2013 Japan Series
The 2013 Japan Series was the 64th match-up of the champions of the Central League and Pacific League, Japan's top two circuits. It was a matchup of contrasts, as Yomiuri had won a record 22 Japan Series and Rakuten had never even played in a Series before. Rakuten prevailed in a seven-game Series.
The Yomiuri Giants had another big year, finishing second in the 2013 Central League in both runs (585) and ERA (3.27). C Shinnosuke Abe (.301/.429/.583, 30 HR, 85 RBI) remained their top threat while 3B Shuichi Murata (.326/.398/.535, 23 HR) and 1B Jose Lopez (.317/.365/.520, 17 HR) both hit very well. The rotation was very well-balanced with Tomoyuki Sugano (13-6, 3.12), Hirokazu Sawamura (5-10, 3.13), Tetsuya Utsumi (13-6, 3.31) and Toshiya Sugiuchi (11-6, 3.35) while the bullpen of Kentaro Nishimura (4-3, 42 Sv, 1.13), Scott Mathieson (2-2, 1.03) and Tetsuya Yamaguchi (4-3, 6 Sv, 1.22) again was nearly untouchable. Tatsunori Hara was their manager.
Rakuten Golden Eagles
Managed by veteran skipper Senichi Hoshino, the Golden Eagles won their first title with a similar approach to Yomiuri, finishing second in the 2013 Pacific League in runs (591) and ERA (3.47). They were more of a one-man team, carried in large part by superstar hurler Masahiro Tanaka (24-0, 1.27), as the rest of the team was .500. Imports Casey McGehee (.292/.376/.515, 28 HR, 93 RBI) and Andruw Jones (.243/.391/.454, 26 HR, a league-leading 105 walks) led the offense while Ginji Akaminai (.319/.375/.400) was the best of the native-born batters. Takahiro Norimoto (15-8, 3.34) was the #2 starter behind Tanaka while Darrell Rasner (1-2, 17 Sv, 3.35) and Koji Aoyama (3-5, 11 Sv, 3.43) tried their hands at closer, Aoyama filling in during Rasner's injuries (which kept him out of the Series).
Game 1: Utsumi the October hero
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Giants: Shuichi Murata (1)
2012 Japan Series MVP Tetsuya Utsumi began making his case to repeat the award by pitching six shutout innings to get the win and outduel Takahiro Norimoto (10 K, 4 H in 8 IP). Norimoto was the first rookie to start game 1 of a Japan Series since Taketoshi Ogami in 1952. In the top of the second, the Giants threatened first, as SS Hayato Sakamoto singled with two out and LF Yoshiyuki Kamei walked, but CF Itaru Hashimoto grounded out. In the bottom of the second, DH Andruw Jones led off with a walk and 3B Casey McGehee hit a long drive, but it went foul, out of the reach of RF Hisayoshi Chono. Utsumi retired McGehee on a pop-up then whiffed 3B Shintaro Masuda and SS Kazuo Matsui to strand Jones.
In the top of the third, CF Ryo Hijirisawa singled with one out and 2B Kazuya Fujita hit a two-out shot off Utsumi's glove, but 1B Ginji Akaminai grounded out meekly as part of a 0-for-5 day. In the 5th, Yomiuri became the first team to get on board. Akaminai made an error on a Sakamoto grounder, then Kamei singled. Hashimoto grounded into an out at home, but Chono singled to right, scoring Kamei for a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the 5th, Rakuten blew a chance when Matsui was thrown out by 1B Jose Lopez while trying to go from first to third on a grounder.
In the top of the 8th, 3B Shuichi Murata smacked a two-out homer off Norimoto to make it 2-0. In the bottom of the 8th, Rakuten again threatened, this time against Tetsuya Yamaguchi. McGehee singled with two outs, as did PH Akihisa Makida. Matsui hit a hard liner to left but Kamei made a running catch at the wall. Kentaro Nishimura allowed two on in the 9th but escaped with a save.
Game 2: Tanaka cannot be beaten
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Eagles: Masahiro Tanaka W (1-0)
Giants: Takayuki Terauchi (1)
Rakuten had its ace up its sleeve for game 2 and got its first win in Series history as a result. Masahiro Tanaka, fresh off a 24-0 season and a day before winning the Sawamura Award, was nearly untouchable with 3 hits, 3 walks and 12 strikeouts in a complete game win. Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara countered with his nephew, rookie phenom Tomoyuki Sugano, who did well, but not as well.
In the 4th, Yomiuri challenged when 2B Takayuki Terauchi singled to lead off and DH Yoshinobu Takahashi was plunked with two out, bringing up former MLB All-Star José López, the first baseman. Tanaka promptly got him on a grounder. In the bottom of the 4th, 1B Ginji Akaminai singled with one out and DH Andruw Jones walked but 3B Casey McGehee ground into a 5-4-3 twin killing. In the top of the 6th, Tanaka walked DH Shinnosuke Abe, allowed a single to 3B Shuichi Murata and walked Takahashi to load the bases with two outs. That brought up López, who went down flailing on a 94 mph fastball to blow their best shot.
In the bottom of the 6th, RF Takero Okajima singled and was bunted over by 2B Kazuya Fujita. Akaminai promptly came through with a RBI single on a fat slider for a 1-0 lead. Jones walked, forcing Sugano out in favor of Hirokazu Sawamura. Sawamura picked off Jones then retired LF Shintaro Masuda on a fly. Rakuten got insurance in the 7th. CF Ryo Hijirisawa and Okajima had two-out singles. Fujita had a run-scoring infield single, though replays showed he was out at first; Hara argued the call to no avail. 1B Kenjiro Mori said an out is an out when later asked about his call.
In the top of the 8th, the Giants got their only run. Terauchi, who had four career regular season homers, but a big playoff homer off star Kenta Maeda, took Tanaka deep to close it to 2-1. Tanaka allowed nothing further to remain unbeaten in 2013.
Game 3: Rakuten keeps rolling
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Giants: Kenji Yano (1)
Rakuten went on the road but had their best game of the Series yet in front of a large crowd in the Tokyo Dome to go up 2 games to 1. Toshiya Sugiuchi entered with a 3-0, 0.91 record in his Japan Series career, but Rakuten pounded him in the second. RF Akihisa Makida led off with a single. SS Kazuo Matsui plooped one into right; Makida tried for third but RF Yoshiyuki Kamei easily gunned him down. Matsui took second on the play. C Motohiro Shima walked. Sugiuchi whiffed counterpart Manabu Mima but CF Takero Okajima was plunked to load the bases. 2B Kazuya Fujita and 1B Ginji Akaminai did the big damage, delivering back-to-back two-run doubles for a 4-0 lead.
Mima did not need anymore, as he allowed four hits, no walks and no runs in 5 2/3 IP while fanning five. In the bottom of the 5th, Yomiuri threatened with SS Hayato Sakamoto on second and two outs. PH John Bowker hit a liner to left-center, but Matsui made a great play, racing back and leaping to rob him of a hit. In the bottom of the 6th, C Shinnosuke Abe lined one off Mima, knocking the hurler from the game. Veteran Ken Ray (who had previously appeared in both the Taiwan Series and Caribbean Series) relieved and also fared well (2 H, 3 K, 0 BB, 1 R in 2 1/3 IP).
In the top of the 8th, Rakuten got some insurance. Fujita and Akaminai both singled off Takahiro Aoki. LF Andruw Jones, seeing his first outfield playing time in Japan, delivered a single to score Fujita for a 5-0 lead. Yomiuri avoided a shutout in the bottom of the frame when backup LF Kenji Yano took Ray deep. In the 9th, veteran Takashi Saitoh replaced Ray and went 1-2-3, getting 3B Shuichi Murata, RF Yoshinobu Takahashi (who had moved from LF to replace Kamei) and PH Yoshihito Ishii to end it.
Game 4: Paying tribute to a legend
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Eagles: Andruw Jones (1)
A moment of silence was held before the game for 1940s-1950s Giants star Tetsuharu Kawakami, who won nine straight Japan Series as their manager in the 1960s and 1970s. Kawakami had died overnight in Tokyo. Yomiuri then went on to even the Series, winning as they had in Kawakami's day, overcoming a .138 Series average coming in.
Rakuten got ahead quickly in the first as RF Takero Okajima drew a walk from D.J. Houlton and 2B Kazuya Fujita was plunked. Houlton retired 1B Ginji Akaminai but then served up a gopher ball to LF Andruw Jones for a quick 3-0 Eagles lead. In the bottom of the first, Jim Heuser walked CF Hisayoshi Chono to lead things off and then walked C Shinnosuke Abe with two outs. 3B Shuichi Murata singled in Chono to cut it to 3-1.
In the top of the second, Rakuten countered. CF Ryo Hijirisawa singled with one out and Okajima and Fujita had two-out singles to make it 4-1. Houlton would last just 3 IP (4 R, 6 H, BB, HB). Heuser only lasted three innings, somehow allowing just the one run despite 3 hits, 4 walks and a hit batsman. In the bottom of the 4th, PH Tetsuya Matsumoto led off with a walk from rookie reliever Sho Miyagawa, as did fellow PH Yoshiyuki Kamei. Chono singled in Matsumoto to close it to 4-2. 2B Takayuki Terauchi was plunked on the helmet to load the bases; Miyagawa was promptly ejected, having retired no one. Abe launched a sacrifice fly off reliever Shinichiro Koyama to make it a one-run game.
In the bottom of the 5th, Yomiuri continued their charge. Matsumoto (who stayed in the game) drew another walk, this one from Koyama. Kamei (who had also stayed in) hit into an error and Chono smacked a two-run double to center for a 5-4 lead, the Giants' first since Game One. After Terauchi whiffed, SS Hayato Sakamoto was robbed by counterpart Kazuo Matsui. In the top of the 6th, Rakuten tied it; Matsui singled off Hirokazu Sawamura and came home on a one-out double by Hijirisawa.
In the top of the 7th, Yomiuri scored the winning run off former prospect Kohei Hasebe. Backup Matsumoto started his third rally of the day with a single. Kamei bunted Matsumoto over and Chono (3 for 3, 3 RBI) was intentionally walked. Terauchi came through with a single to right just inside the foul line, scoring Matsumoto with the winner. Scott Mathieson (2 IP, 1 BB, 0 H, 3 K) and Tetsuya Yamaguchi (3 up, 3 down) wrapped it up for Yomiuri, getting the win and save respectively. Rakuten hurlers battled control problems all day, walking 10 and hitting two while striking out five.
Game 5: Norimoto provides surprise relief and a surprise run
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Giants: Shuichi Murata (2)
The Giants went back to game 1 and 2012 Japan Series hero Tetsuya Utsumi, but he was outmatched today by the unheralded Wataru Karashima (3-4 in the 2013 regular season). In the top of the third, SS Kazuo Matsui and C Motohiro Shima led off with singles off Utsumi. Karashima hit into a force at second, then RF Takero Okajima singled in Matsui. 2B Kazuya Fujita hit into a force at second as well. 1B Ginji Akaminai then hit one over first, scoring Karashima. Fujita tried for third on the play but was thrown out.
Karashima tossed no-hit ball for 4 1/3 innings before 1B Daisuke Nakai singled in the 5th. He left after five innings with one hit, two walks, four strikeouts and no runs in a fine outing. He was replaced by game One starter Takahiro Norimoto, making a rare relief turn. He served up a homer to 3B Shuichi Murata in the 7th to make it 2-1. In the bottom of the 9th, the Giants gave the home crowd reason to rejoice. Yoshinobu Takahashi hit a pinch-hit double, then Ryota Wakiya pinch-ran. SS Hayato Sakamoto hit a fly to advance Takahashi and C Shinnosuke Abe drew a walk. That brought up Murata, who again delivered, with a run-scoring single to tie it. Norimoto retired backup LF Yoshiyuki Kamei and CF Tetsuya Matsumoto to end the rally, though.
In the top of the 10th, Norimoto drew a leadoff walk from his counterpart Kentaro Nishimura. Okajima bunted him over, then Nishimura plunked Fujita. Akaminai singled in Norimoto with the winner, giving Rakuten hurlers two of their team's three runs. LF Andruw Jones followed with a grounder to short, just beating the throw to first and scoring Fujita for a 4-2 lead. Takahiro Aoki retired CF Ryo Hijirisawa to end the inning. In the bottom of the 10th, Norimoto retired Matsumoto. PH José López flew to left, where defensive sub Makoto Moriyama made a great catch. Norimoto got RF Hisayoshi Chono to end it.
Game 6: The wrong time to lose one
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Eagles: Masahiro Tanaka L (1-1)
Giants: José López (1)
With a chance to clinch its team's first-ever Japan Series title, Masahiro Tanaka picked the wrong time to lose his only game of 2013. He was outdueled by rookie Tomoyuki Sugano in this game to force a game 7. It was Tanaka's first loss since August 12, 2012. Rakuten gave him all the support they would muster in the second. LF Shintaro Masuda drew a one-out walk, then SS Kazuo Matsui hit a ground-rule double. C Motohiro Shima grounded to 3B Shuichi Murata, who faked a throw home, then went to first to get Shima, while Masuda scored. CF Ryo Hijirisawa, the #9 batter, then grounded to 1B José López, who let it go through his legs for a run-scoring error; he would make another miscue in the third.
In the fifth, Tanaka collapsed, having given up only two hits in four shutout innings prior to that point; he would surrender 10 hits and 4 runs in the next five. SS Hayato Sakamoto led off with a fly off that bounced off the top of the wall in LF/CF for a double. LF John Bowker whiffed, but #8 hitter López (0 for 15 coming in for the Series, plus the two errors today) drilled a 2-2 forkball for a game-tying homer. 2B Takayuki Terauchi singled, as did RF Hisayoshi Chono. On a double steal attempt, Tanaka cut off the throw to second, then threw home to get Terauchi; Chono moved to third during the play. PH Yoshiyuki Kamei walked, then DH Yoshinobu Takahashi singled to center to score Chono with the winner.
Yomiuri got insurance in the 6th. Murata doubled, then Sakamoto beat out an infield single to short. Bowker bunted them over, then López hit a grounder to score Murata for a 4-2 edge. In the 7th, Takahashi hit a two-out single and Tanaka threw a wild pitch. C Shinnosuke Abe hit a sharp liner to right-center, and RF Takero Okajima made a sliding catch to prevent more damage.
Sugano allowed just three hits and two walks in 7 innings then Tetsuya Yamaguchi got four outs and Scott Mathieson the last two to wrap it up. He was the third Yomiuri hurler to get a save in their three wins, following Yamaguchi and Kentaro Nishimura.
Game 7: A historic victory
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Eagles: Akihisa Makida (1)
Rakuten got its historic win from one of its lesser lights as Manabu Mima (6-5 in the regular season) turned in his second gem of the Series to win Japan Series MVP. He held Yomiuri to one hit and no runs in six innings in today's performance. He had to overcome a rocky start, though. He plunked RF Hisayoshi Chono to open the game. CF Tetsuya Matsumoto bunted Chono over, then DH Yoshinobu Takahashi hit into an error by SS Kazuo Matsui. C Shinnosuke Abe was retired as the Yomiuri captain would go just 2 for 22 on the Series. 3B Shuichi Murata walked to load the bases, but SS Hayato Sakamoto flew out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the first, Toshiya Sugiuchi plunked 1B Ginji Akaminai with two outs. DH Andruw Jones doubled and 3B Casey McGehee hit into an error by Sakamoto for a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the second, C Motohiro Shima drew a one-out walk for Rakuten and RF Takero Okajima hit a two-out double to score him. Sugiuchi lasted just one more batter in another poor effort. In the bottom of the 4th, LF Akihisa Makida (who had two regular-season dingers) took a Hirokazu Sawamura slider over the wall in left for a 3-0 lead, the last run of the Series.
Mima left after six innings (5 K, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 1 H, 0 R) and top Rakuten starters Takahiro Norimoto (2 IP, 2 H) and Masahiro Tanaka (1 IP, 2 H) wrapped it up. Tanaka asked manager Senichi Hoshino for the chance and Hoshino let his ace redeem himself for game 6. Murata led off the 9th with a single and 1B José López added a two-out single, but Tanaka whiffed PH Kenji Yano to end it.
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