FUKUOKA — The Chiba Lotte Marines’ miraculous run continues.
The Fukuoka Softbank, on the other hand, remain a team that fails to play its best during postseason play.
Ace Yoshihisa Naruse had another phenomenal outing and the offense also came through as Chiba Lotte crushed the Hawks 7-0 in the decisive sixth game of the Pacific League Climax Series final stage on Tuesday night before a crowd of 33,515 at Yahoo Dome.
The Marines, who clinched the third playoff spot in the final game of the regular season, overcame a 3-1 series deficit by courageously winning the last three games to earn their first Japan Series berth in five years.
“We’ve been playing in games we couldn’t afford to lose,” said Norifumi Nishimura, the first-year skipper of the Marines.
“But I tip my hat to our players, who have played with strong hearts. While they kept improving mentally every game, they brought the team another win like this today.”
Chiba Lotte became the first third-seeded team to advance to the Japan Series.
The Hawks, who entered the series with an automatic one-win advantage, failed to make the Japanese Fall Classic again.
The club has advanced to postseason every year but 2008 (sixth place), including first-place finishes in 2004 and 2005, since the current playoff system was installed.
Naruse (2-0), the Game 1 winning pitcher, went the distance, giving up no runs, four hits and no walks. He fanned six batters and was named the PLCS MVP.
“I can’t believe this,” the southpaw said. “We’ve been playing hard-fought games, but it’s just rewarding that I could have a complete-game shutout today.”
The do-or-die game started out as an intense pitching duel between two aces, the Hawks’ Toshiya Sugiuchi and Naruse. And the game was scoreless through four innings.
In the fifth, the Marines capitalized on a run-scoring opportunity against Sugiuchi, who started on four days’ rest. It began with two outs in in the inning.
Sugiuchi loaded the bases, giving up two hits and a walk. Then he hit Tadahito Iguchi and walked Saburo Omura to allow Chiba Lotte to take a 2-0 lead.
With the bases still juiced, the Marines added two more runs on Toshiaki Imae’s RBI single to center.
Chiba Lotte added three more runs in the eighth. Kim Tae Kyun smacked an run-scoring hit to right, followed by Shoitsu Omatsu’s two-run homer, both off reliever Brian Falkenborg.
Sugiuchi (0-2) lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs and four hits. He walked four and struck out two.
In the sixth, the Hawks handed the ball to Tsuyoshi Wada, who led the PL with 17 regular-season victories. He worked two scoreless innings.
While the Marines’ bats got hot in the last two games, the Hawks’ offense remained silent. Softbank scored just nine runs in the six-game series.
For Chiba Lotte, Imae and Tomoya Satozaki led the team’s 10-hit performance with three apiece.
“We needed to win three in a row,” Marines captain Tsuyoshi Nishioka said. “But we earned the playoff spot by winning three in a row and then beat Seibu (in the first stage) coming from behind.
“The bottom line is, we never gave up in any situations. That’s really paid off.”
Nishioka emphasized that although the team is now in the hunt for another NPB championship, it remains a challenger.
“We qualified as the third seed. We’re so pleased that we can now go to the Japan Series, having beaten the tough Softbank team,” Nishioka said. “Whoever we take on from the Central League, we’re going to face against it with a challenger type of mind-set.”
The 2010 Japan Series begins on on Oct. 30 at the home venue of the CLCS final state winner — either the Chunichi Dragons or Yomiuri Giants.
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