Tag Archives: Climax Series

Box score line drives

Does anyone remember what radio announcers in my day used to say about fluke hits — before video of every pitch was available at one’s fingertips and before statcast? “It will look like a line drive in the box score.”

In Japan, at least, they often look like line drives in the text wrap-ups as well. Take Saturday’s practice game between the Yakult Swallows and Rakuten Eagles, when 21-year-old slugger Munekata Murakami drove in the game’s first run off Tanaka, a pitcher he’d grown up watching on TV.

The Nikkan Sports reported the at-bat as follows:

There were runners on first and second with one out.

“Perhaps I should say he looked imposing–as I could see him up close ,” Murakami said to put into ordinary words the intimidation involved in facing a pitcher with 177 wins between NPB and the majors.

Murakami stood stock still taking the first pitch, a breaking ball low and inside that missed, but the tension ratcheted upward. With a 3-1 hitter’s count, Murakami finally offered at Tanaka’s fifth pitch, a 148-kph (92 mph) fastball that he shot into shallow right field to open the scoring.

Of course, the video makes the details look silly, although to be honest, I loved the stories about the two facing each other for the first time. But a few feet either way left or right and that sharp ground ball is an out, but that would have rendered most of the writers’ anticipated storylines inert.

The real story of the game was that except for some fumbling in the first inning, Tanaka was razor sharp.

Heroes are made not born

Murakami’s headline hit brought to mind, what was for me, Japan’s most memorable flare single, the pinch-hit that made Yoshihito Ishii the MVP of the 2012 Central League Climax Series.

This was a great, great series. The Dragons used three starting pitchers the Giants had barely seen all year to move within one win of an upset sweep at Tokyo Dome. By then, however, Chunichi skipper Morimichi Takagi had run out of starting-pitching surprises and turned the series over to his bullpen.

The Giants won Game 4 behind six scoreless innings from second-year righty Hirokazu Sawamura, who faced off against Chunichi’s former ace, and by then former Atlanta Brave, Kenshin Kawakami, who did a workman-like job, allowing two runs over four innings in the 3-1 loss.

The Dragons’ bullpen and a two-run Tony Blanco homer off Giants ace Tetsuya Utsumi left the game tied 2-2 going into the ninth. Scott Mathieson pitched a scoreless ninth for Yomiuri, but the Giants rallied against Japan’s career saves leader, Hitoki Iwase, to avoid elimination.

The Giants loaded the bases with one out, and after a right-handed pinch-hitter was announced, Takagi pulled the lefty Iwase in favor of Chunichi’s two-time Japan Series hero, right-hander Daisuke Imai.

Imai pretty much overpowered Ishii, and jammed him with a 1-2 fastball that landed in shallow left for the game winner.

After the series, whoever decides the awards named not Sawamura, who allowed a run over seven innings, and not Mathieson, who allowed one hit and one walk over four scoreless innings, but the guy who went 1-for-3 with a bloop RBI single as a pinch-hitter.

Japan and America are different

One may ask why this video didn’t get posted with yesterday’s story The answer is, again, because home teams own all the broadcast rights and sell them to whom they will, what one sees on the net depends on who the home team is. Pacific League video, which is jointly marketed and sold, goes up within 30 minutes or so.

The Central League’s Giants, Tigers, and BayStars make theirs available, but the Carp and Dragons don’t–due I’m told to the nature of existing contracts with their local broadcasters.

The Swallows fall in between. Their home game highlight videos are occasionally available on the net, through the TV Tokyo network. This clip was posted at 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

In addition to “It will look like a line drive in the box score” another phrase I’m not certain people use anymore is “Japan and America are different.” Thirty years ago, used to be the pat answer to every “Why” uttered to a Japanese by a person who might potentially be an American.

It also used to be common for packs of school children to ambush foreign-looking individuals on the street, so that one of them could shout, “This is a pen! My name is Shogo Kitamura! How do you do!” to howls of laughter from their friends. But like that fad, perhaps Japan has outgrown the need to remind people living here that they were, in fact, no longer in their home country.

NPB 2020 Nov. 14

Saturday’s games

PL Climax Series Game 1

Other news

Hawks outhit but not outplayed in Game 1 win

With one big exception, another unbelievably home run from the amazing Yuki Yanagita, the Lotte Marines swung the bat better in their 3-3 loss in Saturday’s first game of the Pacific League Climax Series to the SoftBank Hawks.

Hawks ace Kodai Senga gave up three runs, the first two on decent second-inning pitches that resulted in a single and a Hisanori Yasuda home run. He gave up another in the third when he paid for mistakes to Tatsuhiro Tamura and Takashi Ogino. The Marines have done well all year to adjust to the Hawks and prepare for them, and this one looked it was going to be another one of those days.

Mima, too, made mistakes, probably more than Senga, but got away with them in the first inning, but not in the sixth, when the Hawks tied it on an error.

The Hawks should have scored a run in the first, but Ogino robbed them of a leadoff single before they loaded the bases with one out and ended it on a double play. Yanagita cut the lead in the fourth to 2-1 with a home run over the wall in center off an improbably low pitch.

Mima then got out of a jam in the fifth. Shortstop Yudai Fujioka tried to barehand a chopper and whiffed. The ball rolled toward left, and Taisei Makihara reached on a leadoff infield double. A walk on a dubious 3-2 pitch put two on, but Takuya Kai struck out foul bunting pitches out of the zone. With two out and two in scoring position, Akira Nakamura appeared to be the victim of makeup calls from the ump. He took a dubious 3-1 strike and another on 3-2 to end it.

The end for Mima came in the sixth. Yanagita and Yurisbel Gracial singled off mistakes and a sacrifice put the tying run in scoring position. Alfredo Despaigne singled off Taiki Tojo, and Makihara chopped one to second with Gracial at third. Second baseman Shogo Nakamura looked the lead runner back, tagged Despaigne for the second out, and threw to first, where Seiya Inoue dropped the ball.

Gracial, broke for home as Nakamura threw, and Inoue’s drop allowed him to score the tying run as he slid in head-first.

Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 eighth and got the win in relief after Hirokazu Sawamura surrendered the lead in the home half on two walks and two infield singles. Takuya Kai hit another chopper to Fujikoka, who fielded it but couldn’t nail the runner at first.

“Hey. A hit is a hit,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said.

Yuito Mori then did the honors in the ninth with another 1-2-3 inning.

The Climax Series gives the league champs a one-win advantage in the final stage, while the home team wins all tie (games are tied after 12 innings), and all games are played at the higher-seeded team’s park. This year’s PL series was cut from two stages to one, with the final stage reduced from six games to four. The Hawks’ one-win advantage means they have a 2-0 lead and should the game be tied after the top of the 12th inning on Sunday, the series will be over.

There’s a lot to be said for foreplay

The series, as I’ve written before is closer to foreplay than climax, since it follows the pennant race, and only serves to pick a league’s team to the the Japan Series, where Nippon Professional Baseball’s championship is decided.

The Central League which looks on fun and a good time as some kind of threat to the purity of the game, used the pandemic as an excuse to get rid of its foreplay series, I mean CS, in a kind of return to the 2004-2006 seasons when the PL teams were playing meaningful postseason games and the CL champs were playing with themselves in intrasquad games.

Ramirez goes out with win against Giants

Alex Ramirez, who won both of his CL MVP awards with the Yomiuri Giants, finished his managing term with the DeNA BayStars with a 5-4 come-from-behind win at Yokohama Stadium against his former team.

Ramirez received flowers and hugs from his former Giants skipper, Tatsunori Hara, who urged him to make a comeback, “I told him to get back in the game.”

Active roster moves 11/14/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/24

Central League


GiantsP12Rubby De La Rosa
GiantsP18Tomoyuki Sugano
GiantsP30Yohei Kagiya
BayStarsIF44Keita Sano



Pacific League


HawksOF51Seiji Uebayashi
MarinesIF23Ryo Miki


MarinesIF67Kenta Chatani

Starting pitchers for Nov. 15, 2020

Pacific League Climax Series

Hawks vs Marines: PayPay Dome 1 pm, 11 pm EDT

Nao Higashihama (9-2, 2.34) vs Wei-Yin Chen (0-3, 2.42)