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Fighters move to Japan Series


SAPPORO — Trey Hillman said that hitting home runs was not the Fighters’ style. He may be right, but Fernando Seguignol sure did look stylish doing it.

News photoHokkaido Nippon Ham starter Yu Darvish reacts after retiring Tomoya Satozaki of the Chiba Lotte Marines to a grounder to second in the sixth inning of the decisive Game 5 of the Pacific League Climax Series second stage on Thursday at Sapporo Dome. The Fighters won 6-2.

Seguignol ended a series of frustration with an emotional three-run homer and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters finally beat Chiba Lotte Marines starter Yoshihisa Naruse to win their second consecutive Pacific League Climax Series title and advance to the Japan Series with a 6-2 win over the Marines on Thursday at Sapporo Dome.

“I believed in the character of the club and making adjustments and quite honestly their love for the game, their love for each other and getting out here and doing what we have to do win for our fans,” Fighters manager Trey Hillman said.

With the victory the Fighters become the PL’s first back-to-back champions since the 1999-2000 Fukuoka Daiei Hawks. A win in the Japan Series would make them Japanese baseball’s first back-to-back champions since the Seibu Lions won three straight titles from 1990-92.

“It’s great to win at home, Nippon Ham starter Yu Darvish said. “We couldn’t have come this far without the fans presence. We still have business to get done. I hope you fans come out when the games are played at Sapporo Dome in the Japan Series.”

Darvish was named series MVP after getting wins in Game 1 and Game 5.

“I never imagined that I would get two wins,” Darvish said.

Seguignol went 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored after going 2-for-15 in the first four games of the series. He connected for a single on the first pitch he saw from Naruse in the second, then took a 3-2 fastball for a ride into the center-field seats in the third.

“That really boosted the team and gave us the momentum,” Darvish said.

Seguignol let out a yell as he watched the ball leave the field and rounded the bases pumping his fists most of the way before engulfing Darvish in a bear-hug beside the Nippon Ham dugout.

“There’s one thing we all know about Seggy,” Hillman said. “He cares as much as anyone does, he works as hard as anyone and eventually he’s going to make an impact. He made an impact early for us tonight.”

The win means Hillman, who on Sept. 8 announced his intention to leave the team after the season, will have a chance to leave Japanese baseball with back-to-back Japan Series titles.

In what could have possibly been Hillman’s last game with the club, Darvish made good on the previous day’s promise not to lose his manager’s final game.

He was solid over 6 2/3 innings and struck out two to pick up the win. Pitching with a lead for most of the game, Darvish gave up just one run to beat Lotte for the fourth time this year.

He was lifted in the seventh and relieved by nine-game winner Ryan Glynn who had started and won Game 3.

“I couldn’t give my max power at that point,” Darvish said. “I had the flu and that’s why I put this (tape) on my nose to breath better.”

Glynn went 1 2/3 innings and was charged with a run before being relieved by Micheal Nakamura, who got the two pennant-clinching outs in the ninth.

The Fighters won the title by finally ending up on the winning side against Naruse, who was chased in the fourth after being charged with four runs in 3 1/3 innings.

Naruse had been 4-0 in four games against Nippon Ham this year. The loss was his first against a PL team in 14 decisions including the playoffs.

Nippon Ham also scored two runs off Hiroyuki Kobayashi, who relieved Naruse in the fourth.

Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this story