SAITAMA – Despite a two-week layoff and missing some players due to injuries, the young Lions silenced the skeptics with a night of offensive fireworks.
Led by shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, the Seibu offense kept attacking Hokkaido Nippon Ham starter Ryan Glynn early and often as the league-leading Lions trounced the Fighters 10-3 in Game 1 of the second stage of the Pacific League Climax Series at Omiya Park Baseball Stadium on Friday night.
Thanks to a newly installed rule that states the regular-season champion enters the series with one-win advantage, the PL pennant-winning Lions are now tow victories away from making a trip to the Japanese version of the Fall Classic.
Nakajima went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs, and first baseman Yoshihito Ishii was 3-for-4 with an RBI. Each of the Lions’ starting batters had at least one hit in the game.
“It was an important first game and I was more spirited than usual,” Nakajima said after the game. “I was trying not to hesitate and was going to hit anything I thought I could hit.”
With Seibu ahead 1-0 in the third, Nakajima blasted a two-run homer into the right-center field stands for his second straight homer. That ignited the rest of the lineup, which was missing two of its key players — injured standouts G.G. Sato and Craig Brazell. Seibu added three more runs on RBI hits by Ishii and catcher Toru Hosokawa.
“I was able to do a good tuneup (entering the series),” Nakajima said with a smile.
“Fortunately, I could hit the home runs and that is a convincing result for me.”
Seibu’s surge didn’t stop there. The team scored four more runs in the fourth on a Takumi Kuriyama RBI single and cleanup hitter Taketoshi Goto’s two-run dinger. That made it 9-0 entering the fifth.
Glynn never looked comfortable on the mound. He wasn’t able to effectively use his slider, his out pitch. As a result, he allowed the aforementioned hits and runs by relying on a fastball that wasn’t deceptive, either.
Glynn (0-1) worked three-plus innings and allowed 10 earned runs.
Lions right-hander starter Hideaki Wakui (1-0) scattered eight hits to the two-time defending PL champ Fighters, who swept the Orix Buffaloes in the first stage of the PLCS last weekend. But he tossed patiently and tenaciously and held the Lions to one run. He struck out seven in six innings of work.
“I was even more relaxed than normally,” said Wakui, who posted a 10-11 record in the regular season.
“But I think I can pitch better and want to do better.”
The Fighters scored twice in the ninth on a Terrmel Sledge RBI double.
Sledge was 2-for-5, delivering all three runs for the Fighters, while second baseman Kensuke Tanaka was 3-for-5.
“I was thinking if Wakui pitches all right, we would grab the pace,” Seibu skipper Hisanobu Watanabe said. “But I didn’t imagine this type of game, and thought it would be more of a closer game.”
On Saturday, Seibu can clinch a spot in the Japan Series with a win in Game 2, in which right-hander Takayuki Kishi takes the hill. The Fighters will counter with 16-game winner Yu Darvish.