Through Saturday's 4-3 win over the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Game 1 of the Japan Series, the Yomiuri Giants had four victories this postseason. Closer Marc Kroon has played a key role in all of them.
Kroon got the save in two of the club's three wins over the Chunichi Dragons in the Climax Series and he nailed down the win in the clincher of that series as well, working a scoreless, hitless ninth in an 8-2 Giants' victory.
On Saturday, Kroon was at it again, earning another save and making it very interesting in the process. As he joked prior to that game, four tension-packed saves in the Japan Series would be nice, but it might also be enough to land him in the hospital recovering from all the stress.
But while the pressure was palpable as Saturday's game wound down, Kroon said he felt an inner calm.
"It was kind of weird because I had this calm about me that is not normal," Kroon said Sunday prior to Game 2. "I always get really nervous and really focused, but last night I felt fine, actually."
Kroon came in for the ninth with his team up 4-2, thanks to a second-inning solo home run by Yoshitomo Tani, a fifth-inning two-run double by Hayato Sakamoto and a seventh-inning RBI single by Lee Seung Yeop.
The first batter Kroon faced was Fighters leadoff-hitter Kensuke Tanaka, who popped up a bunt that fell just out of Kroon's reach for a single. Kroon slammed the turf with his hand in frustration.
He then got Hichori Morimoto to ground out to short, but Tanaka moved up 90 feet on the play, prompting a meeting of minds on the mound.
Atsunori Inaba then stepped into the batter's box representing the potential tying run. With the rabid home crowd firmly behind their man, Kroon got Inaba to fly out to right field, but once again the runner advanced, this time moving to third.
"I'd never seen anything like that in my life," Kroon said, referring to the Fighters fans jumping up and down in unison in what has become know as the "Inaba Jump." "When Inaba came up this place started going crazy. My eyes were bouncing up and down."
Shinji Takahashi then smoked an RBI double off the wall in center, making it a one-run game and bringing the hot-hitting Terrmel Sledge to the plate.
Sledge worked the count full and fouled off a few pitches to keep his at-bat alive before drawing a walk.
"They're so good with runners in scoring position," Kroon said. "That's why I threw Sledge seven straight forkballs. "He's obviously their hottest batter right now."
With two out, down a run with men on first and second, Kroon got out of the jam when he got Eiichi Koyano looking at a forkball for a called third strike.