The Seibu Lions didn’t need any clutch performances or dramatic comebacks on the third day of the Asian Series.
This one was over pretty much from the start.
Takeya Nakamura broke out of a personal slump to help Seibu make quick work of the Tianjin Lions in a 16-2 rout on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo Dome. The game was called after the seventh inning due to the mercy rule.
Seibu all-but assured itself of a spot in the finals after winning two straight games following an opening-day loss to the SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization.
Due to the tournament’s quirky tiebreaker rules, however, the Lions were forced do to a little scoreboard watching.
The Asia Series tiebreaker is defensive runs allowed per inning, which put the Lions at a disadvantage entering the day’s action. A win for Taiwan’s Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions over the SK Wyverns in the night game caused a three-way tie.
Uni-President beat the Wyverns 10-4, meaning the Taiwanese team and Seibu advanced to Sunday’s final.
“The priority was to win,” Seibu manager Hisanobu Watanabe said. “Next was not to allow many runs. From that point of view, we were on the brink,” he said, referring to the two runs the Chinese team scored. “So overall, this game wasn’t as easy as it looked.”
Prior to the night game, Watanabe was confident his team would reach the final. “It’s unlikely either team will get a landslide victory,” he said. “Our ace (Hideaki Wakui) is ready to start the game tomorrow.”
Nakamura highlighted a 2-for-3 day with a three run homer in a game that was called after the seventh inning due to the tournament’s mercy rule. The home run was his first hit of the tournament.
Ginjiro Sumitani also homered, helping pad a big lead with a solo drive in the sixth.
“I was surprised,” Sumitani said of his home run. “It’s good I was able to get that hit.”
Seibu had been mostly held in check in its first two games by Wyverns ace Kim Kwang Hyun and the top hurler for the Chinese Professional Baseball League’s Uni-President Lions, Pan Wei-Lun
Saitama’s Lions roared against a thoroughly overmatched Tianjin squad, scoring five runs against starter Chen Wei, eight — four earned — off reliever Su Chang-Long and three against reliever Xu Yun-Long.
Four Seibu batters finished with two or more RBIs on the afternoon.
While Seibu had a good day at the plate, many of Tianjin’s wounds were self inflicted. The Chinese squad committed two errors, a number of miscues in the field, and surrendered 11 walks
Seibu’s Yasuyuki Kataoka led off the game with a single and was driven home on Takumi Kuriyama’s double as the Lions took a quick 1-0 advantage. Kuriyama advanced to third on a wild pitch then scored on a grounder by Hiroshi Hirao to double the lead.
Tianjin surprised Seibu with a couple of runs off starter Hsu Ming-Cheih in the bottom half, tying the score on Luo Yu Bin’s two-run single.
Kataoka drew a walk to lead off the second and Hirao also drew a free pass, setting the stage for Nakamura’s three-run shot to left.
Seibu pinch hitter Taketoshi Goto put his team ahead 6-2 with an RBI double in the third. Sumitani and Shogo Akada then reached on a walk and an error by shortstop Hou Feng Lian respectively to load the bases.
Two runs scored on Hou’s second error later in the inning and Kuriyama drove in another with a single to give Seibu a seven-run lead.
The Japan Series champions pushed the lead to nine on Yoshihito Ishii’s two-run double later in the inning.
Akada and Kataoka were credited with RBIs in the fourth to put Seibu ahead 13-2.
Sumitani continued the barrage with a leadoff homer in the sixth and Kuriyama tacked on yet another run with a single. Takuya Hara also drove in a run during the inning.