2012 Japan Series
The 2012 Japan Series was the 63rd match-up of the champions of the Central League and Pacific League, Japan's top two circuits. The Series MVP was Yomiuri Giants pitcher Tetsuya Utsumi, who won Game One with 7 shutout innings of two-hit ball then won game 5 with 2 runs in 8 innings.
The Yomiuri Giants had another big year, with catcher Shinnosuke Abe (.340/.429/.565) nearly winning a Triple Crown. Abe led the 2012 Central League in average and RBI (104) while finishing second in home runs (27). SS Hayato Sakamoto (.311/.359/.456, 35 2B, 87 R) was second in average and OF Hisayoshi Chono (.301/.382/.432, 14 HR, 20 SB) was a multi-dimensional threat. The staff was strong, with Tetsuya Utsumi (15-6, 1.98) third in the CL in ERA and Toshiya Sugiuchi (12-4, 2.04) 4th. D.J. Houlton (12-8, 2.45) also was a key starter. The bullpen was nearly unhittable, with stellar work from Kentaro Nishimura (3-2, 32 Sv, 1.14, 41 H in 71 1/3 IP), Scott Mathieson (2-0, 10 Sv, 1.71, 30 H in 42 IP), Tetsuya Yamaguchi (3-2, 5 Sv, 0.84, 47 H in 75 1/3 IP) and Satoshi Fukuda (8-1, 1.61, 32 H in 61 2/3 IP). They were managed by Tatsunori Hara.
Nippon Ham Fighters
The Nippon Ham Fighters were the top Pacific League team, guided by rookie skipper Hideki Kuriyama. Their top hitters were OF Yoshio Itoi (.304/.404/.410, the league leader in OBP) and OF Atsunori Inaba (.290/.342/.421) while OF Sho Nakata (.239/.307/.420, 24 HR, 77 RBI) was one of the league's top sluggers. Mitsuo Yoshikawa (14-5, 1.71) led the league in ERA and was complimented by Masaru Takeda (11-7, 2.36), Brian Wolfe (10-9, 2.66), Hisashi Takeda (4-4, 32 Sv, 2.32), Hirotoshi Masui (5-5, 7 Sv, 2.76) and Naoki Miyanishi (2-2, 2.25).
Game 1: The Giants deal an ace
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Fighters: Dai-Kang Yang (1)
Giants: John Bowker (1)
Giants ace Tetsuya Utsumi sure looked like one today, allowing only two hits and no walks in 7 innings, while fanning eight, for an easy win. Fighters ace Mitsuo Yoshikawa matched him for three innings but folded in the 4th. SS Hayato Sakamoto led off that frame with a double and C Shinnosuke Abe singled him in. After LF Yoshinobu Takahashi and 3B Shuichi Murata were retired, RF Kenji Yano came through with a RBI single. 1B John Bowker, who had only hit 3 homers in the regular season, then smacked a 3-run homer into the right field seats for a 4-0 lead.
In the 5th, Yomiuri padded their lead against Dustin Molleken. Abe doubled in one run and Takahashi singled in another for a 6-0 lead. Bowker came up with the bases loaded and two outs, but struck out against Toshiharu Moriuchi. In the 7th, Yomiuri kept on rolling off Naoki Miyanishi. They loaded the bases with two outs and Bowker came through with a two-run double. The Giants maintained the 8-0 lead until the top of the 9th, when Nippon Ham CF Dai-Kang Yang ended the shutout with a solo homer off Dicky Gonzalez.
Game 2: Sawamura pitches like a Sawamura winner
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Giants: Hisayoshi Chono (1)
The second game of the Series was a superb pitching duel between Nippon Ham's Masaru Takeda (10 K, 4 H, 0 BB in 6 IP) and Yomiuri's Hirokazu Sawamura (7 K, 3 H, 0 BB in 7 IP). 2011 Central League Rookie of the Year Award winner Sawamura plunked both CF Dai-Kang Yang and LF Sho Nakata in the first but escaped further harm by retiring 1B Atsunori Inaba on an inning-ending grounder. Yomiuri CF Hisayoshi Chono provided all the game's offense when he led off the bottom of the first with a homer. Nippon Ham got a chance in the 9th. With two away, Inaba singled off Tetsuya Yamaguchi and 3B Eiichi Koyano followed with a single to put men on the corners. Scott Mathieson was summoned from the bullpen and retired pinch-hitter Tomohiro Nioka (a former Giant) on a fly to right to end it.
Game 3: The home team wins again
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Fighters: Atsunori Inaba (1)
Nippon Ham got the home crowd something to cheer about with their first win of the Series after dropping two on the road. Veteran DH Atsunori Inaba got things going in the second with a solo homer off D.J. Houlton. With two outs, the bottom third of the order added another run on a walk by 1B Micah Hoffpauir and singles by C Shota Ono and SS Makoto Kaneko. They built their lead further in the third. With one out, Houlton issued walks to RF Yoshio Itoi and LF Sho Nakata, then Inaba doubled in one run. 3B Eiichi Koyano added a RBI single, but Inaba was thrown out at home. Houlton was yanked, having given up 5 hits and 3 walks in 2 2/3 IP, in favor of Yasunari Takagi. He promptly gave up a Hoffpauir single to make it 5-0.
In the 5th, LF Yoshiyuki Kamei and 2B Takayuki Terauchi began Yomiuri's first run-scoring rally with singles. RF Hisayoshi Chono hit into a run-scoring double. CF Tetsuya Matsumoto then singled, stole second and scored on a hit by SS Hayato Sakamoto. The Fighters increased their lead to 6-2 in the 6th. CF Dai-Kang Yang singled against Yuki Koyama. After a sacrifice and a ground out, he scored on a wild pitch by RP Kyosuke Takagi.
In the 8th, Yomiuri got back on the board. After three straight singles, they got two outs before pinch-hitter Yoshihito Ishii singled to make it 6-3. Nippon Ham finished the scoring in the 8th, on an error by Sakamoto, a sacrifice, ground-out and wild pitch by Dicky Gonzalez, almost identical to how they scored in the 6th. In the 9th, Yomiuri got a rally going against closer Hisashi Takeda. With two outs, Matsumoto and Sakamoto both singled. That would have brought up cleanup man Shinnosuke Abe, but he had left with an injury and had been replaced by backup catcher Kazunari Sanematsu, who failed to deliver, ending the game.
Game 4: Fighters tie it by avoiding a tie
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The two teams avoided the second 0-0 tie in Japan Series history. The only time had come in the 1957 Japan Series. Both teams had 20-year-old starters come up big in Ryosuke Miyaguni (Yomiuri) and Masaru Nakamura (Nippon Ham).
In the first, Yomiuri got a leadoff single from RF Hisayoshi Chono and a one-out single from SS Hayato Sakamoto but DH Yoshinobu Takahashi and 3B Shuichi Murata both popped up. Nippon Ham got its first rally going in the bottom of the 4th, with a one-out single by 2B Takahiro Imanimi and two-outs walks to LF Sho Nakata and DH Atsunori Inaba. 3B Eiichi Koyano ended the threat, though, by flying out.
Nakamura left after 7 innings in favor of Yuya Ishii, and Miyaguni also exited at that point, in favor of Satoshi Fukuda. In the bottom of the 8th, CF Dai-Kang Yang doubled with two outs but Imanami's fly was caught on the run by Yomiuri CF Tetsuya Matsumoto. In the top of the 9th, Takahashi and Murata both singled off Hisashi Takeda and LF Kenji Yano walked, but PH Yoshihito Ishii flew out to Nakata.
In the bottom of the 9th, Inaba hit a two-out double off Tetsuya Yamaguchi, then Koyano singled and 1B Micah Hoffpauir walked, but PH Kenshi Sugiya grounded out. The shutout pitching continued with fine work by Hirotoshi Masui (Fighters) and Kyosuke Takagi (Yomiuri). In the 12th, Naoki Miyanishi struck out the side. In the bottom of the 12th, Yomiuri turned to closer Kentaro Nishimura for the first time of the Series. Koyano hit a leadoff single but backup SS Takuya Nakashima bunted into a force. C Shota Ono bunted Koyano over, then backup infielder Yuji Iiyama hit a game-winning double to left-center.
Game 5: Yoshikawa is pounded again
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Giants: John Bowker (2)
Yomiuri moved one win from a title with a big win on the road. The Giants began the scoring in the second on a 2-run homer by 1B John Bowker off Mitsuo Yoshikawa, repeating his game One feat. In the bottom of the second, the Fighters moved within a run on a single by LF Sho Nakata off Tetsuya Utsumi and a 2-out double by SS Makoto Kaneko. Yoshikawa's woes continued in the third. RF Hisayoshi Chono led off with a single and was bunted over by CF Tetsuya Matsumoto. SS Hayato Sakamoto singled in Chono then 3B Shuichi Murata singled and LF Kenji Yano hit a sacrifice fly. DH Edgar González doubled to make it a 5-1 lead.
In the bottom of the third, Nippon Ham got their last run off Utsumi, who lasted 8 innings, on a RBI single by RF Yoshio Itoi. The rest of the scoring went to the Giants. In the 4th, Nippon Ham RP Kazuhito Tadano threw a high-and-inside pitch to C Ken Kato. Kato bunted the ball and hit himself in the head. Umpire Masao Yanada ruled it a hit-by-pitch and ejected Tadano. Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama argued the call, to no avail. Toshiharu Moriuchi relieved and got one out but Matsumoto singled and Sakamoto hit a sacrifice fly.
Game 6: The captain returns and delivers
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Fighters: Sho Nakata (1)
Giants: Hisayoshi Chono (2)
Yomiuri wrapped up its 22nd Series title, easily the most in Japan Series history, with a close win at home.
The Giants started quickly, as RF Hisayoshi Chono singled off Masaru Takeda in the bottom of the first. CF Tetsuya Matsumoto bunted him over, then SS Hayato Sakamoto singled. After C Shinnosuke Abe was retired, 3B Shuichi Murata drew a four-pitch walk. LF Kenji Yano came through, with a 2-run single off the wall. With two outs in the second, Chono homered to make it 3-0. Takeda left after one more out, having lasted just two innings. Keisuke Tanimoto did the job in relief, tossing 3 shutout innings after relieving Takeda.
Meanwhile, game 2 star Hirokazu Sawamura shut out the Fighters for the first five. In the 6th, he ran into trouble, as CF Dai-Kang Yang had a one-out single and RF Yoshio Itoi singled with two outs. LF Sho Nakata then crushed a pitch from Sawamura for a game-tying 3-run blast.
In the 7th, Nippon Ham loaded the bases against Satoshi Fukuda, but #3 hitter Itoi lined out to end it. In the home half of the 7th, Yuya Ishii walked Chono, then Matsumoto bunted him over. That tied the Japan Series record for sacrifice hits (6). Sakamoto was retired. That brought up Abe, the Giants captain who had missed two games and part of another with a knee injury. He did his job here, grounding one through the middle to score Chono with the decisive run. Scott Mathieson and Tetsuya Yamaguchi closed it out, allowing one hit and two walks in the final two innings but no runs.
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