SENDAI – Sendai will have to wait at least another day to celebrate its first Japan Series berth after Game 4 of the Pacific League Climax Series final stage was rained out on Sunday afternoon at Kleenex Stadium.
With rain expected through the night, the game between the PL champion Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and the third-place Chiba Lotte Marines was postponed a half hour before the scheduled 1:05 p.m. start. The Eagles won Games 1 and 3 and hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series thanks to the one-game advantage handed to league champs.
Game 4 will be played on Monday, when a Rakuten victory or a tie will clinch the franchise’s first Japan Series berth, against the Yomiuri Giants starting on Oct. 26.
The Eagles have opted to stick with Sunday’s scheduled starter, lefty Wataru Karashima, while the Marines will go to the guy they had originally slated to pitch on Monday in Game 5, right-hander Yuki Karakawa.
“I wanted to pitch no matter what, whether it is Game 4 or Game 5 it doesn’t matter,” said Karakawa, who was in a similar situation a week ago, when he was scheduled to start Game 3 of the best-of-three first stage and won to send the Marines to Sendai.
“I wanted to pitch at Seibu Dome so much, I was so glad my turn came. I expect it will be a lot like that here, with a full house, a lot of noise, a lot of excitement. I’m really happy, overjoyed even, to be able to play in that kind of game.”
Karakawa, who was 9-11 during the regular season, allowed a run in five innings against the Lions, and finished the regular season with 13 straight scoreless innings over his final two starts.
Karashima, who didn’t pitch with the first team until July due to elbow trouble, went 3-4 with a 4.42 ERA in 11 games.
He has three tough acts to follow, with the Eagles starters going 2-0, having allowed one run in 27 innings.
“All I can do is focus on each inning, do what I can to put one more zero on the board,” he said. “Lotte’s batters haven’t been different than they were in the regular season. What has been different is how well our starting pitchers have stopped them.”
Regardless of the weather, the series will not continue past Wednesday. If the teams finish the series tied, the Eagles will advance to their first Japan Series.
Eagles first baseman and No. 3 hitter Ginji Akaminai was looking forward to finishing off the Marines.
“I wanted to clinch it today, but I see this as a positive thing,” he said. “It’s a chance to rest our bodies and our spirits. We’ll come back tomorrow, seize the initiative and get it done. The only thing I can imagine is that we are going to clinch it.”