Playoff baseball is underway in Japan, or rather the unfortunately named Climax Series — which represents the climax of nothing — is underway.
The rules are relatively simple. The home team wins all series that are tied. The first stage is a best-of-three set, with each league’s second-place team hosting all games against the third-place team. The final stage is a best-of-seven series in which the league champions host every game and begin with a one-win advantage.
On Saturday, both hosts lost meaning they are one loss or two 12-inning ties away from elimination.
Tigers 8, BayStars 7
At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA hosted its first Climax Series games, the format having started in 2007 and both times the BayStars have reached the postseason since then, they have finished third and had to play all their games on the road.
The BayStars, managed by former major leaguer Alex Ramirez, opted not to bring closer Yasuaki Yamasaki in with two outs in the eighth inning. Fumiya Hojo, who had hit a three-run homer in the seventh off Edwin Escobar, tripled in two runs off Yuki Kuniyoshi to put Hanshin up for good.
Kenta Ishida, who had been coming out of the bullpen for much of the second half, started and went four innings before ace southpaw Shota Imanaga pitched two innings for the BayStars. Edison Barrios inherited a 7-1 lead. He surrendered a one-out double and an RBI pinch-hit single from rookie Seiya Kinami.
Escobar took over and gave up an infield single before Hojo took him deep, hammering a high straight fastball well back into the left field stands.
In the eighth, Kuniyoshi left a lazy cutter up in the zone and with the outfield playing in as Japanese teams do to prevent the runner from second scoring on a single, Hojo’s little liner just got over center fielder Kazuki Kamizato’s head for a triple.
“It was a very good game up until that point (when Barrios entered). ” Ramirez said. “Unfortunately, 7-1 until that point, and then Barrios and Escobar gave up a couple for runs. They kept the momentum and kept coming back.”
“I think there was no regret about how I used the pitchers today. That happens. They hit and sometimes they don’t hit. That’s part of the game.”
“To win two more games, we have to win tomorrow. So first tomorrow and we have to just focus on the next game and win tomorrow.”
Tomorrow will see Haruhiro Hamaguchi start for the BayStars against Koyo Aoyagi.
The Tigers’ seven-game win streak is their longest of the year.
Game highlights are HERE.
Eagles 5, Hawks 3
At Yafuoka Dome, Takahiro Norimoto outpitched Kodai Senga and Rakuten regained the lead on its fourth solo homer of the game and manufactured an insurance run in the ninth with the help of some defensive mistakes by SoftBank.
In the third postseason series between the two clubs, the Eagles have yet to lose either a Game 1 or 2, which could prove problematic for the Hawks if that trend continues on Sunday.
Rick van den Hurk has been announced as the Hawks’ Game 2 starter, while Manabu Mima is set to start for the Eagles.
Game highlights are HERE.