Stage 2 of the Central League Climax Series is looking like an annual event with the working title, "Enter the Dragons."
For the third consecutive year, the Chunichi Dragons come to Tokyo Dome to take on the Yomiuri Giants in the CLCS, the winner advancing to the Japan Series.
Game 1 of the best-of-six series, in which the Giants start with a one-game advantage, is set for 6 p.m. at the dome.
The teams have split the previous CLCS matchups, but all signs point to three-time CL-winning Yomiuri continuing its regular-season domination, in which it manhandled Chunichi, winning 16 of 24 meetings.
Much of the damage was caused by Yomiuri cleanup man Alex Ramirez, an MVP candidate who bludgeoned the second-place Dragons, batting .468 with 10 homers and 25 RBIs.
"I did pretty good this year against Chunichi--I probably did the best against them any other team in the whole Central League," Ramirez said at a Tuesday workout at the dome.
"It just happened to be that I did good against that team, but in a series, you don't know what's going to happen. It's a totally different ballgame now," said Ramirez, who last played in Yomiuri's regular-season finale on Oct. 12.
The Giants played practice games in Miyazaki, their spring training ground, to stay game-ready during the layoff before the second stage.
"We have so many [days] that we haven't played against a team and we don't know how we're going to start," said Ramirez, who was 20-for-46 with six homers against Chunichi at Tokyo Dome this season. "I'm going to try to do my best to at least stay focused."
The Giants stumbled in Game 1 last year before winning Game 2, tying Game 3 and clinching in Game 4. Right-hander Dicky Gonzalez, who was 8-0 at the dome and 4-0 against the Dragons this year, said the wiggle room with the one-game advantage is no reason to relax in the series opener.
"It's very important to win tomorrow," Gonzalez said. "If we win, it's going to be 2-0 and they have to come back and win four games, so it's very important."
The 30-year-old said he will make adjustments in the game when necessary.
"I'm going to try to do the same thing, I don't want to change my style," the Puerto Rican said.
Yomiuri catcher Shinnosuke Abe said he figured the Dragons would make it through the first round.
"It's exactly who I expected to see here," said Abe, who was hurt last year and didn't play in the postseason until the Giants had reached the Series.
"The team atmosphere is great, I believe everyone knows what they have to do and we'll see tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Chunichi skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai decided to rest his club and work out Tuesday at Nagoya Dome before traveling to Tokyo. The team wasn't available for comment at Tokyo Dome, but Ochiai said Monday after his Dragons downed Yakult 7-4 in Game 3 of the first stage that his club was in it to win it all.
"That's the goal of every manager in Japan," he said.