Juan Soto, Carlos Santana and Amed Rosario had all homered to give the MLB squad a 6-4 lead but reliever Kirby Yates couldn’t close out the game.
“No matter how you look at it, it’s tough to lose a game like that,” MLB manager Don Mattingly said. “You feel like you played well enough to win … other than that last inning I thought we played well.”
Tsubasa Aizawa singled in a run to cut the lead to 6-5 before Yanagita’s dramatic blast to deep center before 44,943 at Tokyo Dome.
Santana hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning to give his team a 4-1 lead but Japan tied the game on a bases-clearing double by Shogo Akiyama in the bottom of the frame.
Soto restored the lead for the MLB players in the sixth with an opposite-field two-run shot to left.
Rosario hit a solo homer in the third inning.
“Before the game, we talked about getting off to a good start to build up some confidence for the rest of the series,” Akiyama said. “We never felt like we were out of it and knew if we stayed close we’d have a chance to win.”
The series continues this weekend with two more games in Tokyo followed by one game in Hiroshima on Tuesday and two games in Nagoya on Wednesday and Thursday.
By JIM ARMSTRONG, Associated Press