So the day job kept me busy this week and I didn’t completely dissect these games or even take great notes, but I do have a few observations to share on the Nagoya leg of this year’s Nippon Series journey.
Game 3 – Softbank wins, 4-2:
- Moving Tadashi Settsu into the rotation was probably the smartest move Softbank made this season. He is, simply put, a good pitcher. He throws strikes and always seems to make the right pitch.
- Chunichi starter Maximo Nelson, on the other hand…. has a good arm but lacks Settsu’s polish. in Game three he seemed a little rough and let himself get into a lot of hitter’s counts.
- Hitoki Tamura, who I ruthlessly criticized for his lackluster at bats in games one and two, went 3-4 with a home run. So did catcher Toru Hosokawa.
- One of the fans in Softbank’s ouen-dan section kind of looked like Nagisa Arakaki.
- Softbank manager Koji Akiyama took it easy on the bunting in game three and was rewarded with 12 hits from his lineup, nine at the expense of Nelson.
- After taking losses in games one and two, Softbank closer Takahiro Mahara was benched in favor of Brian Falkenborg. Falkenborg spared Akiyama’s blood pressure by recording a save.
Game 4 – Softbank wins, 2-1:
- I’ll have to admit that while I watched this game, I didn’t play particularly close attention to it. Michael Westbay has a much better recap.
- Softbank got all the scoring they needed in the first. After allowing Softbank to string together a couple of singles and score a run, Chunichi starter Yudai Kawai induced a double play ball, but shortstop Masahiro Araki held on to his throw for too long and it skipped wide of first baseman Tony Blanco. This allowed Softbank’s second run to score and that was all they would need.
- The hero for Softbank was corkscrewing lefty reliever Masahiko Morifuku, who bailed starter DJ Houlton out of a no-out, bases loaded jam in the 6th. Morifuku is a lot of fun to watch.
- Falky recorded a six-out save in this one.
Game 5 – Softbank wins, 5-0:
- Wei Yin Chen showed better velocity in Game 5 than he did in the series opener, but overall wasn’t nearly as good. He wasn’t particularly sharp with his breaking stuff and didn’t even throw it much, and worked up in the zone with his fastball. Overall he was a lot more hittable. He got singled to death in the 7th and 8th innings, but he was throwing pitches that Softbank’s hitters could make contact with.
- Possibly the head-scratching-est move of the Series was made by Ochicai in the 8th. With the bases loaded and none out, Ochiai pulled Chen in favor of reliever Junichi Kawahara. Removing Chen was the right move, why bring in retread Kawahara instead of bullpen ace Takuya Asao? Chunichi was down 2-0 at that point, but still. Kawahara was on the mound for Softbank’s next three runs, all charged to Chen.
- Motonobu Tanishige finished the game 0-4 and has still gotten hit safely in the Nippon Series.
- Masaaki Koike left the game in the top of the fourth, after making a great, wall-crashing catch on a long fly ball off the bat of Nobuhiro Matsuda.
- Softbank starter Hiroki Yamada comes close to violating NPB’s ban on two-stage deliveries with his double clutch windup. I don’t think I had previously seen him pitch this year. He wasn’t totally consistent with the double-clutch, but he did manage to keep Chunichi’s lineup quiet through six innings of work.
- The one bullet Yamada dodged was in 6th, when he surrendered a double to Araki and Kazuhiro Ibata pulled a hard line drive just foul down the third base line before bouncing out to Kawasaki at shortstop.
- Alex Cabrera looked awful yet again as a pinch hitter in the 7th.
- Settsu pitched an inning of relief in the 8th, after having started game three, and with a 5-0 lead Akiyama let Mahara mop up the 9th.