Tag Archives: Japan Series

Series 2020 Game 4

The Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks wrapped up the 2020 Japan Series with a 4-1 win over the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants on Wednesday at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome on the back of two-run home runs by Yuki Yanagita and Takuya Kai.

The Hawks’ fourth-straight title makes them only the second club after the Giants to post a winning streak that long. The Giants won nine straight between 1965 and 1973. The Hawks have now won a record 12 straight series games and 16 straight series games at homes — their last loss in Fukuoka coming in Game 5 in 2011, when Wednesday’s starter Tsuyoshi Wada took the loss.

The Giants, whose choice of starting pitchers has sparked questions, sent unheralded right-hander Seishu Hatake. The 25-year-old showed SOME tremendous movement on his pitches but also hung a few up in the zone, and the Hawks crushed them.

For the first time in the series, the Giants scored first on back-to-back no-out doubles by Akihiro Wakabayashi and Hayato Sakamoto. Wada bore down, working around a two-out walk by striking out Hiroyuki Nakajima on 14 pitches.

The Hawks needed just two pitches to take the lead in the home half. Hatake hung two splitters to Akira Nakamura and Yuki Yanagita. The first went for a one-out double, the second for a two-run homer.

Wada, who didn’t have his trademark command, gutted it through the second inning after surrendering a leadoff single, but two more mistakes from Hatake and merciless execution from the Hawks made it 4-1 in the bottom of the second. Taisei Makihara swatted a high slider for a single and with two outs Takuya Kai hammered a high straight fastball for his second homer of the series.

Giants right-hander Shosei Togo, who was mysteriously left out of the Giants’ starting pitching plans, came in as the visitors’ third pitcher with two on and two outs in the third. After issuing a walk, he retired the next seven batters. Brazilian flame thrower Thyago Vieira touched 101.9 mph in his 1-2/3 innings.

With the Giants trailing by three in the seventh, ace Tomoyuki Sugano began warming up in the bullpen, making some wonder that the Giants might bring him out for a farewell mound appearance, but he never did more than warm up and lefty Kota Nakagawa mopped up in the eighth.

With a three-run lead, Wada left after two, and hard-throwing 24-year-old Yuki Matsumoto allowed singles over 2-2/3 scoreless innings. Lefty Shinya Kayama retired Yoshihiro Maru to end the fifth. Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi started a parade of three straight 1-2-3 innings from the bullpen with Sho Iwasaki pitching the seventh and Livan Moinelo electrifying the eighth.

Series 2020 Game 2

Right-hander Shuta Ishikawa allowed two runs over 5-1/3 innings as the SoftBank Hawks’ wiped out the Yomiuri Giants13-2 in Sunday’s Game 2 of the Japan Series to take a 2-0 series lead.

The win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome extended SoftBank’s record postseason winning streak to 14 games and extended their record for Japan Series wins to 10.

Yurisbel Gracial, the 2019 series MVP scored three runs and drove in two with his first home run of the series, while Cuban compatriot Alfredo Despaigne iced the game with a seventh-inning grand slam.

The Giants broke up the shutout in the bottom of the fifth, when Zelous Wheeler, who drove in Yomiuri’s run in Saturday’s 5-1 loss, hit a two-run home run.

Ishikawa allowed four hits, a walk and hit a batter while striking out seven, but left after allowing back-to-back one-out singles in the sixth with SoftBank leading 7-2. Lefty Shinya Kayama struck out Yoshihiro Maru and submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi loaded the bases with a walk before striking out Hiroyuki Nakajima to end the inning without a run scoring.

Yuki Yanagita, whose RBI double opened the scoring in SoftBank’s three-run first against lefty Nobutaka Imamura, singled and scored on Gracial’s two-run third-inning homer and walked ahead of Despaigne’s slam.

No team had scored 12 runs in a game since Game 2 of the 2010 series, when the trickery of Lotte Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura backfired in a one-sided loss.

Nishimura tried to fool the Chunichi Dragons into thinking Bill Murphy would not start by keeping him out in the outfield during pregame practice instead of having come in early. Murphy never got into a rhythm and allowed seven runs in 1-1/3 innings.

The last time a team scored 13 runs was the Daiei Hawks’ 13-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers in Game 2 of the 2003 series.

series 2020 game 1

Kurihara rocks

Ryoya Kurihara introduced himself in a big way to the Japan Series on Saturday with a homer, two doubles, and four RBIs in Game 1. And that was just his first three at-bats. Kurihara’s offensive explosion carried SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga to a 5-1 win.

The 24-year-old SoftBank Hawks outfielder, who entered the season with 57 plate appearances, became a regular slammed a two-run homer off Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano in the second, doubled and was thrown out at the plate in the fourth, and belted a two-run double in the sixth.

Senga delivered a prototypical outing. His fastball hummed and often jumped, while his split and slider were unpredictable. The Giants hitters did a good job of fouling off the fastball and laying off his secondary pitches.

Hiroyuki Nakajima and Naoki Nishikawa both hammered splitters that failed to tumble and drove them to the wall in the fifth inning but both balls were caught.

Sugano was also pretty close to his season norms as he tried to stay just out of the strike zone and get people to chase, and did get some weak swings on the corners but also fell behind hitters, and gave up his share of hard-hit balls.

The Giants went to rookie Shosei Togo in the seventh, while Senga stayed in to work the home half as his pitch count crossed the 100-mark.

Hawks leadoff man Ukyo Shuto made it 5-0 in the eighth, by drawing a walk off lefty Yuki Takahashi, stealing second and scoring on an Akira Nakamura single.

The Hawks entered the series with the longest postseason winning streak in NPB history, 12 games dating back to Game 2 of the 2019 PL Climax Series first stage. They also set an NPB record by winning their ninth straight series game, dating back to Game 3 of the 2018 series.

The Giants entered having lost five straight series games, their last win coming against Masahiro Tanaka in Game 6 of the 2013 series, his final start in Japan, although he came in to save Game 7.

Livan Moinelo dazzled the Giants with his fastball and curve, striking out three in the eighth before closer Yuito Mori did his usual thing, loading the bases and allowing a run before closing it out.

The game’s attendance of 16,489 — restricted due to the novel coronavirus pandemic — was the series first under 20,000 since Game 8 of the 1986 affair, when 16,828 attended a Monday afternoon game when the teams finished the first seven games tied 3-3-1.

In the kind of snit Yomiuri is famous for, its TV network cut away the game’s only live broadcast for commercials instead of airing Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo’s postgame interview. This is reminiscent of the Yomiuri Shimbun’s coverage of Game 6 of the 1996 series.

That year, every newspaper in Japan had a front page photo of Ichiro Suzuki and the Orix BlueWave celebrating their Japan Series championship, except Japan’s top financial paper, the Nikkei Shimbun and the Yomiuri, whose team lost.

Series notes Nov. 18

This will be the first time since 2007, that teams will be meeting in the Japan Series for the second straight year. That last series in 2007 ended in dramatic fashion as journeyman Daisuke Yamai and future Hall of Famer Hitoki Iwase combined on a 1-0 perfect game clincher to beat Yu Darvish.

The time before that, the Yakult Swallows beat the Seibu Lions to win the 1993 series after losing the year before. The Dragons did that in 2007 as well, coming back to win after losing the first time.

This will be the 13th time for a Japan Series rematch the following year, and the Yomiuri Giants may be hoping that recent history points in their favor. Prior to the Swallows and Dragons winning the rematch, the previous year’s runners-up were 0-10 against the previous year’s champs.

This will be the Giants’ 10th rematch in franchise history, and the Hawks’ fourth — and their fourth rematch against Yomiuri. The teams last faced off in the infamous 2000 “brain surgeon” series — the schedule had to be juggled after Daiei rented out their home park to a neurosurgeon’s convention.

The Giants’ lead their Japan Series series 9-2, with the Hawks’ only win prior to 2019 coming in 1959. The Hawks’ 2019 sweep was the sixth in series history, with both the Hawks’ championships over the Giants coming in four games. The Giants are the first team in the 71-year history of the competition to return to the Japan Series after being swept the previous year.

Jim’s Series odds

Forced to make a prediction for the Japan Series this past weekend, I went with the SoftBank Hawks over the Yomiuri Giants in five. Both teams dominated their leagues, although the Hawks were better at doing that than the Giants were.

Sorry, but this isn’t going to be one of those, “The Hawks match up well against the Giants” stories,

RSRAWinPyth
Hawks531389.635.651
Giants532421.598.615
Runs, runs allowed, winning percentage, Pythagorean winning percentage

Then there is the other matter of league quality.

We don’t know how much better the Pacific League is than the Central League, but over the history of interleague play, the PL teams have a .532 winning percentage. Over the previous five seasons, the PL winning percentage was .555, and the PL’s Pythagorean winning percentage is .559.

Let’s make a conservative estimate and say that if we threw the two leagues into a balanced 12-team schedule, that total winning percentage of the six PL teams would be .530, and the total winning percentage of the six CL teams would be .470. But because the Hawks were quite a bit better against a league that has been demonstrably better, then I’m going to estimate their chances of winning any game against the Giants at 59 percent.

Based on that, we get the following chances, were a Hawks sweep is slightly more likely than a Giants win in seven. Anything is possible, but I wouldn’t take even odds on it.

Series resultEstimated likelihood
Hawks 4-20.204
Hawks 4-10.199
Hawks 4-30.167
Hawks 4-00.121
Giants 4-30.116
Giants 4-20.098
Giants 4-10.067
Giants 4-00.028

Postseason split

The Central League is expected to cancel its Climax Series postseason playoffs in order to focus to allow for as many regular-season games, Sankei Sports reported on Saturday. The Pacific League is expected to stick with some kind of playoffs to choose its Japan Series competitor.

While virtually everything is new about the 2020 season because of the coronavirus, for stretches of their history the CL and PL have split on their approach to postseason baseball.

The PL, which has traditionally trailed the CL in attendance, has repeatedly tried playoff systems, a single-season trial in 1952, a 10-year stretch from 1973 to 1982 when the first-half and second-half champions played off, and most recently from 2004 to 2006.

The 1952 model consisted of all seven PL teams playing a 108-game season, and the four best clubs playing 12 more. The 1973-1982 format was filled with problems, primarily one of rainouts. Japan has not managed rainouts well, and first-half games rained out and made out at the end of the season, counted toward the first-half championship, not the second.

Teams that won the first half could go into the Japan Series uncontested by winning the second, but often they just fell flat in the second half.

I wasn’t around for those first two tries, but when the PL tried again in 2004, it was accompanied by a chorus of laughter from the old guard and the CL, ridiculing it for watering down the value of the regular season.

The new CL format would allow the third-place team to reach the Japan Series, prompting one of Japan’s biggest windbags, then Yomiuri Giants owner Tsuneo Watanabe to spout some of the nonsense he was famous for.

“If the Giants win the CL and the PL champion doesn’t have a winning record, we’ll boycott,” he famously said.

Of course, the reason those playoffs only lasted three years was because the CL owners got jealous of the big crowds that second-division PL teams drew in the waning weeks of the season and wanted in. The PL playoffs were replaced by the Climax Series, which was modified so as not to offend CL sensibilities.

So if things go as the Sankei Sports reported, it will be a nice taste of nostalgia, with the CL owners getting once more to spout off about old-school family values or whatever, and very possibly at the end of the season wishing they had kept their damned mouths shut.