HIROSHIMA – The Yokohama BayStars hit five home runs, including a pair from cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, to crush the Hiroshima Carp 9-3 on Tuesday and deny the Central League champion a second straight berth to the Japan Series.
The victory gave the league’s third-place team a 4-2 record in the CL Climax Series’ six-game final stage — where the Carp began with a one-win advantage by virtue of winning the pennant — and a ticket to the championship series for the first time in 19 years.
It is the first time in the CL for a third-place ballclub to advance to the Japan Series, and the second time in NPB history after the Chiba Lotte Marines achieved the feat in the Pacific League in 2010.
Hiroshima’s only win in the final stage, played entirely at Mazda Stadium, came on Oct. 18 in Game 1, which was called after five innings due to rain, and Yokohama took the next four games in a row over a span of six days after two rainouts.
As in the previous night’s matchup, the home team got on the scoreboard first in Game 5, with Kosuke Tanaka leading off with a double and coming home on Yoshihiro Maru’s RBI single and Xavier Batista doubling in Maru in the first inning.
CL batting king Toshiro Miyazaki hit a solo shot the next inning to cut the deficit to one run, and the BayStars pulled starter Kenta Ishida after just one inning and sent Kazuki Mishima to the mound where the right-hander tossed a 1-2-3 second.
Masayuki Kuwahara then belted a two-run home run off Carp starter Yusuke Nomura (0-2) to put the visitors ahead 3-2 in the third, before pinch hitter Seiya Hosokawa, a 19-year-old rookie out of high school, hit an RBI single the following inning.
Tsutsugo added three insurance runs on two home runs in back-to-back at-bats in the fifth and seventh, which sandwiched a solo clout by veteran Hiroshima slugger Takahiro Arai off reliever Tomoya Mikami.
Takayuki Kajitani capped the scoring with a two-run homer in the eighth as the BayStars rapped out 16 hits against the Carp’s nine.
After Mishima (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings, five relievers combined to limit Hiroshima’s offense to one run, Mikami becoming Yokohama’s only reliever to yield a run in the final stage.
“So many things happened in these games … but our pitchers did a tremendous job and they kept us in the game,” said BayStars manager Alex Ramirez, who’s in his second season at the helm. “That’s the reason we were able to come back and score some runs.”
Yokohama will face the PL champion Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the best-of-seven Japan Series starting Saturday at Yafuoku Dome in Fukuoka.
“We’re going to be hoping that we’re going to win the Nippon Series, representing not only the Yokohama DeNA BayStars but also the Central League,” Ramirez said. “Every day is going to be a challenge for us and we’re going to try our best to win.”