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.