You wanted exciting playoff baseball, you got it, NPB fans! We are through the first round of the playoffs, and are down to the league finals on both sides. The yellow and black teams advanced, while the blue teams were left, well, singing the blues.
Pacific League: Saitama Seibu Lions @ Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks
Game 1: Kona Takahashi vs. Kodai Senga
Right-fielding all-star Yuki Yanagita hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the third, propelling his team to victory. Senga threw eight innings of three-run (two earned) ball for the win, and Livan Moinelo preserved the win in the ninth with a shutout inning. Speedsters Masaki Mimori and Ukyo Shuto also provided RBI hits for the Hawks, while the Lions’ lone tally came on a solo home run by Tomoya Mori in the top of the sixth.
Final Score: Hawks 5, Lions 3
Game 2: Tatsuya Imai vs. Nao Higashihama
Yanagita did himself one better with a grand slam home run in the third inning. His mates (Takuya Kai, Mimori, and Taisei Makihara) tacked on insurance runs as the Hawks put the Lions to sleep for good in Game 2. Higashihama only went five innings but surrendered just a run. The Lions made a final statement as home run king Hotaka Yamakawa led off the ninth with a long ball.
Final Score: Hawks 8, Lions 2
Central League: Hanshin Tigers @ Yokohama DeNA Baystars
Game 1: Koyo Aoyagi vs. Shota Imanaga
Both starters were solid throughout, particularly Aoyagi, who only allowed one runner into scoring position in his six innings of work. The Tigers scored the only runs of the game on a bases loaded single by Koji Chikamoto in the top of the fifth. The Tigers relievers shut down the Baystars in the final three frames as the visitors drew first blood.
Final Score: Tigers 2, Baystars 0
Game 2: Masashi Itoh vs. Shinichi Ohnuki
Once again, the starters were strong. The Tigers managed just two hits off Ohnuki (one of whom got thrown out on the basepaths) and had just one scoring chance all game. The Stars weren’t much better but capitalized their third time through the order, as Yamato (Maeda) knocked in a run in the bottom of the fifth.
Final Score: Baystars 1, Tigers 0
Game 3: Hiroto Saiki vs. Haruhiro Hamaguchi
This one leaned heavily in the Baystars’ favor early. In the first three innings, the Tigers committed a pair of errors and Saiki threw a wild pitch (which scored the second run of the game). In the second, Toshiro Miyazaki hit a solo home run to deep right. But then the Tigers stormed back. Teruaki Sato hit a solo home run in the fourth, Chikamoto hit an RBI double in the sixth, and came home to score the go-ahead (winning) run on a Fumihito Haraguchi single. The ninth inning was extremely exciting as the Baystars loaded the bases with just one out, but pinch-hitter Kazuya Fujita hit into a series-ending double play.
Final Score: Tigers 3, Baystars 2
The Final Stage of the Climax Series begin on Wednesday night in Osaka (Hawks vs. Orix Buffaloes) and in Tokyo (Tigers vs. Tokyo Yakult Swallows). The home teams, who won their respective pennants, start the best-of-seven with a one-game advantage. Here’s to hoping there are lots more thrills awaiting us!