FUKUOKA – Yokohama BayStars manager Alex Ramirez had one message for his players on the eve of what will be the first Japan Series appearance for many of them.
Vamos. Let’s go.
Ramirez and his upstart BayStars arrived at Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome on Friday, taking the field after the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks departed, as the clubs got in their final practices for the Japan Series.
Game 1 will be played Saturday night.
“We’ve gotten to this point, and the players are very excited to be here,” Ramirez said Friday afternoon. “They know we have to win four games to be able to win the Nippon Series.
“The best thing I can say to my players is just go out there and keep doing what you guys have been doing to get to this point. Don’t do anything less than what you guys have been doing. So, vamos.”
The Hawks enter the series having won both the Pacific League pennant and the PL Climax Series crown. They celebrated by spraying beer on each other both times, and are hungry for a third “beer fight.”
“I think my team is settled,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “It’s the Japan Series, so there might be a few nerves tomorrow. I just hope our guys perform up to their abilities and compete well.”
SoftBank won two of the three games the teams played during the regular season, all at Yokohama Stadium.
“I don’t know what to expect,” said Hawks closer Dennis Sarfate. “I know it’s going to be loud here and at Yokohama Stadium. It should be exciting, a lot of good hitters on both teams and good pitching. I’m looking forward to this series.”
Ramirez and Kudo met during the manager’s meeting between the teams’ practice sessions and went over some of the rules for the Japan Series. There, it was decided the clubs would not announce their probable starters during the series. Kudo was in favor of doing it, but Ramirez demurred.
“That’s the decision we came to,” Kudo said. “We’re not going to do it.”
Kudo came up with a compromise where starters would be announced during the games in Fukuoka, but not in Yokohama, but NPB officials said it was not possible.
“Whether we do it or not, it’s the same for both teams,” Kudo said. “So it’s not going to affect the way we play.”
The BayStars are the first third-place team to advance through the Central League Climax Series to reach the Japan Series. The Chiba Lotte Marines are the only other NPB team to do it, coming through the Pacific League Climax Series before defeating the CL champion Chunichi Dragons in the Japan Series in 2010.
“I watched the final stage of the CL Climax Series on television and thought they were an amazing team,” Kudo said of Yokohama.
The BayStars have already done a little giant killing.
Yokohama defeated the second-seeded Hanshin Tigers in the first stage, and won four straight, after dropping a rain-shortened opener, to knock out the Hiroshima Carp in the second stage. All those victories came on the road.
Now they find themselves up against a Hawks team looking for its third Japan Series crown in four seasons.
“SoftBank has a very strong team,” Ramirez said. “It’s a complete team. We’re not getting anything easier. We came from playing against the Hiroshima Carp, who were 50-20 at home. Now SoftBank was 52-20-1 at home. It’s even better. It’s not going to be any easier for us, but we’re going to try to do our best.”
The DH rule will be in effect at the Hawks’ home park, but Ramirez has already decided hard-slugging Yoshitomo Tsutsugo will remain in the lineup in left field.
“First game of the Nippon Series, I want my main players to be on the field,” Ramirez said. “That’s exactly what I told Tsutsugo today. ‘I want you in left field.’ “
Ramirez will surely need Tsutsugo’s bat, as the BayStars hope to get on the board early, often and before Kudo can unleash his bullpen. Especially before SoftBank can get the ball to Sarfate, who set an NPB record with 54 saves this season.
“We just went through that with Hiroshima,” Ramirez said. “We have to score early in the game. Their bullpen is unbelievable. Not only the bullpen, but their starting pitchers. They can go six, seven innings. Using strategy early in the game is going to be a key factor for us to be able to score early in the game.”
The BayStars and Hawks will meet in Game 1 at Yafuoku Dome at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Game 2 will be at the same venue, while the BayStars will host Games 3, 4 and, if necessary, 5. Games 6 and 7 would be played in Fukuoka.
Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.