2008 Nippon Series
The Seibu Lions have won 9 Japan Series, the most recent coming in 2004. They led the 2008 Pacific League in ERA (3.56) and also in runs (715). They clubbed 198 homers, 46 more than any other PL team, while hitting .270/.330/.453. G.G. Sato (.302/.368/.546, 30 2B, 21 HR), Takeya Nakamura (.244/.320/.569, 90 R, 46 HR, 101 RBI) and Hiroyuki Nakajima (.331/.410/.527, 32 2B, 21 HR) led the attack. Nakamura led the PL in homers and runs while Nakajima led in OBP and lost the batting title by .001 to Rick Short. Also chipping in were Takumi Kuriyama (.317/.376/.450, a league-high 167 hits), Taketoshi Goto (.301/.370/.602 as a part-timer), Hiram Bocachica (.251/.344/.556, 20 HR in 239 AB) and Craig Brazell (.234/.294/.446, 27 HR, 87 RBI). In Nakamura and Brazell, Seibu had two all-or-nothing sluggers, while Nakajima and Sato provided more well-balanced games. Brazell would miss the Series due to headaches stemming from a hit-by-pitch earlier in the year while Sato was slowed by an ankle injury.
They are managed by rookie pilot Hisanobu Watanabe.
The Giants are playing in their record 31st Japan Series, but they had not appeared since 2002, the longest absence in team history. After winning the CL title, they easily dispatched the defending champion Chunichi Dragons in the playoffs. They are guided by Tatsunori Hara.
Yomiuri, like Seibu, was a power-hitting team, leading the CL in homers (177), slugging (.428) and runs (631). Key hitters were Shinnosuke Abe (.271/.350/.502, 24 HR), Michihiro Ogasawara (.310/.381/.573, 93 R, 96 RBI, 36 HR) and Alex Ramirez (.319/.373/.617, 45 HR, 125 RBI). Ramirez had led the CL in RBI and been second in homers and slugging while Ogasawara was second in runs. Both were prototypical Yomiuri players, having first starred for other teams before being signed as free agents by Japan's wealthiest club. Another similar player was Seung-yeop Lee (.248/.324/.431), who had struggled early on and spent most of the year on the farm but delivered several key hits in the pennant race and playoffs after helping South Korea win Gold at the 2008 Olympics. Abe would unfortunately be limited in playing time in the Series due to a shoulder injury that prevented him from manning his usual spot at catcher.
The staff was led by Seth Greisinger (17-9, 3.06), Marc Kroon (1-4, 41 Sv, 2.21), Tetsuya Yamaguchi (11-2, 2 Sv, 2.32) and Tetsuya Utsumi (12-8, 2.73). Greisinger had led the league in wins and Kroon in saves; like Ogasawara, Ramirez and Lee, they were signed as free agents after proving their mettle with smaller-market clubs.
Game 1: Wakui almost unhittable
Hideaki Wakui may have struggled in the regular season after his 2007 stardom but he continued his postseason dominance, holding a mighty Yomiuri attack to one hit in 8 innings and one unearned run, while whiffing 8.
Koji Uehara, also disappointing in 2008 relative to his past seasons, threw a fine game, fanning 7 and allowing 5 hits in 8 innings, but made two crucial mistakes.
Yomiuri got their lone run in the 4th. After Wakui had tossed 3 perfect innings, CF Takahiro Suzuki reached on an error by 3B Takeya Nakamura. He was bunted over by 2B Takuya Kimura and came home on a double to right by LF Alex Ramirez, the only hit off Wakui.
In the 5th, Seibu tied it when LF Taketoshi Goto connected for a circuit shot off Uehara; Goto had gone to the same high school as Seibu starter Wakui. SS Hiroyuki Nakajima homered off Olympic teammate Uehara in the 6th, taking a fastball over the right-center field fence with two outs for the game-winning run.
In the 9th, Alex Graman replaced Wakui and gave up a leadoff hit to Kimura, but retired the next batter before Ramirez hit into a game-ending double play, his second double play grounder of the night.
Game 2: Sayonara, Alex
Lions: Hiroyuki Nakajima (2)
Giants: Alex Ramirez (1)
Yomiuri got going in the second. 1B Seung-yeop Lee coaxed a walk and RF Yoshitomo Tani was plunked by Kazuyuki Hoashi. After a sacrifice bunt, C Kazunari Tsuruoka hit a sacrifice fly to right for a 1-0 lead. Seibu came back in the 4th. 2B Yasuyuki Kataoka doubled off Hisanori Takahashi then SS Hiroyuki Nakajima went deep on a changeup to make it 2-1 with his second homer of the Series.
In the 5th, Yomiuri almost tied it. They got a runner on board when Kataoka failed to cover first base on a grounder fielded by 1B Akira Eto. 3B Michihiro Ogasawara doubled off the wall in left-center but LF Alex Ramirez and Tani both grounded out. Hoashi was yanked after giving up 10 baserunners in 5. Yomiuri tied it in the 6th when back-up RF Yoshiyuki Kamei doubled home SS Hayato Sakamoto.
Daisuke Ochi tossed perfect ball in the 8th and 9th innings. In the bottom of the 9th, Shinya Okamoto tossed a 1-0, 1-out slider to Alex Ramirez and Ramirez promptly deposited it over the wall in left-center for the sayonara homer.
Game 3: Giant power display
Lions: Takeya Nakamura (1)
The Giants took a 2 game to 1 lead thanks to three home runs.
Former Dodgers hurler Kazuhisa Ishii was ineffective. CF Takahiro Suzuki began the contest by doubling on Ishii's first pitch. 2B Takuya Kimura grounded Suzuki over on the next pitch. Ishii's third pitch sailed past the catcher and Suzuki raced home. It would be the first of three hits for Suzuki, the game's big star.
RF Yoshiyuki Kamei singled with one out in the second and #9 hitter Kazunari Tsuruoka drew a 2-out walk. Suzuki, generally not deemed a power threat, then lifted one into the seats for a 4-0 edge. In the 6th, DH Alex Ramirez homered to put Yomiuri ahead 5-0.
Seibu then staged a rally, scoring their first run off of Tetsuya Utsumi on a single by SS Hiroyuki Nakajima. With two men on later in that inning, 3B Takeya Nakamura homered off Kentaro Nishimura to close the game to 5-4. Seibu would get no closer.
In the 8th, Yomiuri added insurance when 3B Michihiro Ogasawara homered for their third shot of the day, their homers producing 5 of their runs.
Game 4: Nakamura knocks them out
Lions: Takayuki Kishi W (1-0)
Lions: Takeya Nakamura 2 (3)
Seibu had it all for the home fans, with pitching and power in an easy win to tie the Series.
In the 4th, Greisinger plunked SS Hiroyuki Nakajima. Tensions rose when Nakajima and Greisinger stared each other down before Nakajima took first base. 3B Takeya Nakamura followed with a drive into the left field seats for a 3-0 lead.
In the 6th, Nakajima and Nakamura did it again when Hiroyuki singled and Takeya homered once more to make it 5-0 as the hefty slugger padded his already prodigious 2008 power numbers.
Takayuki Kishi provided the other story line, fanning 10 and allowing only 4 hits and a walk in a complete game shutout. He threw 147 pitches and became the 12th player to toss a shutout in his Japan Series debut. He was only the second hurler in Series history to strike out at least one batter in every inning; Takashi Nishimoto had done it back in 1981.
Game 5: Seventh-inning metldown
Giants: Shinnosuke Abe (1)
Lions: Hiroshi Hirao (1)
In a rematch of game one pitchers, neither was as sharp. Koji Uehara allowed singles to the first three Seibu hitters - 2B Yasuyuki Kataoka, LF Takumi Kuriyama and SS Hiroyuki Nakajima. 3B Takeya Nakamura swung out. 1B Yoshihito Ishii grounded in one run but Uehara escaped further damage by striking out DH Taketoshi Goto.
In the third, Nakajima reached on a two-base throwing error by SS Hayato Sakamoto. Ishii singled in Nakajima and the next two batters singled to load the bases. Again, Uehara escaped a bases-loaded jam with little damage, fanning backup C Ginjiro Sumitani to end the inning. Uehara was yanked after three innings, having given up 7 hits and 2 runs.
Hideaki Wakui was tossing a solid game into the 7th, holding the 2-1 lead soundly. He then had a meltdown. LF Alex Ramirez started with a one-out grounder that bounced off of second base; the hustling veteran made it into a double. Abe singled home Ramirez to tie the score. RF Yoshiyuki Kamei doubled and Yomiuri had two men in scoring position. 3B Ryota Wakiya then tripled to left-center to make it 4-2 Giants. Sakamoto doubled to score Wakiya, the 5th straight hit allowed by Wakui after only 2 in the first 6 innings. Manager Hisanobu Watanabe gave Wakui the hook following Sakamoto's hit.
In the 9th inning, PH Yoshitomo Tani singled in Kamei for one run and CF Takahiro Suzuki drove home PH Seung-yeop Lee on a squeeze bunt. Seibu got its last run on a late homer by backup 2B Hiroshi Hirao.
Game 6: Kishi in command once more
Lions: Hiroshi Hirao (2)
The road team won for the 4th time in the first six games of the Series, starting strong and holding on.
Seibu started quickly. With one out, CF Takumi Kuriyama singled to center against Hisanori Takahashi. Both SS Hiroyuki Nakajima and 3B Takeya Nakamura drew walks. LF Taketoshi Goto popped up to second. 1B Hiroshi Hirao came through with a 3-run double to left-center for the game-winning hit.
In the 2nd, LF Alex Ramirez and 1B Seung-yeop Lee both singled off of Kazuyuki Hoashi and RF Yoshiyuki Kamei doubled in Ramirez. Hoashi recovered to get three ground-outs in a row with the two men in scoring position.
Hoashi allowed 6 hits in only 3 1/3 innings and was yanked in the 4th with two on and one out. He was replaced by Takayuki Kishi, who had pitched a complete game only 3 days prior. Kishi escaped that jam and would throw 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits and walk while fanning six in an excellent performance. It was the first time since college that Kishi had pitched on such short rest. After the game, he said "I will pitch again tomorrow if the manager tells me to do so."
In the 5th, Hirao homered off of Kentaro Nishimura for a 4-1 cushion.
Yomiuri stranded nine runners.
Game 7: The Lions get the relief they need
Lions: Hiram Bocachica (1)
Giants: Hayato Sakamoto (1)
The road teams continued to win as Seibu completed its comeback to take the Series, its 10th title.
In the first inning, 2B Takuya Kimura drew a walk from veteran hurler Fumiya Nishiguchi with one out and 3B Michihiro Ogasawara doubled. A wild pitch by Nishiguchi made it 1-0 Giants. They added another in the second on a solo homer by SS Hayato Sakamoto. Sakamoto's shot was the first home run by a teenager in the Japan Series since Kazuhiro Kiyohara back in 1986. Nishiguchi was yanked and his bullpen turned in an excellent effort, allowing no runs in the next 7 innings thanks to four relievers.
In the 8th, the Lions staged their late charge. Daisuke Ochi plunked 2B Yasuyuki Kataoka and the speedster swiped second. CF Takumi Kuriyama bunted Kataoka to third base. SS Hiroyuki Nakajima hit a slow roller to third and Kataoka made a dash home on the grounder, scoring the tying run as Ogasawara threw to first to get Nakajima. 3B Takeya Nakamura and C Kosuke Noda drew back-to-back walks from Ochi. 1B Hiroshi Hirao continued his clutch performance in the Series with the game-winning single up the middle on a full-count slider.
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