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Cool Kishi shrugs off stage fright

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TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — Making your first Japan Series start against a team with the tradition of the Yomiuri Giants can be a daunting task for even the most veteran of pitchers.

Many of Yomiuri’s golden years, however, were before 24-year-old Seibu pitcher Takayuki Kishi was born. So instead of being in awe of the All-Star laden Kyojin, Kishi had other things on his mind during Game 4 on Wednesday night.

“The Giants are the Giants,” Kishi joked. “They remind me of home runs. But against the Giants, we get on national television.

“I tried harder (against Yomiuri) during interleague, because I thought I’d be on national television. But in the Japan Series, no matter who we play, it is on national television anyway. So I get more spirited.”

Kishi gave those watching at home something to talk about with an amazing performance in his Japan Series debut.

Kishi tossed a four-hit complete-game shutout, striking out 10 as he led the Lions to a 5-0 win.

“I tried to not have runners on base,” Kishi said. “I was able to make my curves and change-ups when I needed most. I was going to go as far as I could, no matter how many pitches I threw.

“I’m relieved that I could contribute to the team. I normally go at full strength from the beginning and in the middle of game I get tired and give up hits. So this time I tried not to press too much.”

Kishi recorded a strikeout in all nine innings and worked with catcher Toru Hosokawa on a gameplan that relied heavily on offspeed pitches, including a devastating curve, and fastballs.

“His curves were good,” Hosokawa said. “As a matter of fact all of his pitches were pretty good, and he was able to pitch for strikes with anything and hold them. His curveballs were good in the Climax Series, too. I think he kept his good condition from the Climax Series.”

Kishi credited his catcher with leading the way during the game.

“It looked so formidable,” Kishi said of the Yomiuri lineup. “I felt good on my fastballs and Hosokawa-san knew it and guided me well around them.

“I relied on Hosokawa-san on that (offspeed pitches) and I only threw on his lead,” he said of his change-ups and curves. “My feelings were good, too, and I could fan the opposing batters.”

There was praise from the opposing dugout as well.

“I saw good pitches to hit, I just couldn’t pull the trigger,” Giants slugger Alex Ramirez said. “That’s what happens sometimes. Sometimes you have to give him credit and the guy had it going on today. They scored five runs on top of that. After that, the guy was like, ‘hey, this is my game.’ “

Kishi established himself as one of the rising young pitchers in the NPB last season with an 11-7 rookie campaign for the Lions. He improved on those numbers this year, going 12-4 with a 3.42 ERA for the Pacific League champion Lions.

Despite putting up solid numbers in the regular season, he ran into trouble in his postseason debut.

Kishi made his Climax Series debut last month in a 5-0 loss to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters at Seibu Dome. He lasted just four innings in that contest, giving up all five runs.

“I wasn’t able to use inside pitches in the Climax and was hit,” Kishi said. “So I tried to avoid that. You have to pitch inside, even when you’re not playing against the Giants.”

With the Lions now trailing 3-2 in the Japan Series, there’s a chance Kishi could be used in relief in the remaining games. The youngster has already said he wants the ball again and would be ready and willing to take the mound at anytime.

The teams will have a day off on Friday before the scene shifts back to Tokyo Dome for Game 6 on Saturday at 6:15 p.m.

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this story