The Japan Series is underway! Most experts believed the SoftBank Hawks had a good chance of winning this one in Fukuoka; in other words, they would dispose of the Yomiuri Giants in just 4 or 5 games. There is a good chance they will be right, unless this series gets completely turned on its head.
Game 1: Saturday, November 21, 6:10 pm (Osaka Kyocera Dome)
Kodai Senga (Hawks) vs. Tomoyuki Sugano (Giants)
After a quick, scoreless first inning from both sides, Yurisbel Gracial led off the second inning with a single, and Ryoya Kurihara smashed an inside slider into the right field stands to open the scoring. Things were fairly quiet for the next few innings, although the Giants had a great chance in the 4th as Senga walked the first two runners of the inning. Yoshihiro Maru’s double play helped the Hawks out of the jam, but was also a bit controversial in that his left spike appeared to clip the calf of first baseman Akira Nakamura. Two innings later, Kurihara slashed an outside forkball to left-center to score two, which brought an end to Sugano’s night. Senga rolled for another inning, ending his start after 7 scoreless innings. The Hawks added another in the 8th when speedster Ukyo Shuto walked, stole second, and scored on Nakamura’s single to left. The Giants managed one run in the bottom of the ninth as closer Yuito Mori struggled with control, walking one and hitting another batter. On the whole, though, the Hawks dominated the opening game, which was must-win for the Giants with their ace on the mound and few strong starters left for the next few games of the series.
Final Score: Hawks 5, Giants 1
Game 2: Sunday, November 22, 6:10 pm (Osaka Kyocera Dome)
Shuta Ishikawa (Hawks) vs. Nobutaka Imamura (Giants)
The Hawks left off where they started, as their #2 through #5 hitters got first-inning hits, and they added a third run on a ground ball to third. Catcher Takuya Kai hit a solo homer in the second, and Gracial belted a two-run home run in the third. Two innings later, they manufactured another run on a pair of hits and a sacrifice fly. At long last, the Giants showed a bit of power of their own, as Zelous Wheeler hit a two-run home run to the right field corner in the bottom of the fifth, but that was the end of their fireworks display and the Hawks were just getting started. They stuffed the bases in the top of the seventh on a couple of hits and a walk. Enter Alfredo Despaigne. He watched one bad pitch go by, then smoked a juicy fastball into the right-center field stands to clear the bases. Two innings later, the bases were loaded again, this time for Kai. He grounded to pitcher for what should have been a 1-2-3 double play, but instead was a two-run scoring error. The Giants could not get anything right on this night, and lost in one of the most lopsided Japan Series games in recent years.
Final Score: Hawks 13, Giants 2
The series heads to Fukuoka, where games will start at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (if necessary). If the Giants manage two wins in Fukuoka, the series will return to Osaka for potential Games 6 & 7 next weekend.
In other news, Chunichi Dragons ace lefty Yudai Ohno, who elected to forego free agency and stay with his team, was named recipient of the Eiji Sawamura Award for excellent pitching. The 32-year old started 20 games, completing 10 of them (including 6 shutouts), winning 11 games and finishing with a league-best 148 strikeouts and a 1.82 ERA.
Former Baystars manager Alex Ramirez has forayed into the vlogging world. He recently started his own YouTube channel, and already has over 135,000 subscribers. His videos are mostly done in English with Japanese subtitles, and he promises to share his thoughts on NPB, the Baystars, his own personal life, and more. Definitely worth subscribing to.
We’ll wrap up the season next Monday with recaps of the final games of the Japan Series – whether we have 2 more games or 5, it will all be over by next week! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
For more Japanese baseball news, check out JapanBall’s Articles and Features section!