TOKOROZAWA, Saitama--It wasn't a dangerous pitch, but Hiroyuki Nakajima's response helped ignite the Seibu Lions to a 5-0 Game 4 victory, the most one-sided game yet in the Japan Series.
Trailing by a run in the fourth, Giants starter Seth Greisinger's 1-2 inside fastball caught the Saitama Seibu No. 3 hitter above the elbow, giving the Lions a leadoff runner. Both benches emptied as the pitcher and batter had a cross-cultural exchange.
When things settled down, Greisinger's next pitch, an inside fastball, got a little too much of the plate and way too much of Takeya Nakamura's bat. The Lions' cleanup hitter drove it high and just fair down the line for a two-run homer and a 3-0 Lions lead.
With second-year Lions righty Takayuki Kishi cruising en route to a 10-strikeout shutout in his Series debut, the runs were huge.
"I was near Nakajima, and I could understand how he felt, but I calmed down and went to the plate," Nakamura said.
Nakajima, who was hit for the seventh time in his last 78 trips to the plate against the Giants, said Greisinger started it by shouting at him. The pitcher said the Lions' shortstop created the incident by not going to first.
"I know he didn't mean it, but at that instant I was angry," he told The Daily Yomiuri on Thursday prior to Game 5. "But I didn't want to just let it pass, either."
The pitcher was equally annoyed.
"I said, "What are you looking at? Take your base,'" Greisinger said afterward. "I hit him on the arm. It didn't even hurt. He didn't say anything until after they were holding him back."
Nakajima said there was a belief among the Lions that Greisinger doesn't pitch well when aggravated. So while Nakajima was angry, he was also able to apply some big game gamesmanship.
"I know he's not the kind of guy that goes after hitters," Nakajima said. "But I wanted to make a stand there, if the only thing it did was get him to stay more in the strike zone.
"Although some are calling it my 'aggravation tactic,' it was more a way of blowing off my own steam than anything else."
HANDS TO THE FACE: Home run celebrations are spicing up the game.
Alex Ramirez is among a number of players who choreograph their dance steps after longballs, but Seibu's Yasuyuki Kataoka and Takeya "Mr. Second Helping" Nakamura have a unique hand-to-face celebration.
Kataoka grabs the heavy hitter by the cheeks and gives him a strong shake.
"We started doing it during the season," Kataoka said. "It doesn't have a name."
A suggestion: "The Big Squeeze."