2010 Japan Series
The 2010 Japan Series was the 61st match-up of the champions of the Central League and Pacific League, Japan's top two circuits. Marines third baseman Toshiaki Imae was named Japan Series MVP for the second time, repeating his feat in 2005, by going 12 for 27 with four runs and six RBI. The Chiba Lotte Marines became the first team to finish third in the regular season then win the Japan Series.
Chiba Lotte Marines
The Chiba Lotte Marines were in just their second Japan Series, after winning in 2005. They finished third in the Pacific League in the regular season at 75-67-2, but were only 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Softbank Hawks. In the playoffs, they beat the Seibu Lions two games to zero then dropped the Hawks four games to two to win an upset spot in the Series. They scored a PL-best 708 runs but allowed 635 (tied for second-worst) as an offense-first team.
The top four hitters were the infield quartet of 2B Tadahito Iguchi (.294/.412/.476, 44 2B, 17 HR, 103 RBI), 3B Toshiaki Imae (.331/.364/.471, 37 2B), SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.346/.423/.482, 121 R) and 1B Tae-kyun Kim (.268/.357/.429, 21 HR, 92 RBI). Nishioka led the league in average, hits, runs and total bases and Iguchi led in doubles and walks (98). The top starters were Yoshihisa Naruse (13-11, 3.31, 192 K) and Bill Murphy (12-6, 3.75) while Hiroyuki Kobayashi (3-3, 29 Sv, 2.21) was once again a key bullpen leader.
They are managed by first-year skipper Norifumi Nishimura.
The Chunichi Dragons won their fourth Central League title in seven years since Hiromitsu Ochiai became their manager; they won the 2007 Japan Series as well. Chunichi was 79-62-3 for the best record in the CL, only one game ahead of the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants. They beat the Giants 3 games to 1 in the playoffs to advance to the Series. Playing in a pitcher-friendly park, they allowed the fewest runs in the CL (521, 96 fewer than anyone else) but also were next-to-last in offense (539 runs).
Despite their generally unproductive offense, Chunichi had its share of big bats. 1B Tony Blanco (.264/.349/.501, 32 HR), 3B Masahiko Morino (.327/.399/.537, 45 2B, 22 HR, the league leader in doubles) and LF Kazuhiro Wada (.339/.437/.624, 37 HR, 94 R, 98 RBI, the league leader in OBP and slugging) gave them an effective trio. On the mound, Wei-Lin Chen (13-10, 2.81, second in ERA) and Kenichi Nakata (7-4, 2.90) were the best starting pitchers and Hitoki Iwase (1-3, a league-high 42 saves, 2.25), Takuya Asao (12-3, Sv, 1.68) and Akifumi Takahashi (4-1, 1.61) the top three relievers.
Game 1: The Marines start off strong
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Chiba Lotte started strong by opening the Series with a road win. In the second inning, RF Saburo Omura hit a shallow pop fly that fell in between a few Chunichi defenders. 3B Toshiaki Imae bunted Omura over, then LF Shoitsu Omatsu doubled off the wall in right for a 1-0 lead; unfortunately, Omatsu injured his thigh while running and was lifted for pinch-runner Yoshifumi Okada.
In the bottom of the second, two old-timers showed they still had it. 38-year-old LF Kazuhiro Wada homered off Yoshihisa Naruse and 39-year-old C Motonobu Tanishige launched one two outs later for a 2-1 lead; Naruse would give up nothing more over the next three innings and four relievers each held the Dragons scoreless.
In the third, rookie outfielder Ikuhiro Kiyota took Kazuki Yoshimi deep to tie the game. 2B Tadahito Iguchi singled, then Yoshimi plunked Omura. Imae singled home Iguchi for a 3-2 edge. In the 6th, Okada beat out an infield hit and later was driven in by SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Chiba Lotte got more insurance in the 7th when Iguchi homered. Both Iguchi and Imae finished with three hits.
Game 2: The Dragons show their claws
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Dragons: Tony Blanco (1)
Both clubs went to foreign-born hurlers for game two, but while Chunichi's Taiwanese star Wei-Yin Chen was dominant, Chiba Lotte's American Bill Murphy was roughed up. The Dragons scored 12 runs, the most the franchise had scored in any of its eight Japan Series to date.
Chunichi got almost all its offense in the first three innings. SS Masahiro Araki opened with a single; after one out, 3B Masahiko Morino and LF Kazuhiro Wada also singled to make it 1-0. After one out, RF Kei Nomoto hit into an error by 2B Tadahito Iguchi. C Motonobu Tanishige then drew a bases-loaded walk from Murphy to make it 2-0. Rookie CF Yohei Oshima then doubled in two more for a 4-0 edge after just one inning.
In the second, Murphy let the first three batters in Chunichi's lineup reach. Wada then doubled in two more for a 6-0 edge. Shingo Ono relieved and gave up a RBI single to Nomoto later in the frame. In the third, pitcher Chen aided his own cause with a double (he had gone just 5 for 50 with a double in the regular season) and Araki singled. 2B Hirokazu Ibata grounded to counterpart Iguchi, but the veteran again had a defensive miscue, letting Chen come in, though he did retire Araki at second. After walks to both Morino and Wada, 1B Tony Blanco singled in two runs for a 10-0 score.
Chiba Lotte got its only run in the 4th after Chen plunked LF Ikuhiro Kiyota, Iguchi singled and 3B Toshiaki Imae singled as well. Blanco contributed the game's last runs with a 2-run blast against Takuya Furuya in the 6th.
Wada finished 3 for 3 with a walk, double, 3 runs and 3 RBI while Blanco drove home four.
"Not going down 2-0 is huge," Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai stated after the game.
Game 3: The Sub-Marine gives Chunichi a sinking feeling
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Marines: Shunsuke Watanabe (W, 1-0)
Daisuke Yamai got the start three years and one day after his historic combined perfect game that ended the 2007 Japan Series. He was not as good this time out, though. Chunichi got its lone run off submariner Shunsuke Watanabe in the third on two singles and a sacrifice fly by Masahiro Araki. Watanabe would allow nothing further in a five-hit, no-walk gem.
In the bottom of the third, Saburo Omura singled in the tying run. In the 4th, Chiba Lotte loaded the bases with two out against Yamai. Rookie Ikuhiro Kiyota cleared the bags with a triple, then Tadahito Iguchi doubled him in for a 5-1 lead. In the 7th, the Marines scored on sac flies by Toshiaki Imae and Kazuya Fukuura to end the scoring.
Game 4: Chunichi even the Series in extra innings
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Marines: Tadahito Iguchi (2)
Chunichi turned to their old-timer, 45-year-old Masahiro Yamamoto, who was pitching in a Japan Series for the fourth different decade. He tossed two shutout innings but was roughed up for three runs in the third. CF Yoshifumi Okada singled, Yamamoto threw a wild pitch, SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka doubled home Okada, then 2B Tadahito Iguchi homered. Those were all the runs the Marines would get today as six relievers would shut them out the remainder of the way.
In the 4th, Chunichi 3B Masahiko Morino tripled off Yuki Karakawa (who was not even born when Yamamoto made his first Series appearance), then LF Kazuhiro Wada doubled and later came home on a sacrifice fly by DH Kei Nomoto. The Dragons tied it in the 5th. C Motonobu Tanishige opened the 5th with a grounder to reliever Shingo Ono, who fell head over heels in an attempt to retrieve it, landing on the ground near home; Tanishige wound up safe at first. Rookie CF Yohei Oshima squared around to bunt but got plunked by Ono, a veteran pitcher with usually good control. SS Masahiro Araki bunted as well, but a botched communication by Chiba Lotte's infielders loaded the bases. 2B Hirokazu Ibata hit into a run-scoring double play and Morino grounded out to end the rally.
Chiba Lotte got runners into scoring position in the 8th, 9th and 10th but did not score. In the 9th, 1B Tae-kyun Kim singled off Takuya Asao and was bunted over. Okada struck out, then Nishioka hit one barely foul; he had been celebrating the potential game-winner before he realized it wasn't fair. He went down swinging and broke his bat on the way back to the bench. Their best chance late came in the tenth, getting two in scoring position with none out against Asao. LF Ikuhiro Kiyota was plunked, then Iguchi hit a fly to right than was badly played by RF Hidenori Kuramoto into a single-and-error. Asao retired cleanup man Saburo Omura on a fly, then walked 3B Toshiaki Imae intentionally. With DH Kazuya Fukuura up, southpaw Akifumi Takahashi relieved. On a full count, he got Fukuura lined to defensive substitute 3B Naomichi Donoue to start a double play.
In the 11th, Oshima tripled over the head of Okada to bring home Kuramoto to give the Dragons their first lead of the day. Then, in the bottom of the 11th, Hitoki Iwase walked PH Ryusuke Minami with two away, but got Nishioka to wrap it up.
Dragons skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai said "The first three games of this series were one-sided affairs and weren't like Japan Series games. But a Japan Series game is supposed to be like this -- an intense and nail-biting one."
Iguchi, Morino and Wada each finished the game with three hits; Morino and Wada also had walks. Imae had two hits and two walks in five trips up.
It was the first time since the 2003 Japan Series that a Japan Series game went into extra innings.
Game 5: The Penn is mightier than the Dragons (especially when backed by 10 runs)
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Marines: Saburo Omura (1)
Dragons: Tony Blanco (2)
Once again, good hitting beat good pitching as the Marines moved within a game of the title.
Chunichi scored first, against Hayden Penn, who only had one regular-season win but would get the victory today. Penn walked CF Yohei Oshima with one out, 3B Masahiko Morino doubled and LF Kazuhiro Wada got a sacrifice fly. The lead did not last long at all. In the bottom of the first, SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka began by grounding to 2B Naomichi Donoue (usually a backup), who made an error. Kenichi Nakata fanned LF Ikuhiro Kiyota but 2B Tadahito Iguchi and RF Saburo Omura both singled. 3B Toshiaki Imae doubled home two, DH Kazuya Fukuura singled in one run and 1B Tae-kyun Kim had the Marines' 5th straight hit, making it 4-1, before Nakata finally got an out.
In the 4th, Nishioka singled, and Omura cracked a 2-run shot into the left field seats. The next inning, Nakata served up three singles in a row, to Kim, C Tomoya Satozaki and CF Yoshifumi Okada. Nishioka's sacrifice fly made it 7-1, then Kiyota had a 2-run single for a 9-1 edge. Chunichi put a dent into the home team's vast lead in the 6th when 1B Tony Blanco doubled in one and Penn was forced from the game.
Nakata was finally yanked after five bloody innings with 13 hits and nine runs (eight earned). Chiba Lotte was not done yet, though. In the 7th, Kim connected to improve to 4-for-4. A wild pitch by Akinobu Shimizu later scored Hisao Heiuchi, who had run for Kim. Blanco hit a 2-run homer off Yuji Yoshimi in the 8th to end the scoring.
In addition to Kim's four hits, Omura finished with three while every Marine starter had at least one in the 15-hit bombardment.
Game 6: There are ties in baseball without Bud Selig
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The longest game in Japan Series history took place as the teams battle for 5 hours and 43 minutes to a 15-inning tie.
It didn't look like a marathon pitching duel at the beginning, when both teams scored in the first. RF Saburo Omura singled home SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (who had led off the game with a double) in the top of the first, but Wei-Yin Chen shut out the Marines for the next six innings. In the bottom of the first, Chunichi got one off Yoshihisa Naruse when SS Masahiro Araki singled, was bunted over, then came home on a double by 3B Masahiko Morino.
The game remained deadlocked until the 6th, when Chunichi 2B Hirokazu Ibata singled and stole second. Naruse walked cleanup man Kazuhiro Wada to get 1B Tony Blanco, 4 for 22 so far on the Series but with 7 RBI. Blanco spoiled that move by doubling off the right-field wall to bring in Ibata. In the 8th, the Marines got the game's last run when rookie LF Ikuhiro Kiyota hit a one-out double off Takuya Asao. Asao retired former major leaguer Tadahito Iguchi but Omura again delivered, taking a slider into left-center for the game-tying hit.
In the 10th, backup Dragons CF Yohei Oshima drew a walk from Yasuhiko Yabuta. Araki popped up a bunt, then Ibata bunted Oshima over. Yabuta threw a wild pitch, putting the potential winning run on third, then Morino walked, but Chunichi's top hitter, Wada, only grounded out.
Iguchi began the 11th with a single, but Omura bunted into a double play. 3B Toshiaki Imae drew a walk. Junichi Kawahara was summoned from the bullpen but allowed a single to 1B Tae-kyun Kim. C Tomoya Satozaki smacked one to left-center, but Oshima made a running back-to-the-plate catch to save his team from elimination.
In the bottom of the 11th, Chunichi loaded the bases, but Araki lined out against Shingo Ono. It was the last major chance either team had - Hitoki Iwase, Maximo Nelson and Yuichi Hisamoto combined to retire the last 12 Marines in order, while Marines relievers Ono and Hiroyuki Kobayashi blanked Chunichi the remainder of the way.
Game 7: Another marathon game before the Marines wrap it up
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The game was similar to yesterday's in that it went extra innings, but this time it was a slugfest, not pitching duel - and it also ended with a dramatic conclusion to end the Series.
2B Tadahito Iguchi doubled in one run off Kazuki Yoshimi in the first, and RF Saburo Omura drove in another on a sacrifice fly. The Chiba Lotte lead didn't survive the inning as Shunsuke Watanabe was not nearly as sharp as in game three. SS Masahiro Araki drew a leadoff walk and CF Yohei Oshima bunted him over. 3B Masahiko Morino singled to make it 2-1. LF Kazuhiro Wada singled, then Watanabe plunked 1B Tony Blanco. RF Kei Nomoto singled in Morino to tie the score, then C Motonobu Tanishige hit a sacrifice fly for a 3-2 edge.
Araki opened the second with a hit, swiped second, then Oshima continued his star turn in the Series with a RBI single. Watanabe was yanked after two, but the Dragons added more runs off reliever Shingo Ono. Nomoto began the third with a single, then Tanishige singled him to third. Ibata grounded to Iguchi at second; it could have been a run-scoring double play but Iguchi held Nomoto at third to put men on the corners with one out. Araki hit a sacrifice fly for a 5-2 lead, then Oshima singled home Tanishige for a 6-2 score.
In the 4th, C Tomoya Satozaki doubled over the head of Oshima (who had robbed him the day prior) and CF Yoshifumi Okada singled him in to close the gap to 6-3. Norifumi Nishimura replaced Ono with Yasuhiko Yabuta in the bottom of the 4th and he tossed two perfect innings.
In the 5th, Junichi Kawahara replaced Yoshimi, who had given up 7 hits and 3 runs in four, but he was even worse. With one away, he gave up a single to lF Ikuhiro Kiyota. Kawahara retired Iguchi but Omura and 3B Toshiaki Imae both singled to make it 6-4. Kawahara plunked 1B Tae-kyun Kim, then Satozaki delivered the big hit he had been denied yesterday, a 2-run, game-tying single.
Chiba Lotte took the lead in the 7th. Imae singled off Maximo Nelson, but Wada's throw in went awry and Toshiaki took second. The former Israel Baseball League hurler then tossed a wild pitch. Former Korea Baseball Organization star Kim then singled through the middle to drive home Imae with the go-ahead run, 7-6.
In the meantime, Tatsuya Uchi was dazzling for the Marines, whiffing seven in three shutout innings from the 6th to the 8th. In the 9th, Chiba Lotte turned the ball over to Hiroyuki Kobayashi, who was eying a trip to the majors the next year. He didn't win himself any praise for what followed, as Wada tripled, then Blanco clubbed a sacrifice fly to tie the game at seven, forcing extra innings for the second straight day.
Kobayashi redeemed himself with a scoreless 10th, and he was followed by Yoshihiro Ito in the 11th. Takuya Asao was also tossing shutout ball, from the 9th through the 11th. In the 12th, though, Asao tired. Imae, who was 4 for 5 today, drew a leadoff walk. Ito bunted Imae over, then Okada tripled him in to give the Marines the Series-winning run.
In the bottom of the 12th, third-year hurler Ito faced off against 39-year-old Tanishige, who flew out to right. Next was 35-year-old Ibata, who went down looking at strike three. Atsushi Fujii stepped in as a pinch-hitter but grounded out to end the Dragons' hopes.
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