/

BayStars begin quest to reach Japan Series on the road against Tigers

CL Climax Series first stage starts on Saturday at Koshien Stadium

Kyodo

The Yokohama BayStars finished third in the Central League for the second straight season, and seek to do better than they fared in last year’s postseason.

To that end, the ballclub will count on two key pitchers’ tendency to perform better away.

Last year, the BayStars made it to the Climax Series for the first time since the postseason format was introduced in 2007 and beat the second-place Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome in the first stage to advance to the final stage, where they fell to the Hiroshima Carp.

This time, Yokohama will play the best-of-three first stage starting Saturday at Koshien Stadium, the Hansin Tigers’ home park.

Second-year lefty Shota Imanaga and right-hander Joe Wieland, who are expected to start the first two games against the Tigers, both posted superb figures at Koshien Stadium this season.

Imanaga, who notched a team-high 11 wins against seven losses, was 3-1 in five starts against Hanshin, with the three wins from all of his games at Koshien. While his ERA for the season was 2.98, the figure was 0.48 at the Tigers’ home stadium.

Wieland, who has a 10-2 record in his first year in NPB, faced Hanshin twice — both at Koshien — and won both times. His ERA of 1.76 at the venue is also better than his season average of 2.98.

The first-stage host is likely planning to send Randy Messenger, 11-5, and Takumi Akiyama, 12-6, to the mound in Games 1 and 2.

Coming back after being sidelined for two months with a fractured right leg, Messenger struck out eight while allowing one hit over four scoreless innings on Tuesday, the last day of the regular seaso.

But with Jose Lopez and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who finished 1-2 in the CL in RBIs, and batting king Toshiro Miyazaki in the lineup, Yokohama could well storm into the Climax Series’ final stage against Hiroshima.

Last year, the Baystars lost 4-1 in the six-game final stage at Mazda Stadium.

The 2017 BayStars’ 13-12 record against Hiroshima made them the only CL team with a winning record against the Carp since 2015. But the odds are against Yokohama winning the two-stage Climax Series, since only one third-place team in the Climax Series’ first 10 years has advanced to the Japan Series.

The Pacific League’s Chiba Lotte Marines achieved the feat in 2010, when they went all the way, beating the Chunichi Dragons to win the Japan Series.