Once again, the NPB season ended with a sweep in the finals by the Hawks, which was followed by loads of baseball commentators discussing what makes the Pacific League superior to the Central. Popular YouTubers Yu Darvish (Cubs), Alex Ramirez (ex-Baystars) and Tomoya Satozaki (ex-Marines) went into detailed analyses on their channels, but let’s let the facts do the talking.
Game 3: Tuesday, November 24, 6:30 pm (Fukuoka PayPay Dome)
Angel Sanchez (Giants) vs. Matt Moore (Hawks)
Neither team got much of anything going in the first two innings, but in the bottom of the third, Akira Nakamura hit a two-run home run following a two-out infield single by Ukyo Shuto. The pitchers continued to deal until the bottom of the seventh, when Sanchez gave up a single and a sac bunt, left the game and watched reliever Yuhei Takanashi hit a batter and give up an RBI hit to Nakamura. His successor on the mound, Kan Ohtake, allowed a hit to the lone batter he faced, and that was all she wrote. The Giants were held hitless through 8 2/3 innings. It took Yoshihiro Maru’s second hit of the series, a single up the middle, to prevent the no-no.
Final Score: Hawks 4, Giants 0
Game 4: Wednesday, November 25, 6:30 pm (Fukuoka PayPay Dome)
Seishu Hatake (Giants) vs. Tsuyoshi Wada (Hawks)
With their backs up against the wall, the Giants came out strong. Back-to-back doubles to start the game led to their first lead of the series. They actually pushed Wada to 35 pitches in that first inning but were unable to put another run on the board, and it cost them. Nakamura hit a double in the bottom half of the inning, and one pitch to Yuki Yanagita was all the Hawks needed to gain the lead. They never relinquished it. The very next inning, with two outs and a runner on first, catcher Takuya Kai hit a line drive into the left field stands, giving the Hawks a three-run lead that would hold up the rest of the way. The Hawks brought in relievers for the final seven innings, and they limited the Giants to three harmless singles the rest of the way. Clean sweep.
Final Score: Hawks 4, Giants 1
The Giants set various records in this series, including:
- fewest hits in a 4-game series (16)
- fewest runs in a 4-game series (4 = tie with 2005 Hanshin Tigers)
- most strikeouts in a 4-game series (41)
- lowest team batting average in a 4-game series (.132)
- two straight Japan Series sweep losses (first time in NPB history)
- nine straight Japan Series losses (tie)
- fastest pitch thrown in Japan Series (164 km/h by Thyago Vieira)
Series MVP: Ryoya Kurihara (7-14, 4 RBI, 1 HR, 3 R)
Outstanding Player Awards: Matt Moore, Yuki Yanagita, Akira Nakamura
Fighting Spirit Award: Shosei Togo (5 IP 2 H 3 BB 8 K 2 ER)
In other baseball news, the Yakult Swallows successfully signed superstar free agent Tetsuto Yamada (28, 2B) to a 7-year, ¥3.5 billion contract. Many speculated he would move to either the Hawks or Giants, but he will likely stay with the Swallows for the rest of his career. They also signed free agent closer Taichi Ishiyama to a contract extension.
Speaking of contracts, the league’s player association has allegedly filed a complaint against the Chunichi Dragons after several of their players failed to reach an agreement for next season. While the team owns the players’ rights until they are eligible for free agency, players’ salaries are determined by someone within the organization who calculates the player’s value based on his performance that year. Dragons catcher Takuya Kinoshita and pitchers Koji Fukutani and Hiroto Fuku did not feel they were properly valued by the club, and talks are currently at a standstill.
Here’s to hoping they can somehow agree on fair figures.
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