OSAKA — Kensuke Tanaka talked as if he’s said it many times before.
“If you make mistakes, you lose. That’s the game of baseball,” the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters second baseman said after their 7-2 win over the Orix Buffaloes in Game 2 of the first stage of the Pacific League Climax Series on Sunday at Kyocera Dome.
Nippon Ham proved that against the Buffs, whom many critics and fans thought would have an edge in the series because of their offensive firepower and home-field advantage.
But the Fighters promptly wrapped up the series with a 2-0 sweep, and what made the difference could be summarized by execution of plays.
The Buffaloes’ erratic play in Sunday’s game spoke volumes.
In the fifth inning with the Fighters ahead 2-1, Orix starter Satoshi Komatsu walked two batters and allowed a single to load the bases. Then Fighters catcher Shinji Takahashi hit a shallow fly between shortstop Mitsutaka Goto and left fielder Osamu Hamanaka, but neither was able to catch the ball (Goto’s error) to give Hokkaido Nippon Ham its third run.
On the other hand, the Fighters, who have won the PL title in each of the last two seasons partly with their elaborate plays in the field, taught their opponents a valuable lesson.
Starter Shugo Fujii allowed a single to Ikki Shimamura with one out in the sixth. The following batter, Shinji Shimoyama, hit a looper to right field, on which Shimamura tried to go from first to third. But right fielder Yoshio Itoi, who was calmly watching Shimamura’s move, threw a laser from right to kill him at third.
“We played Fighters ball with plays such as Kensuke’s fielding play and Ito’s great throw, and those helped the pitchers so much,” Fighters manager Masataka Nashida said with a grin after the game.
Tanaka, meanwhile, bluntly said his team played as it was supposed to.
“As far as today’s game is concerned, they (the Buffaloes) made mistakes and we didn’t. That’s it,” said Tanaka, who also made a nice fielding play in the fourth inning.
Outfielder Tomochika Tsuboi proudly said the Sapporo-based club, which is playing in its fourth Climax Series in five years and has advanced to the second stage in three consecutive seasons despite its inferior offensive numbers, knows how to play in a short-term series.
“In a short series, the team that makes more mistakes loses,” said Tsuboi, who started in left field and was 4-for-4 with an RBI in Game 2. “We had some good plays and drew walks as well. I mean, you can still win without extra-base hits. That’s our brand of ball. Both yesterday and today, we were able to show that.”
Murata crowned king
Yokohama BayStars third baseman Shuichi Murata hit his 46th homer on the final day of the Central League regular season Sunday, finishing ahead of Yomiuri Giants outfielder Alex Ramirez in the home run race.
Murata drove a game-tying three-run shot in the seventh inning, his third home run in four games, before retiring catcher Kosei Ono delivered a pinch-hit homer in the eighth in the final at-bat of his career to help the Yakult Swallows to a 4-3 win at Jingu Stadium.
Tigers 4, Dragons 1