The Central League Climax Series gets underway at Nagoya Dome on Saturday with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows going against the host Chunichi Dragons.
Swallows skipper Shigeru Takada has said he will bat left-handed hitting Norichika Aoki--with 16 homers this season and a league-high .400 on-base percentage--in the No. 4 spot.
"He's vital [to our attack]," Takada told reporters on Wednesday. "Do we have anybody else?"
The Swallows do have left-handed hitting Aaron Guiel, who led the club with 27 homers and hit three in 10 games this season at Nagoya Dome. First baseman Jamie D'Antona, a right-handed hitter, was second on the team with 21 homers.
D'Antona, however, has been out of favor for most of the second half, while the skipper has frequently sat Guiel against lefties, of which Chunichi has one of the best: league ERA leader Chen Wei-yin.
Chen is a good bet to pitch one of the first two games. The other sure Chunichi starter will be right-hander Kazuki Yoshimi. His 16 wins tied him for the league lead with Yakult's Shohei Tateyama. Yoshimi's 2.00 ERA was second only to Chen's 1.54.
Tateyama, 8-2 with a 2.31 ERA against the Dragons the past two seasons, is expected to start Game 1 on Saturday with Yakult ace Masanori Ishikawa getting the start on Sunday. Should Game 3 be necessary, the Swallows will probably go with 19-year-old right-hander Yoshinori Sato.
Whoever pitches for Yakult, he will have to contend with an offense with speed at the top and good power from No. 3 man Masahiko Morino, cleanup hitter and CL home run champ Tony Blanco and 29-homer man Kazuhiro Wada in the fifth spot.