach over the final five innings.

Yoshikyuki Kamei, also hitless through two games, got the Giants on the board with a leadoff home run in the first inning, and tied it 2-2 in the third with his second homer.

For the second time, Yurisbel Gracial followed a Giants homer with one of his own, tying it 1-1 in the top of the second with his second home run of the series.

Hawks leadoff man Keizo Kawashima drew a one-out walk in the third and scored after singles by Kenta Imamiya and Despaigne. Yomiuri called on Yohei Kagiya to strike out Gracial to escape the inning, allowing Kamei to tie it in the bottom of the third.

Togo took over in the fourth for Yomiuri and ran into trouble after striking out the first batter he faced.

The Hawks loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a throwing error, and Seiichi Uchikawa scored the go-ahead run on Yuya Hasegawa's pinch-hit sacrifice fly. An infield single reloaded the bases, and Yuki Yanagita walked to push across another run. Despaigne capped the rally with a two-run single.

Van den Hurk walked two batters in the bottom of the fourth, but notched his sixth strikeout to strand three runners and end the inning with Kamei on deck. The big right-hander was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the fifth. He allowed two runs on four hits and two walks over four innings.

From that point on the two bullpens matched zeroes. SoftBank's Shuta Ishikawa worked two perfect innings, while rookie Hiroshi Kaino struck out three of the four batters he faced in the seventh.

Lefty Livan Moinelo worked around a one-out walk in the eighth, while closer Yuito Mori survived a leadoff single in the ninth with the help of a Giants base running error.

"It's not easy to pitch really well on the biggest stage at the end of the season, but our pitchers are executing just the way they do in the regular season," SoftBank skipper Kimiyasu Kudo said.

"We got this far by focusing on the game at hand and executing and then putting that one behind us and moving on. We'll do the same tomorrow and give it our best shot."

Game 4 at Tokyo Dome will see Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano go against 38-year-old former Chicago Cub Tsuyoshi Wada.

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