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Marines’ Iguchi knows key to playoff success

by Kaz Nagatsuka

NAGOYA — Having had the rare experience of collecting championship rings on both sides of the Pacific, Tadahito Iguchi knows what it takes to earn postseason victories.

The 35-year-old infielder, who won a pair of Japan Series titles with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks and two World Series rings — one each with the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies — said that it is significant to take advantage of a team’s first scoring chance in order to gain momentum in a playoff game.

“You’ve got to capitalize on the first opportunity you get in a game, that’s the No. 1 priority,” Iguchi said before Game 2 of the Japan Series at Nagoya Dome on Sunday.

“And also, you want to try to reduce mistakes as much as you can.

“It’s so difficult to have a big lead in this kind of stage. So you can grab momentum by giving your opponent (some) damage first.”

Iguchi, who returned from the major leagues and joined the Marines last season, added with a smile that his current club has a laid-back group of guys.

Chiba Lotte squeezed its way into the playoffs, winning its final three regular-season games. The club continued its sensational run in the postseason, eliminating the Seibu Lions and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks to reach the Japan Series for the first time in five years.

“Since the last three games of the season, we’ve been playing in games we can’t afford to lose,” Iguchi said. “But it’s certainly led to our experience and we’ve gained some confidence now. (But) our players are so relaxed as if they aren’t in the Japan Series.”

Watch my legs: The Marines’ Yukifumi Okada suddenly got a chance to play in the second inning of Game 1 as Shoitsu Omatsu hurt his right hamstring while running the bases. But on Sunday the speedster said he’s ready to go and is eager to showcase his top skill.

“You can’t expect the long ball from me,” said Okada. “But I want to throw the opponent into disarray with my legs. Even if I’m on first, I want to come home with one hit.

“Also, I want to make a pitcher not be able to concentrate on a batter when I’m on base.”

National hero: Dragons pitcher Chen Wei-yin doesn’t only get attention from Chunichi fans. He’s also followed closely by his compatriots in Taiwan.

Case in point: Ni Wan-chun was at Nagoya Dome to report on the southpaw pitcher in the first two games of the Japan Series for baseball fans in Taiwan.

The Liberty Times reporter said before Sunday’s game that she was disappointed that Chen did not start in Game 1, and was crossing her fingers that he would take the mound in the series’ second game.

She said that Chen is perhaps the third-most famous baseball player in a foreign league, behind Wang Chien-ming of the Washington Nationals and Hu Chin-lung of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ni noted that Pacific League games are televised in Taiwan, but the postseason games, including the Japan Series, are not aired.

“He’s a real nice guy, outgoing,” Ni said with a smile after Chen was officially named the Game 2 starter.

“I hope he pitches well tonight.”

On a roll for 36 years: With a 5-2 win in Game 1, the Marines extended the franchise’s winning streak in the Japan Series to eight, dating back to the 1974 series, when the Lotte Orions faced the Chunichi Dragons.

Lotte’s last Japanese Fall Classic loss before Sunday’s Game 2 came in the third game of the ’74 series, in which the Dragons won 5-4.

The Marines, who swept the Hanshin Tigers in the 2005 series, have tied the Japan Series record for consecutive wins, shared by the Lions and Giants.