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Hawks take no-hitter into ninth in Game 3 to move within win of Japan Series title

Matt Moore and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks didn’t get their Japan Series no-hitter, but they’ve just about got the title wrapped up.

Moore threw seven no-hit innings and the Hawks came within an out of a combined no-hitter in a 4-0 win in Game 3, moving them to the precipice of their fourth straight Japan Series title at PayPay Dome on Tuesday.

“I was just trying to take it like my last few games,” Moore said. “Just like a regular season game. It’s hard not to get extra nervous and get anxious for a game like this in the Nippon Series. I was just trying to keep my nerves in check.”

SoftBank leads the series 4-0 and can sweep Yomiuri for the second straight year with a win in Game 4 on Wednesday.

“Being here with these guys everyday, I know they’ll be prepared and ready to go,” Moore said. “I’m really looking forward to watching (Tsuyoshi) Wada-san pitch.”

Akira Nakamura provided most of the offense with a two-run home run and an RBI single. Yurisbel Gracial also drove in a run.

Moore, an American in his first NPB season, did the heavy lifting on the mound with five strikeouts and two walks on 93 pitches. He was aware of the no-hitter but focused on protecting a two-run lead.

“With a slim lead, 2-0, I still was just trying to keep focused on getting ahead of every hitter,” Moore said. “I was doing my best not to think about that.”

Moore was six outs away from the first no-hitter in Japan Series history when manager Kimiyasu Kudo pulled him to start the eighth.

“You don’t expect someone to not allow a run on big stage like this,” Kudo said. “I think his performance is proof of how much he prepared for this game.

“But he was showing a signs of fatigue and we wanted to win. We didn’t want to lose here at PayPay Dome. So I’m sorry we chose to take him out after the seventh.”

Moore was pitching for the first time since throwing 54 pitches over three innings on Nov. 9.

Kudo’s move was reminiscent of the one Chunichi Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai made in 2007, when he pulled Daisuke Yamai out of a perfect game after eight innings in Game 5, the series clincher. Dragons closer Hitoki Iwase closed out that combined perfect game.

Hawks reliever Livan Moinelo struck out Akihiro Wakabayashi to start the eighth before hitting Hiroyuki Nakajima and walking Yukinori Kishida. Moinelo struck out the next two batters to keep the no-hitter alive.

Yuito Mori took over in the ninth and got two outs before giving up a single up the middle against Yoshihiro Maru.

That was the only hit the Giants would get.

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.

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