2020 Japan Series
The 2020 Japan Series is the 71st match-up of the champions of the Central League and Pacific League, Japan's top two circuits. The three-time defending champion Softbank Hawks won their third straight Series as the PL tied the CL at 35 titles apiece. It was a rematch of the 2019 Japan Series as they faced the Yomiuri Giants. As in 2019, it ended with a Softbank sweep. Attendance was limited somewhat and cheering was prohibited due to COVID-19 precautions.
Softbank had finished an easy first in the 2020 Pacific League under manager Kimiyasu Kudoh. They scored 531 runs while allowing 389; they were second in the PL in runs and easily led in ERA (2.92, .89 ahead of the runner-up). They beat the Chiba Lotte Marines 2 games to 0. Yuki Yanagita (.342/.449/.623, 29 HR, 90 R, 84 BB) starred again, leading the PL in OPS and runs while Ukyo Shuto (.270/.325/.352) stole 50 bases in 56 tries. The strong rotation included pitching Triple Crown winner Kodai Senga (11-6, 2.16), Nao Higashihama (9-2, 2.34) and Shuta Ishikawa (11-3, 2.42), while the bullpen featured Liván Moinelo (2-3, Sv, 1.69, 77 K in 48 IP), Keisuke Izumi (0-1, 2.08), Shinya Kayama (3-1, 2.10) and Yuito Mori (1-1, 32 Sv, 2.28).
Yomiuri had finished first in the CL under skipper Tatsunori Hara, leading the CL in both runs (528) and fewest runs allowed (416). The team's big three again were Yoshihiro Maru (.283/.373/.553, 27 HR), Kazuma Okamoto (.276/.362/.548, a league-high 31 HR and 97 RBI) and Hayato Sakamoto (.289/.379/.501, 28 2B). Long-time ace Tomoyuki Sugano (14-2, 2.04) was 3rd in the CL in ERA while Shosei Togo was 9-6, 2.76. The bullpen was Kota Nakagawa (2-1, 6 Sv, 1.00), Yuhei Takanashi (1-1, 2 Sv, 1.93), Kan Otake (1-2, 1.93) and Rubby De La Rosa (2-0, 17 Sv, 2.35).
|Fukuoka Softbank Hawks||0||2||0||0||0||2||0||1||0||5||8||0|
Hawks: Ryoya Kurihara
SoftBank won its record ninth straight Japan Series game, as Senga threw seven shutout innings (3 H, 3 BB, 6 K) to outduel fellow ace Sugano. The Hawks went ahead in the second when LF Yurisbel Gracial singled and RF Ryoya Kurihara smacked a two-run shot. In the 6th, Sugano plunked CF Yanagita and Gracial singled. Kurihara doubled them both in; he finished the day 3-for-3 with a walk, two doubles, the homer and four RBI.
The Hawks got insurance in the 8th. 2B Ukyo Shuto walked and scored on a hit by 1B Akira Nakamura to make it 5-0. Yomiuri avoided a shutout by tacking on one in the 9th. 3B Okamoto drew a walk from Mori and CF Maru got a hit. With one out, Mori plunked 1B Hiroyuki Nakajima. LF Zelous Wheeler's sacrifice fly brought in Okamoto but Mori retired PH Shunta Tanaka to end it. The game was preceded by a round of applause of health care workers battling COVID-19.
|Fukuoka Softbank Hawks||3||1||2||0||1||0||4||0||2||13||15||0|
Giants: Zelous Wheeler
SoftBank continued its historic run of Series victories. Their pitching once again contained Yomiuri's potent offense, while they got plenty of support today. They got all the offense they needed in the first. 2B Keizo Kawashima drew a one-out walk from Nobutaka Imamura then CF Yanagita got a hit, as did LF Gracial and RF Kurihara. DH Despaigne drove in a run on an out, making it 3-0. C Takuya Kai added a solo shot in the second and Imamura did not last through the frame.
In the 3rd, reigning Series MVP Gracial went deep off Shosei Togo with Yanagita aboard to make it 6-0. Yomiuri got their only offense in the 5th when LF Wheeler hit a two-run shot off Ishikawa, scoring DH Tanaka. In the 7th, Despaigne hit a grand slam off Yohei Kagiya for the first Series grand slam in SoftBank annals. That also gave him a tie for the Series record with 6 RBI in a game; he did not get a chance to break the mark as Yuya Hasegawa batted for him in the 9th; with the game well in hand, the Hawks were removing many of their regulars.
|Fukuoka Softbank Hawks||0||0||2||0||0||0||2||0||-||4||8||2|
Hawks: Akira Nakamura
As if the Hawks had not been dominant enough, they nearly made history with the second Japan Series no-hitter, 13 years after Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase did it. Matt Moore got it going with seven no-hit frames (5 K, 2 BB). Moinelo fanned the side in the 8th but walked one and hit one. In the 9th, Mori got the first two outs before CF Maru avoided the no-hit bid with.
The Hawks got the offense they needed in the third. 2B Shuto doubled off Angel Sanchez and 1B Nakamura (no stranger to big Japan Series homers, though not otherwise noted as a slugger) went deep with the winning hit. They got some insurance in the 7th. 3B Nobuhiro Matsuda singled off Sanchez and C Kai bunted him over. Yuhei Takanashi relieved and plunked Shuto. Nakamura kept it going with a RBI single then LF Gracial added a RBI single later in the frame.
|Fukuoka Softbank Hawks||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||-||4||5||0|
The Hawks became the first team to sweep back-to-back Japan Series, as their pitchers once again stifled the Yomiuri attack, though not quite as completely as in Game 3. Softbank turned to last year's Game 4 clincher, 39-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada, but he did not make it past the second. Yomiuri got their only lead of the Series in the top of the first when RF Akihiro Wakabayashi and SS Sakamoto hit back-to-back doubles; the team allowed only four hits after that and six relievers would team up on 7 shutout innings of relief.
In the bottom of the first, 1B Nakamura singled off Seishu Hatake with one out and CF Yanagita hit the game-winning, two-run homer. They got insurance in the second when SS Taisei Makihara singled with one out and C Kai went deep. Four Giants relievers would pitch shutout ball for the last 7 1/3 innings but the damage had been done, given how well Softbank corralled the Giant bats.
Game 1 and 2 hero Kurihara won Series MVP, while Togo wins the Fighting Spirit Award as Yomiuri's top player.
|Nippon Professional Baseball's Nippon Series
1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959