One game left in the regular season. Third-place Chiba Lotte Marines head to Sendai to face the fourth-place Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The winner advances to the Climax Series. The loser hits the golf courses (wait, this is Japan – goes to fall training camp) early.
As it turns out, Sunday’s 5-5 tie between the second-place Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and the Eagles was pivotal in the final standings. Tonight, the Marines scored a run here, a run there, and when the dust had settled, they pulled off a 5-0 win on the road against the Eagles. As a result, they not only make the playoffs, they vault the Hawks and finish in second place. They get to host the first round of the playoffs now, forcing the Hawks the travel to Chiba this coming weekend. Games will take place at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and if a third game is needed, it will also be played at 6:00 p.m. on Monday. Hosting the first round also means that legendary stadium announcer Emi Taniho, who is retiring at season’s end after 33 years of service, will get two (or three) more chances to welcome upcoming batters to the plate and pitchers to the mound.
In other news, super high school slugger Rintaro Sasaki (no relation to Marines ace Roki) has announced that he will forego the 2023 NPB draft and instead study abroad at an American university, thereby potentially making himself available to MLB teams as early as the 2025 amateur draft. It is an unprecedented move for a Japanese player, and it will be interesting to see how his career plays out. He holds the Japanese record for home runs in a high school career with 140.
The next time we talk, the first round of the playoffs will be in the books (assuming no more rainouts!). Enjoy the best baseball of the year, everyone!
For standings and leaderboards, check these links: