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Watanabe adjusted to wind to blow away Dragons

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Watanabe adjusted to wind to blow away Dragons

by Jim Allen (Nov 4, 2010)

Lotte's Shunsuke Watanabe has learned to take advantage of his home park's unique conditions. That helped him stay perfect in the Japan Series.

The submarine right-hander notched his second complete-game victory at Chiba Marine Stadium in Japan Series action when he baffled the Chunichi Dragons over nine innings in a 7-1 Marines victory on Tuesday night.

"It's just luck," he said after his 97-pitch five-hitter. "I'm not the kind of pitcher who is going to overpower you, so I need things to go my way."

Normally, the wind at Chiba Marine goes his way, blowing in from the outfield roof and then reversing course into a ground-level jet stream. This allows Watanabe to throw his 85-kph curve into a stiff headwind, which gives it unpredictable and sizable break.

Catcher Tomoya Satozaki says Watanabe's curve becomes a completely different pitch in Chiba and, prevailing winds allowing, he'll call for it often.

But on Tuesday, the wind proved harder to read than Watanabe's underhanded delivery. "The wind was stopping and starting, blowing this way and that," Watanabe said. "It was very busy."

As a result the Marines battery featured Watanabe's sinker and threw 14 curves for show.

"We were expecting curves," Dragons slugger Tony Blanco said. "But what we saw was mostly sinkers."

The 34-year-old Watanabe allowed the Dragons to score the first run, but managed to put the brakes on them after that.

"I managed to adjust," he said. "I gave up a run and was in a jam. I was satisfied I allowed just a run there. I figured things could turn around."

Watanabe managed to stop the bleeding thanks to a good catch in left field by the Marines offensive hero of the game, rookie Ikuhiro Kiyota.

"When I got out of the inning, I thought 'All right!'"

Asked if his unusual style would put the Central Leaguers in a funk for the remainder of the Series, Watanabe said, "I don't really know, I can only hope.

"Hopefully, we'll finish the Series here. On the other hand, I barely went through their order three times, so I think I have some more things to show them. I also only threw 97 pitches, so I think it would be easy to prepare for another start."

In 2005, Watanabe threw a four-hit shutout in Game 2 of the Marines' sweep of the Hanshin Tigers.

Japan Series Notebook

--With the DH being used in the PL park, the Marines were able to employ the hitter with the best postseason track record on either roster, Kazuya Fukuura.

The Marines DH went 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI on Tuesday--only to see his career postseason average drop to .373 (31-for-83).

"It [the average] is just luck," he said. "But the postseason is kind of special."

--Tuesday's game at Marine Stadium was Lotte's first since Oct. 1, when they won their final game of the season to clinch the PL's final playoff spot.

--The Marines handed Daisuke Yamai his first defeat in three Series starts. The right-hander hurled eight perfect innings to win the 2007 Series clincher. He also won his debut in 2004, when he threw six scoreless innings as a surprise starter in Game 4.

--Kiyota, who tied Game 1 at Nagoya Dome with a solo homer, improved to 4-for-11 in the Series. His triple made him the first rookie to have a Series game-winning RBI since the Seibu Lions' Kazuhiro Kiyohara in 1986, the year Kiyota was born.

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