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Winning Game 1 boosts title chances

by Jim Allen (Oct 31, 2010)

In a country where scoring one run in the first inning is considered a decisive blow and Opening Day of a 144-game season is the focus of attention--the time to be prepared--winning Game 1 of the Japan Series should be a big deal.

"It's a short championship series, so winning the first one is critical," Chiba Lotte Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura said Friday.

In the first 60 Series, the opener has gone to the eventual champion 38 times, the Series loser has won 20 Game 1s and there have been two ties.

Yet, Dragons catcher Motonobu Tanishige wasn't giving Game 1 special billing.

"The first game isn't any more important than the others," Tanishige, a four-time Series veteran. "They're all important.

"It's better to score in the first inning of a game than not. The point is not to fall way behind. Teams can come from behind. In the same way, you can win the first game of the Series and lose four straight."

Tanishige knows about that. In the Dragons' last two series appearances (in 2006 when they lost and '07 when they won), the home team won Game 1 but crashed out in five games.

On Friday, Chunichi manager Hiromitsu Ochiai was questioned about the home field advantage.

"I haven't thought about it," he said.

When asked what it meant to have Game 1 at home, Ochiai had the same answer.

"We would do well not to dwell on the potential benefits of the home-field edge in the Series. If it exists, it hasn't helped much."

The team with the home-field advantage is 24-34. In two Series, there was no home field to speak of. The first Series, in 1950, was played in six stadiums around the country, while the 1982 Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters shared Korakuen Stadium and the teams switched locker rooms.

The Dragons' fate has been to play mostly in even-numbered years, when the Central League team hosts Game 1. They won in 1954, but lost in '72, '82 and '88 despite an ostensible home-field edge. Chunichi lost at home after splitting the first two games of the '99 Series on the road.

The last team to win a Series it started at home was the 2005 Marines.

Blanco mans up

Dragons first baseman Tony Blanco is still suffering the effects of a finger he jammed on the bases in September.

"It's hard to concentrate. I have to compromise," said Blanco, who last played for a championship team in 2004 with the Licey Tigers in the Dominican Republic. "I take a [pain] pill and play.

"It's a man's job. It hurts but you've got to do your job."


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