2009 Japan Series
The 2009 Japan Series was the 60th match-up of the champions of the Central League and Pacific League, Japan's top two circuits. It was the 21st Series won by the Yomiuri Giants, extending their record for most titles. The MVP Award went to Yomiuri catcher Shinnosuke Abe, who drove in the winning runs in the last two games. The Fighting Spirit Award (MVP of the losing team) went to Nippon Ham first baseman Shinji Takahashi.
Nippon Ham Fighters
The Nippon Ham Fighters make their third Series appearance in the past four years, having won their first title in 2006 before falling short in 2007. They scored a Pacific League-best 689 runs, thanks to a circuit-leading .343 OBP. They also allowed the fewest runs, 550, with a league-best 3.65 ERA. The Fighters easily dispatched their playoff opponent, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, 4 games to 1.
Their offense was relatively balanced, with the two biggest boppers being outfielders Atsunori Inaba (.300/.391/.492, 37 2B) and Terrmel Sledge (.266/.359/.529, 27 HR). The ace of the staff once again was PL ERA leader Yu Darvish (15-5, 1.73) with Tomoya Yagi (9-3, 2.88) their #2 starter. Hisashi Takeda (3-0, 34 Sv, 1.20) and Naoki Miyanishi (7-2, 2.89) were their top two relievers.
They are managed by Masataka Nashida.
The Giants are playing in their record 32nd Japan Series. After winning the CL title by a wide margin, they easily dispatched the Chunichi Dragons in the playoffs, 4 games to 1. They are guided by Tatsunori Hara. They led the Central League in 2009 in both runs (650) and fewest runs allowed (493). They hit a league-best 182 homers and led in ERA (2.94).
Key hitters included C Shinnosuke Abe (.293/.357/.587, 32 HR, the slugging leader), 3B Michihiro Ogasawara (.309/.384/.543, 31 HR, 107 RBI), LF Alex Ramirez (.322/.347/.544, 31 HR, 103 RBI, the batting champion), RF Yoshiyuki Kamei (.294/.354/.510, 25 HR) and OF Yoshitomo Tani (.331/.383/.533).
They had a strong front four starting staff of Dicky Gonzalez (15-2, 2.11), Hisanori Takahashi (10-6, 2.94), Tetsuya Utsumi (9-11, 2.96) and Seth Greisinger (13-6, 3.47). The bullpen featured several excellent relievers in closer Marc Kroon (1-3, 27 Sv, 1.26), 2008 Rookie of the Year Tetsuya Yamaguchi (9-1, 4 Sv, 1.27) and veteran Kiyoshi Toyoda (2-2, Sv, 1.99).
Game 1: To the wire in the opener
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Giants: Yoshitomo Tani (1)
Fighters: Terrmel Sledge (1)
Veteran LF Yoshitomo Tani began the Series's scoring with a second-inning solo homer off Masaru Takeda but the Fighters quickled tied it in the bottom of the frame when DH Terrmel Sledge homered against Dicky Gonzalez.
Takeda and Gonzalez remained even at one through four innings. In the fifth, Tani began with a single and C Shinnosuke Abe singled as well. After two outs, young SS Hayato Sakamoto cracked a double off the wall in left field to score both runners for a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom of the 6th, Tomohiro Nioka, a former Giant (Sakamoto's predecessor) hada pinch-hit RBI single to close the gap to 3-2. It was the last run Gonzalez allowed; he had given up 9 hits but just the two scores in 5 1/3 IP.
Yomiuri got some insurance in the 7th when PH Seung-yeop Lee singled in one. In the 9th, Marc Kroon ran into trouble, allowing a RBI double to 1B Shinji Takahashi. He escaped the jam by fanning 3B Eiichi Koyano to get the save.
Nippon Ham stranded 12 in the loss. Tani finished 3 for 4 with 3 runs.
Game 2: Darvish shows he is healthy
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Giants: Yoshiyuki Kamei (1)
Fighters: Atsunori Inaba (1)
Nippon Ham got a surprise start from ace Yu Darvish. Darvish had not pitched since September 20 due to back problems, but the 2006 and 2007 Series star returned with an excellent outing to even the Series.
Darvish was not throwing his usual fastball, relying more on off-speed pitches. He had come in concerned about whether his control was still present - "I didn't know if I could throw strikes. That was a major concern." He would walk none and fan 7 in six innings, giving up 7 hits but only 2 runs.
In the third, Nippon Ham took the lead when RF Atsunori Inaba hit a two-out solo homer on a slider from Tetsuya Utsumi. That started a strong spurt. 1B Shinji Takahashi followed with a hit and came home on a single by DH Terrmel Sledge. 3B Eiichi Koyano got a hit, then CF Yoshio Itoi doubled both men home for a 4-0 lead, chasing Utsumi, who had given up 8 hits in 2 2/3 IP. The Giants bullpen shut out the Fighters from there, but they needed no more.
In the 4th, Yomiuri closed within two on a two-run shot by RF Yoshiyuki Kamei off the left-field foul pole. The Giants almost went ahead in the fifth, loading the bases against Darvish with two away. Up came longtime Nippon Ham star Michihiro Ogasawara, but Darvish got him to strike out.
Itoi finished the day 3 for 4.
Game 3: Giants reach a century milestone
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Game 3 was a slugfest, with six players going deep, all with solo shots. Yomiuri got the win, their 100th in the history of the Japan Series. The first pitch was thrown out by former US president George W. Bush.
In the first, Nippon Ham RF Atsunori Inaba hit a 2-out home run off Wirfin Obispo and the Fighters got another blast in the second from 3B Eiichi Koyano. Yomiuri quickly tied it in the bottom of the second when 1B Seung-yeop Lee and C Shinnosuke Abe belted back-to-back homers.
In the third, Yomiuri went ahead on a homer by 3B Michihiro Ogasawara. The Fighters tied it once more in the fifth when 2B Kensuke Tanaka, not a power threat usually (3 homers in the regular season), also took Obispo yard. It was the last run Obispo allowed in a 6-inning outing, fanning six.
Yomiuri took the lead for good in the home half of the fifth. With two outs, SS Hayato Sakamoto walked. CF Tetsuya Matsumoto then delivered a hit. Up came Ogasawara, the former Fighters star. He delivered against his former team for the second time of the day, with a 2-run double off the left-center field wall for a 5-3 lead.
The Fighters made it a one-run game in the 8th against 2008 CL Rookie of the Year Tetsuya Yamaguchi, when Tanaka scored on an error by Lee. In the bottom of the 8th, Abe hit a 2-run single for Yomiuri to give his club a 7-4 edge. Marc Kroon allowed one baserunner in the 9th but registered his second save as Yomiuri took a 2-1 Series lead.
Game 4: Squared up again
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Fighters: Shinji Takahashi (1)
Giants: Alex Ramirez (1)
The corner infielders did a lot of damage for Nippon Ham, driving in seven runs, to bring them back into the Series, knotting it at two.
After two scoreless innings, Nippon Ham broke through in the third. 2B Kensuke Tanaka and CF Hichori Morimoto singled with one out, then RF Atsunori Inaba walked. Cleanup hitter and first baseman Shinji Takahashi took Hisanori Takahashi's first pitch into left field for a 2-run single. 3B Eiichi Koyano doubled home two more and Nippon Ham led, 4-0. Yomiuri got back one run in the bottom of the third but that's all they scored in five innings against Tomoya Yagi.
Takahashi homered in the fifth for a 5-1 lead for Nippon Ham. Two innings later, a squeeze bunt from Morimoto made it 6-1. In the 8th, Koyano had a 2-run single and the Fighters were in front by a 8-1 margin.
Takahashi (3 RBI) and Koyano (4 RBI) each had 3 hits, as did Yomiuri CF Tetsuya Matsumoto.
Game 5: Bottom of the 9th heroics
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Fighters: Shinji Takahashi (2)
Yomiuri was basking in the heroics of former Giants star Hideki Matsui, who had driven in six runs in game six of the 2009 Japan Series to give his team the title, winning World Series MVP honors in the process. They then turned in some heroics of their own to increase their chances of a Series title.
Nippon Ham got on the board in the second. LF Terrmel Sledge hit into an error by 2B Shigeyuki Furuki, then 3B Eiichi Koyano singled. SS Tomohiro Nioka hit into a force to put men on the corners. Dicky Gonzalez fanned C Shota Ono to bring up pitcher Shugo Fujii. As the Pacific League uses a DH, Fujii had only gotten three at-bats all year, during interleague play, collecting one hit. The unusual batsmen grounded to 3B Michihiro Ogasawara, who made an error to score Sledge.
From there, Fujii and Gonzalez traded goose eggs. Gonzalez left after 7 with the 1-0 deficit intact, while Fujii exited after 7 as well, with a 4-hit shutout in progress.
Nippon Ham turned to closer Hisashi Takeda, who had a 1.20 ERA in the regular season and had not lost a game. Today, he was not at his best. His first opponent was 1B Yoshiyuki Kamei, who had been 3 for 18 in the Series to that point. Kamei took the first pitch he saw and smacked it for a long shot to right field and a tie score. Takeda retired RF Yoshitomo Tani, bringing up catcher and team captain Shinnosuke Abe. The Giants backstop came through with another home run to right, giving Yomiuri a dramatic 3-2 win.
Game 6: Six pitchers combine on a shutout to end it
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Nippon Ham decided to save Yu Darvish, their ace, for game 7 should they win here. They sent game one starter Masaru Takeda to the hill while Yomiuri went to Shun Tono, usually a reliever, the first of six hurlers they would send out today.
Tono didn't even survive the first inning. With two away and one on, 1B Shinji Takahashi lined one off Tono's right wrist. Tono collapsed in pain and had to be removed from the contest. He was replaced by Tetsuya Utsumi, who had struggled in game two. Utsumi began by retiring DH Terrmel Sledge to end the inning. He would toss shutout ball for the next 4 1/3 innings.
In the second inning, Yomiuri RF Yoshiyuki Kamei hit a one-out double to the gap. C Shinnosuke Abe doubled him in for a 1-0 lead. They scored again in the 6th. That run was created by a two-out single by CF Tetsuya Matsumoto, a single by 3B Michihiro Ogasawara and an error by former Gold Glove outfielder Atsunori Inaba.
Nippon Ham kept mounting challenges but failing to score. They would get runners on in every inning, but strand 13 players on base while getting shut out. After Utsumi left, Kiyoshi Toyoda pitched 2/3 of an inning. Tetsuya Yamaguchi worked the 7th. In the 8th, Daisuke Ochi retired two batters but put two aboard. Marc Kroon came on to face PH Tomochika Tsuboi, who grounded out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the 9th, SS Tomohiro Nioka doubled. 2B Kensuke Tanaka was retired, but PH Naoto Inada walked to put the potential tying run aboard. Up came Inaba, the #3 hitter and the 2006 Japan Series MVP. Kroon whiffed him for out number two. Takahashi strode to the plate as the cleanup threat who had gone 2 for 4 so far on the day. Kroon struck him out to clinch the title for the Giants.
Kroon said "This is the ultimate to pitch in the last game and be on the mound and strike out the No. 4 batter. It doesn't get better than that."
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