Tag Archives: Zelous Wheeler

NPB Wrap 11-13-21

Gentlemen, we have climax

Japan’s Central and Pacific Leagues continued to march to the same weird drummer on Friday, as both of their playoffs final stages finished in three games, with each league champion winning 3-0-1, thanks to a one-win advantage, shutout wins in Games 1 and 2, and the rule that higher-seeded teams advance if series end in ties.

Both the CL’s Yakult Swallows and the PL’s Orix Buffaloes came from behind to end their games in ties, the Buffaloes tying in dramatic fashion on a walk-off “sayonara” tie, something I honestly thought I’d never see.

If we’re going to call NPB’s Japan Series quarterfinals and semifinals “Climax Series” then I guess we have to say that the Yomiuri Giants and Lotte Marines both climaxed on Friday, leaving the Yakult Swallows and Orix Buffaloes as the last teams standing, or each league’s last erect member if you will.

The Swallows became the second CL team to clinch a Climax Series stage on a tie. The Orix Buffaloes, who never reached the final stage before, are only the second franchise in either league to go undefeated in its first three final stage games. The Chunichi Dragons clinched the best-of-five 2007 CL final stage with three straight wins on the road and won the 2008 opener to improve to 4-0.

The Buffaloes’ tie made them the first PL team to win a CS stage in a tie, although that’s only true because until 2011, NPB’s rules were even stupider than the current ones. NPB, which has always required all teams to complete all their regular-season games regardless of how meaningless those games are – some even taking place AFTER the start of the Japan Series in years past – held the same kind of anal-retentive view in the Climax Series.

So in 2011, after the SoftBank Hawks eliminated the Seibu Lions and clinched their spot in the Japan Series by preventing Seibu from scoring in the 12th inning of their tie game, the Hawks, with nothing to play for, were required to bat in the home half, and actually won the game. One whiff of that nonsense was enough for even NPB executives to come to their senses.

So now we get Orix and Yakult. These franchises have met twice before, in 1978, when the Yakult Swallows won in seven games with the help of one of the most famous home runs in series history, and in 1995 when the Swallows, managed by Katsuya Nomura, stuffed Ichiro Suzuki and the Orix BlueWave in five games, a series in which the current managers, Orix’s Satoshi Nakajima and Yakult’s Shingo Takatsu, both played. The Swallows last played in the series in 2015, when they lost to SoftBank, and last won in 2021, when they beat the Kintetsu Buffaloes in five.

Like the 1978 series, when the Swallows’ home games were played at the Giants’ home park, Korakuen Stadium, Games 3, 4 and 5 will take place at Tokyo Dome because Jingu Stadium will be unavailable. While Games 1 and 2 will be at Kyocera Dome in Osaka, which Orix occupied after their 2004 merger with Kintetsu, Games 6 and 7 will be played at the BlueWave’s old home, Hotto Motto Field Kobe.

Friday’s Foreplay Series games

Buffaloes 3, Marines 3

At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Yuya Oda pulled back a fake bunt and slashed a ninth-inning game-ending walk-off RBI single against PL saves leader Naoya Masuda, ending a terrific see-saw game.

Lotte took a 1-0 lead in the third against rookie Soichiro Yamazaki on a Takashi Ogino single, a Koshiro Wada double, and a Shogo Nakamura sac fly. Through five innings, Marines starter Daiki Iwashita had allowed only a single to scrappy Orix leadoff hitter Shuhei Fukuda and an intentional walk to Orix’s Clark Kent, Masataka Yoshida.

Fukuda reached on a flare single with one out in the sixth and the game changed in a few heartbeats. Iwashita missed up in the zone with a hanging first-pitch forkball and Yuma Mune put a dent in the third-deck facing in right field for a two-run home run.

Leonys Martin, however, tied it with some fancy base running in the top of the seventh. He singled, took second on a routine fly to left and scored on Toshiya Sato’s two-out pinch-hit single. Shogo Nakamura took Tyler Higgins deep with one out in the eighth to give Lotte a lifeline, but the right-hander stranded two, and Hirotoshi Masui of all people, worked a scoreless ninth in an echo of his glory days as closer for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

The Marines appeared headed for a Game 4 with PL saves leader Naoya Masuda on the mound in the home half, but things went south quickly. Takahiro Okada singled on a 1-2 pitch low away and out of the zone. Ryo Adachi swatted a lazy 0-1 fastball above the zone into left. Yuya Oda squared to bunt with first baseman Ryo Miki just 40 feet down the line, pulled the bat back and swatted it past him into right field to end it.

Swallows 2, Giants 2

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Norichika Aoki was the hero, singling in two seventh-inning runs with two outs and Yakult trailing 1-0 after Yomiuri got six outstanding innings from C.C. Mercedes.

Rubby De La Rosa took over in the seventh. A one-out Jose Osuna single got things rolling. Yakult sacrificed, but De La Rossa was ordered to walk pinch-hitting ace Shingo Kawabata after falling behind 2-0. De La Rosa couldn’t buy a called strike on the corners as he walked Yasutaka Shiomi on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Lefty Kota Nakagawa came in and Aoki inside-outed his first pitch over short to put the Swallows in front.

Swallows right-hander Juri Hara appeared to be keeping pace with Mercedes until he was knocked out of the game by a line drive to his wrist with one out in the second. Rookie Yuto Kanakubo worked 3-2/3 innings of relief and was not quite as sharp. He allowed a run on a one-out third-inning walk by Naoki Yoshikawa, a Yoshiyuki Kamei single and a Hayato Sakamoto sac fly.

Two perfect innings of relief from Yakult’s former closer, Taichi Ishiyama, and Albert Suarez, allowed Yakult to come from behind and the game appeared to be in the bag after CL holds leader Noboru Shimizu retired the first two Giants in the eighth.

But after Zelous Wheeler singled off a good pitch, Shimizu walked a batter and bounced a wild pitch to put both runners in scoring position, and former Swallow Taishi Hirooka singled to short to tie it.

But Hiroyuki Nakajima struck out to end the inning, and the Giants, who stranded nine runners, failed to score against Scott McGough in the ninth, their season fittingly ending with Sho Nakata making the final out, striking out as a pinch-hitter.

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NPB wrap 11-7-21

Sunday was Game 2 day in Japan with the Lotte Marines and Yomiuri Giants each taking a 1-0 lead into their games, meaning Lotte could advance to the Pacific League Climax Series’ final stage with a tie, while the Giants would need a win or ties on Sunday and Monday to advance to the Central League’s final stage.

The weird best-of-seven final stages start on Wednesday at Jingu Stadium in Tokyo and Kyocera Dome Osaka. They are weird because, like the first stage, they are played entirely at the home park of the league champs, who begin with a one-game advantage, meaning the best-of-seven series can’t go to seven games.

It took me 14 years, but I’ve finally come up with a better name for Japan’s postseason pre-Japan Series playoffs, but I’m only going to share that with the newsletter readers for new. If you want to sign up for the jballallen.com newsletter, sign up at the end of this post and I’ll hook you up every Monday.

Sunday’s games

Marines 4, Eagles 4

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Yuki Kuniyoshi made amends for blowing up Game 1, by preventing this one from blowing up in the seventh inning with two on and one out after Rakuten scored its fourth run off Marines starter Kazuya Ojima to take a 4-3 lead.

Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said Kuniyoshi was supposed to start the seventh, but he hesitated, and said he had to answer for that after the game. Instead Kuniyoshi got two quick outs, Leonys Martin tied it with a seventh-inning homer and Chihaya Sasaki and closer Naoya Masuda each worked a scoreless inning to send the Marines into the final stage.

The Eagles, needing two wins to advance after a sayonara loss in Game 1, gave starter Takayuki Kishi a 2-0 second-inning lead on a one-out double by former Marines captain Daichi Suzuki, and RBI singles by veteran catcher Ginjiro Sumitani and surprising leadoff man Tsuyoshi Yamasaki.

The Marines came back in the second for one run on singles by Adeiny Hechavarria, rookie Koki Yamaguchi and Yudai Fujioka. Hechavarria walked in the fourth and tied it on a Yamaguchi double. Yamaguchi homered off Tomohiro Anraku in the sixth, before Ojima blew his 3-2 lead in the seventh.

Sumitani hit a leadoff homer, Yamasaki hit his second double and scored on a single by Hiroaki Shimauchi as the PL RBI leader drove in his fourth run of the series. With one out in the eighth, Martin homered off another former Marine, Tomohito Sakai to tie it and the Marines held on for the tie, which ended the season for Masahiro Tanaka and the Eagles.

Lotte advances as the higher seed by clinching a tie in the best-of-three series with a 1-0-1 record

Giants 4, Tigers 2

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin banged out 11 hits and drew five walks, but only managed two score twice, while the team that allowed a Japan-worst 67 unearned runs in the regular season, allowed four more in their season finale.

Ryutaro Umeno and Teruaki Sato doubled off Giants starter Yuki Takahashi to make it 1-0 in the second, and singles by Koji Chikamoto—that chased Takahashi–and Takumu Nakano, off reliever Kyosuke Takagi, made it 2-0.

Koyo Aoyagi faced the minimum through two but a Nakano error at short allowed the Giants a leadoff run in the third. Singles by Takumi Oshiro and pinch-hitter Takumaru Yaoita loaded the bases. Leadoff man Seiya Matsubara’s second single made it 2-1, and Yoshihiro Maru smashed a two-out two-run single to put Yomiuri in front for good.

Yomiuri got another leadoff man on via an error, in the eighth, charged to third baseman Yusuke Oyama, and that run scored after Maru bunted for a hit, a sacrifice, and a sac fly by Zelous Wheeler.

Closer Thyago Vieira, the Giants’ eighth pitcher, gave up a two-out infield single to Jefry Marte and walked Oyama but struck out Mel Rojas Jr in an entertaining at-bat to end it with the right-hander erupting in his habitual celebration.

Yomiuri wins the best-of-three series 2-0.

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