On one side of NPB, the Climax Series truly lived up to its name, with exciting finishes. On the other, the action was much more one-sided. We shall look at both matchups in detail below.
Pacific League: Rakuten Eagles at Chiba Lotte Marines
Game 1: Takahiro Norimoto vs. Roki Sasaki
Twenty-year-old Sasaki became the youngest starting pitcher in PL playoff history, and wowed the crowd. He threw six strong innings, allowing just an unearned run (on his own throwing error) while striking out 10 batters. His teammates gave him three early runs of support, thanks to a Brandon Laird two-run single and a Hisanori Yasuda sacrifice fly. The Eagles, however, stormed back late. In the top of the seventh, reliever Yuki Kuniyoshi unraveled (three walks plus an error, but also an unassisted double play), and Hiroaki Shimauchi made him pay with a bases-clearing double. The Marines, however, evened the score with a huge Adeiny Hechavarria home run in the bottom of the eighth. Not happy to end the game in a tie (no extra innings in these series), Toshiya Sato punched home the walk-off run with a double. Final Score: Marines 5, Eagles 4.
Game 2: Takayuki Kishi vs. Kazuya Ojima
Once again the Eagles drew first blood, this time with back-to-back RBI singles from Ginjiro Sumitani and Tsuyoshi Yamasaki in the top of the second. The Marines answered right back, scoring one on a double play in the bottom of the inning. Two innings later, they tied the game on a Koki Yamaguchi RBI double. In his very next at-bat, Yamaguchi gave his team the lead with a solo home run to right. In the top of the seventh, Sumitani tied the game back up with a home run, and later in that same inning, Shimauchi singled home Yamasaki. However, in the home half of the frame, Leonys Martin hit a mammoth home run to knot things back up. And with NPB rules being what they are, a win and a tie were just enough to give the Marines the series win. Final Score: Marines 4, Eagles 4.
Central League: Yomiuri Giants at Hanshin Tigers
Game 1: Tomoyuki Sugano vs. Haruto Takahashi
Both pitchers were in a groove early on, as neither allowed a runner the first time through the other team’s lineup. However, the Giants struck first in the top of the fifth as three straight players hit singles. In the top of the sixth, they put two men on for Zelous Wheeler, who hit one to the center-field wall to cash both men in. Wheeler added an insurance run with an RBI single to left in the eighth. The Tigers managed just five hits, but got good scoring chances late that came up fruitless. Final Score: Giants 4, Tigers 0.
Game 2: Yuki Takahashi vs. Koyo Aoyagi
The Tigers got back-to-back doubles from Ryutaro Umeno and Teruaki Sato, plus an RBI single from Takumu Nakano in the bottom of the second, chasing Takahashi early. The Giants returned the favor, sending Aoyagi to the locker room early the next inning. A leadoff error was followed by four singles (including a go-ahead two-RBI single from Yoshihiro Maru) and the lead belonged to the visitors. They would add another run in the top of the eighth on a Wheeler sacrifice fly. The Tigers manufactured chances in every inning but the seventh and eighth, but again fell short and ending their season earlier than they hoped. Final Score: Giants 4, Tigers 2.
So now, we move on to the final stage of the Climax Series. Both leagues will have a best-of-seven series hosted entirely by the pennant winners (Orix Buffaloes and Tokyo Yakult Swallows, respectively), who also receive a one-game advantage. Essentially, two wins and a tie in six home games advance them to the Japan Series. The next round begins on Wednesday night, and by the time you hear from us again, chances are, we will be able to announce the Japan Series finalists to you. Until then…