TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – Shota Takeda has all kinds of talent. At the tender age of 19, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks right-hander made 11 starts this season, winning eight and finishing the year with a 1.08 ERA.
It could probably be said that Takeda has more raw talent than the Seibu Lions’ Takayuki Kishi, the pitcher he opposed on Sunday at Seibu Dome. Kishi, however, is a veteran of six seasons and a former Japan Series MVP.
Talent can take you many places, but sometimes winning comes with experience.
The prodigious talent Takeda failed badly in his first postseason appearance, giving up five runs — four earned — and lasting just 2 1/3 innings in the Hawks’ 8-0 loss to the Lions in Game 2 of the Pacific League Climax Series first stage.
“He’s in his first year out of high school and doesn’t have experience on a big stage like this,” Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima said. “I think that affected him.”
Takeda, the first rookie to start a Climax Series game after being drafted out of high school, walked three batters in the third inning, which in turn helped lead to a seven-run Seibu outburst the Hawks wouldn’t recover from.
“Our batters tried to study his pitches, draw walks, and put pressure on him,” Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe said. “Takeda is a young pitcher, and we got to him nicely.”
Kishi, on the other hand, got himself in trouble early, but was able to work through it.
He gave up a one-out double to Yuya Hasegawa and a single to Seiichi Uchikawa to put runners on first and third in the opening frame. He threw three balls to cleanup hitter Wily Mo Pena before finally retiring him and struck out Nobuhiro Matsuda to end the inning.
“We were in a pinch in the first, but Kishi was patient and managed to get out of it,” Watanabe said. “It was big that we didn’t give up a run there.
“When our starting pitchers allow opponents to get on the board first, we have a higher tendency to lose, so it was really huge.”
Kishi was given a big lead to work with after the Lions put up seven in the third, but worked hard to maintain his focus.
“I was a little relieved,” he said of the run support, “but tried to stay balanced and and focus on what I needed to do on the mound. The thing is, no matter how big of a lead you get, you don’t want to give up any runs.”
That may have been the difference between the two starters on Sunday. Takeda burst out of the gates, all smiles and bluster, and got off to a good start. He couldn’t maintain that pace and once things went south, he couldn’t stop his outing from falling apart.
Kishi on the other hand, kept his cool, relied on his experience, and paced himself from the beginning.
He wasn’t fazed when he got into trouble, even though he had reason to be. Kishi had finished 1-3 with a 3.18 ERA in five starts against Softbank during the regular season, and was coming off a dismal September that saw him go 0-3 with a 3.21 ERA in five starts.
“Today’s not the last game we play, but I’m relieved I could give us a chance to win,” Kishi said afterward.
Once he’d pitched his way into trouble, there was no panic. Kishi simply made the pitches he needed to make and reaped the rewards when his offense gave him a big lead.
For all his talent, Takeda didn’t have what it took to overcome adversity in the biggest game of his young career. Kishi gave him a crash course on how to win in October, and because of that, the Lions will live on to roar another day.