Baseball / Japanese Baseball | HIT AND RUN

Farcical finish in Hiroshima robs BayStars of fair chance to compete

by Jason Coskrey

The Yokohama BayStars and their fans should be furious. They were robbed in Hiroshima Wednesday night, trudging out of a soggy Mazda Stadium down 2-0 in the Central League Climax Series Final Stage despite spending a grand total of five innings actually playing baseball in the series.

They “lost” the first game because the Hiroshima Carp were awarded a one-game advantage (in addition to hosting the entire series) by virtue of winning the league pennant — one of NPB’s dumber edicts.

That wasn’t the issue Wednesday, rain was the culprit. While the one-game advantage is patently unfair, it’s the way things have been since 2008. What happened Wednesday was unexpected, and in the moment far more egregious.

The rainy conditions in Hiroshima caused the umpires to stop play for over 30 minutes and ultimately call the game after five innings, minutes after the Carp put three runs on the board. Just like that, it was over. The Carp won 3-0, with Yokohama robbed of the four innings (at least) it would’ve had to try and rally.

“We can’t control the weather here,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said, according to Sports Hochi.

It’s one thing to call a game in the regular season, but this isn’t how it should go down with a spot in the Japan Series hanging in the balance.

Playoff games shouldn’t end like this. Playoff games definitely shouldn’t end like this when one team has already been gifted a one-win advantage. The BayStars, having already had to use three starters to get through the first stage, now find themselves really up against it, down two games in a “seven-game” (the advantage plus six contests) series that hasn’t lasted nine innings yet.

At this time of year, you should suspend the game and restart it in the sixth the next day. Or wave it off earlier and play a full game the next day. The Climax Series is scheduled to end Oct. 23, the Japan Series begins Oct. 28. There’s time for a makeup game. If the BayStars (or any team) are going to have to start in an automatic 1-0 hole on the road, they deserve a full chance to try and dig their way out.

What must be particularly vexing to the BayStars is they just finished playing in slop in the name of getting a game in during the first round. Koshien Stadium’s all-dirt infield had been pounded by rain on Oct. 15, but a tight schedule meant Game 2 between the BayStars and Hanshin Tigers had to be played if possible.

So the BayStars and Tigers went out there, playing through rain and in mud that affected both the players’ footing and batted balls. It was a muddy, nasty spectacle of a game, one that probably shouldn’t have been played. The conditions in Hiroshima were pristine by comparison.

“It was entirely different from Koshien,” the BayStars’ Takayuki Kajitani was quoted as saying by Sports Hochi.

The BayStars and Tigers, who should also have issues about playing that game at Koshien, had a game rained out and made up with a tighter schedule between series. So why not this time?

There’s no guarantee Yokohama would’ve won Wednesday (or in a makeup), but it deserved the chance to try. Calling the game is hardly in the spirit of competition during the postseason, when there aren’t too many tomorrows left, and only one team will go home happy.

The BayStars were 13-12 against the Carp during the regular season. From Aug. 22-24, they pulled off three consecutive sayonara wins (one that required a four-run rally in the ninth) over the Carp. Victory wasn’t guaranteed, but it certainly wasn’t out of the question.

Basically, Japanese baseball failed the BayStars Wednesday night.

They deserved a chance to either find a way to win, or to go down fighting. But the officials in charge did a better job of washing that away than the rain ever could.