Soon after the Yomiuri Giants won their 21st Japan Series title they lifted skipper Tatsunori Hara up for his traditional tosses into the air at Sapporo Dome. They looked to raise their game, too.
The Giants blanked the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 2-0 on Saturday to close out the Series in six games. They got the job done this year, but team captain and Series MVP Shinnosuke Abe, who finally earned his second championship, was waving his men forward toward the next objective: Back-to-back titles.
"This my second championship, but the first time I was part of a Japan Series win, it was over in four games, before I even knew what was going on," Abe told The Yomiuri Shimbun. "This time I was the captain and the players' union representative. It's a different perspective and it feels completely different.
"[Next year] we'll be the targeted by the other teams and it's going to be considerably harder to win a second straight championship. But that makes the challenge all the more worth it.
"I want us to work together to win another championship and begin a build up to the Giants' golden age."
Winning it all was the reason the Giants brought back Hara, who guided the club to the title seven years ago, for the 2006 season. It was why they picked up Alex Ramirez and brought in closer Marc Kroon, among other free agents.
But the Giants also developed of lot of their talent and those players came through at the right time.
Tetsuya Matsumoto stole the center field job with his pesky performances at the plate and some stellar defensive plays, including a diving catch in the clincher.
The third-year player started out on the developmental roster and worked his way onto the field. He proved to be a tough out, hitting .304 for the Series.
Wirfin Obispo, a 25-year-old Dominican also made a difference down the stretch in the regular season and in the postseason, winning a Stage 2 Central League Climax Series game and Game 3 in the Series.
The third-year righty signed with the developmental roster and quickly moved up through the Yomiuri system.
It was by chance that the Giants had to use six pitchers in Game 6, but again its system paid off.
Hit-and-miss hurler Tetsuya Utsumi hit on all cylinders in relief. The sixth-year lefty, who came on after Shun Tono took a comebacker off his right wrist, fired 4-2/3 shutout innings against the Fighters.
Later, another pair of homegrown talents, Tetsuya Yamaguchi (third year) and Daisuke Ochi (fourth year) worked kept Nippon Ham off the scoreboard.
Abe, a 13-year veteran, got credit for the Game 5 game-winning homer, but it was Yoshiyuki Kamei's solo blast that set it up.
Kamei batted .261 in the Series but slugged a pair of homers.
All these players came from the Giants' system and all were major contributors as Yomiuri turned its third straight Central League title into a Series championship.