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Rob Smaal

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Seibu squeaks out Asian title with fantastic finish

by Rob Smaal (Nov 17, 2008)

The streak is alive, as far as Japanese clubs winning the Asia Series--but just barely.

The Seibu Lions, who qualified for the final by virtue of a tiebreaker on Saturday, left it late Sunday at Tokyo Dome as they scored a 1-0 sayonara win in the bottom of the ninth over Taiwan's Uni-President Lions.

Tomoaki Sato doubled to left-center off reliever Pan Wei-lun and Yoshihito Ishii motored all home from first to slide in ahead of the relay throw and cap a productive season for the Saitama club.

Ishii, who had drawn a walk from Pan with two out, looked as though he would hold up as he rounded third base, but after a slight pause he put his head down and charged home.

"Our pitchers were doing so well that we wanted to score a run as soon possible," said Sato, who was named series MVP. "In any event, it was a pretty exciting finish.

"A lot of young players carried our team this year, but when the chips were down it was nice to see a couple of us old veterans come through," added the 30-year-old Sato.

Seibu reliever Shinya Okamoto, the fourth pitcher used Sunday by Lions skipper Hisanobu Watanabe, worked a hitless ninth to pick up the win.

"We were finally able to score at the end, but they put out a great team and fought hard all the way," said Watanabe, a former Seibu pitcher who spent the final three years of his career playing in Taiwan, where he was named league MVP in 1999.

"I got reacquainted with many old friends this week and to play against them has been a great experience," added Watanabe, in his first season as Seibu manager.

The Taiwan club blew a chance to get on the board in the top of the eighth. Seibu reliever Koji Onuma walked Tilson Brito and gave up a single to Kao Kuo-ching. After a wild pitch, the runners each moved up 90 feet but with two out and men on second and third, Onuma struck out Chen Lien-hung to preserve the scoreless tie.

Seibu starter Hideaki Wakui lasted 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Wakui, a 17-game winner in 2007 who went 10-11 this season, allowed no runs on four hits while striking out 10.

Carlos Alvarado, a long-time minor-leaguer in the United States, saw action in his third game in the Asia Series as he got the start for the Taiwanese champs. The big Puerto Rican right-hander, who was acquired late in the season by Uni-President and went 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two regular-season appearances for the club, held Seibu to no runs on four hits through six innings Sunday.

The winners picked up a check for 50 million yen for their efforts, while Uni-President took home 30 million yen.

The Asia Series features the league champions from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China. Since the event began in 2005, Japanese clubs have won it each year--Chiba Lotte, Nippon-Ham, Chunichi and now Seibu.


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