The Central League-winning Chunichi Dragons and the Yomiuri Giants were separated by just 8 winning percentage points during the regular season. The difference looked a lot bigger on Thursday.
The Dragons, who cruised in the CLCS final-stage opener with a 5-0 win on Wednesday at Nagoya Dome, seized control of the best-of-seven series by taking a 2-0 lead, thanks to their one-win advantage at the start.
But the Dragons' biggest advantage seems to be playing at their dome, where they stretched their winning streak over the Giants here to 10 games.
Playing every game of the series at home has given the Dragons, who were eliminated from in the second stage of the CLCS in 2008 and '09 at Tokyo Dome, a lot of confidence.
"We play a different style than the Giants, who hit and hit and hit," Dragons MVP candidate Kazuhiro Wada said before Game 3.
"But that's fine. It's working for us. And playing here at home is much different. Last year and the year before we played at Tokyo Dome and this atmosphere is a change from that.
"We're more relaxed and playing our kind of game. You can see the way our pitchers are throwing--they're pitching relaxed."
Chunichi relied heavily on its pitching this season, and Wada, who went deep 37 times this season, admits the lineup has to peck its way to wins.
"We don't scare people and we're different from the Giants in that respect," said Wada, who was 0-for-4 with a walk in the opener.
"We play in a spacious stadium and don't get a lot of homers. We're the kind of team that needs to get a hit or a walk, bunt and put guys in scoring position as much as possible."
Scoring is the name of the game, and the Giants were second in the CL with 711 runs and a run differential of 94. The Dragons, whose run differential was just 18, averaged 3.74 runs a game and their 539 runs were only 18 better than the last-place Yokohama BayStars.
But the Giants were not the only ones to fall victim at the Dragons' dome. Chunichi was 37-13-1 there and 18 games under .500 on the road.
The Dragons were six games better vs Yomiuri in 24 head-to-head meetings, holding the Giants to two or runs or fewer 10 times. Three straight series sweeps here over the Giants set a precedent.
"This year in particular, in the Nagoya Dome with the team that they have on the field, you look at the numbers--we didn't play good here, the Tigers didn't play good here," said Yomiuri reliever Marc Kroon.
Yomiuri All-Star shortstop Hayato Sakamoto was out again for the Giants, missing Game 2 of the CLCS final stage at Nagoya Dome on Thursday.
The 21-year-old, who played in all 144 games for the second time in three seasons and had a career-best 31 homers, reportedly is suffering from back trouble.
The Giants activated utility infielder Hidetoshi Tsuburaya on Thursday.