The final regular-season meeting between the Chunichi Dragons and Tokyo Yakult Swallows was a largely uneventful affair.
When they get together again next month, the stakes will be much higher.
Takahiro Donoue drove in a pair of runs, and the Dragons got off to a fast start in a 4-0 win over the Swallows on Saturday night at Jingu Stadium, in a game that served as a dress rehearsal for the first stage of the Central League Climax Series.
“We just took advantage of the opportunities we got and scored four (runs),” said Dragons first baseman Tony Blanco. “We’re happy we won the game.”
Despite the loss, the Swallows wrapped up the third and final spot in the Central League Climax Series after the Hiroshima Carp fell 2-0 to the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium earlier Saturday night.
That means the Dragons and Swallows will square off in the first stage of the Central League Climax Series, which begins Oct. 13 at Nagoya Dome. The winner of that series advances to face the CL champion Yomiuri Giants for the right to represent the league in the Japan Series.
“We’re going to face a good team,” Blanco said.
The Dragons will face the Swallows without ace Kazuki Yoshimi, who is sidelined because of an elbow injury and is out for the remainder of the season.
“He’s one of our best players,” Blanco said. “We need him, but we have to move forward. We have to compete with or without him.”
Donoue finished 1-for-2 with a pair of RBIs Saturday, while Masahiko Morino picked up three hits to lead all batters.
Kenshin Kawakami got the start for Chunichi and turned in a solid performance. Kawakami (3-1) threw five scoreless innings, allowing four hits while striking out one and walking two. The Chunichi right-hander has won his last two starts, throwing 11 consecutive shutout innings over that span.
Closer Hitoki Iwase kept Yakult off the board in the ninth for his 32nd save of the season.
Swallows starter Orlando Roman had a rough outing, laboring through five innings and allowing four runs on seven hits. Roman (9-11) struck out four and walked four.
Blanco got the Dragons off and running with a double to lead off the second inning. The next batter, Kazuhiro Wada, drew a walk, and Morino singled to load the bases. Donoue put the Dragons on the board with a sacrifice fly, and an RBI single by Motonobu Tanishige made the score 2-0. Yohei Oshima drove in a run with a double later in the inning to extend the lead to 3-0.
Donoue delivered again in the fourth, stepping to the plate with runners on first and second and hitting a single to left to make the score 4-0.
BayStars extend unbeaten streak to seven
The Yokohama BayStars came from two runs down to defeat the Yomiuri Giants 4-3 on Saturday in the Central League, stretching their season-best unbeaten streak to seven games.
The BayStars’ Alex Ramirez had two hits, scored a run and drove in one, and needs nine more hits to reach 2,000 in his Japan career.
Norihiro Nakamura broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning as Yokohama beat Toshiya Sugiuchi (12-4). The lefty allowed four runs — three earned — in six innings.
Tigers 2, Carp 0
At Koshien Stadium, Hiroshima was eliminated from playoff contention as Hanshin’s Atsushi Nomi tossed a five-hitter and relegated the Carp to their 15th consecutive finish in the lower half of the Central League standings.
Nomi (10-10) walked a batter and struck out five, while Takashi Toritani hit a solo homer off Hiroshima ace Kenta Maeda (13-7) in the first inning.
The Carp loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but Nomi struck out two consecutive batters to end the threat.
Fighters 4, Lions 2
At Sapporo Dome, Hokkaido Nippon Ham took another big step toward its first pennant in three years when it defeated Seibu to complete a two-game sweep.
Yoshio Itoi broke the ice with a two-run double in the third inning off Lions starter Takayuki Kishi (10-12) and Makoto Kaneko scored his second run of the game on Kenshi Sugiya sacrifice fly in the fifth before the Lions managed to score.
Brian Wolfe (10-9) allowed just a run in 5 1/3 despite allowing six hits and walking three. The right-hander struck out four, two of which helped him pitch out of big jams in the second and third inning.
Seibu drove Wolfe from the game after opening the sixth with three straight singles, but Naoki Miyanishi retired both batters he faced to end the inning, with just a run scoring on a groundout.
“I pitched through my nerves and was able to get it done,” said the lefty who was pitching in his 65th game of the season.
Tomohiro Nioka’s pinch-hit RBI single made it 4-1 in the sixth.
Fighters closer Hisashi Takeda allowed a run in the ninth on a double and a scratch single, but struck out cleanup hitter Takeya Nakamura for the final out to record his 31st save.
Eagles 8, Hawks 4
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Tohoku Rakuten’s Ginji Akaminai and Luis Garcia drove in three runs apiece as the Eagles took a hammer to Fukuoka Softbank southpaw Kenji Otonari (12-7) in a come-from-behind win over the Hawks. The lefty allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Eagles starter Wataru Karashima was also a washout, allowing four runs in 2 2/3 innings, with Softbank’s Wily Mo Pena driving in three.
Buffaloes 5, Marines 0
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Orix’s Yuki Miyazaki opened the game with his first career hit, a home run, and added two more hits, including a two-run single as last-place Orix trounced Chiba Lotte.
The Buffaloes’ Italy international Alessandro Maestri (4-3) allowed four hits and four walks in 5 1/3 and four relievers completed an eight-hit shutout.