Baseball / Japanese Baseball

BayStars shake off opening losses as Japan Series moves to Yokohama

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Yokohama BayStars’ Joe Wieland doesn’t yet know if he’ll be nervous to start in his first Japan Series game.

“Ask me tomorrow,” he said with a smile on Monday afternoon at Yokohama Stadium. “I’m OK right now.”

When it comes to his level of confidence on the other hand, there are no mysteries. The BayStars right-hander, who won 10 games during the regular season and already has two victories under his belt during this postseason, is ready to go.

That his team is down 2-0 in the series against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks after a 10-1 blowout in Game 1 and a crushing 4-3 loss in Game 2, which turned on a missed double play and a replay reversal at home plate in the seventh inning, hasn’t dented Wieland’s belief one bit.

“Game 1, we had one inning that just blew up and kind of put us out of it,” he said. “Yesterday was tough. That one, we’ll look back and . . . that’s one we should’ve had. We made a couple of errors and we didn’t have a couple of bounces.

“Yesterday just goes to prove that we can hang with these guys. There’s no point in us putting our heads down and saying the series is over. We’re in the same spot we’ve been in the last two series. Our backs are against the wall. Every time our backs have been against the wall, we’ve answered.”

The BayStars held a pitchers-only practice at Yokohama Stadium on Monday in preparation for Game 3. Because the teams aren’t announcing their probable starters, Wieland hasn’t publicly been named the Game 3 starter (and neither has the Hawks’ Shota Takeda), though he looked ready to go.

“I feel good,” Wieland said. “I feel very good. The whole plan was just to give me a couple of extra days just because they had been throwing me on short rest every time for quite a while now. My body feels good, and I’m ready to go.”

Wieland didn’t face SoftBank when the Pacific League champions took two of three at Yokohama Stadium during interleague play.

“I’ve watched the video from when they were here,” he said. “Watching these last two days, I’ve got a good sense of what these guys like, what they don’t like.”

SoftBank held a full team workout in chilly conditions on Monday night, as they got acclimated to the series’ new setting. Closer Dennis Sarfate, who recorded the save in Game 2, said he has no problems pitching outside of the Hawks’ Yafuoku Dome.

“I feel like at home, if I suck, I’m going to disappoint a lot of people. But if I suck on the road, I’m going to get cheered,” he joked on Monday.

“I’ve never had an issue pitching on the road. I enjoy it. I like the feeling.”

“HamaSta” will be rocking as BayStars fans witness a Japan Series home game for the first time since 1998. As the third-place finisher in the Central League, Yokohama has been on the road for the entirety of this postseason.

“This place is going to be pretty electric,” Wieland said. “No offense to SoftBank’s fans, but I think we have better fans. It’s going to be loud. These guys have been waiting since 1998 for something like this.”

Sarfate, a former CL pitcher, also expects the fans to turn up the volume.

“We gotta come out and score right away, and that takes the crowd out of it” Sarfate said. “If we stay with them 0-0, and they get a big inning and score a couple of runs, I remember this place when we came for interleague, it’s loud. It’s definitely changed from when I was with the Carp. The fans are more into it.”

The shift to a CL park means the DH rule is no longer in play and pitchers will be hitting.

“I would say anytime the Pacific League is playing in the Central League park, you have to give the Central League the advantage,” Wieland said. “Because at least that pitcher has experience that each time he goes out, he’s hitting. He’s just been through it more. “It takes a different mindset when you’re standing out on the bases as a pitcher, because you’re not going through your normal routine. I’ve seen it way too many times, and it’s happened to me, where my next inning explodes because I ended the inning at the plate or standing out on the basepaths.

“Because you’re not going through your normal routine,” he continued. “So this will just be something different for them. I would say in any given game, the Central League would have the advantage for that reason.”

Of course, the bigger challenge for the SoftBank pitchers to overcome will be the BayStars’ batters.

“They’re a good team,” Sarfate said. “You’ve gotta be smart. Their manager, I have a lot of respect for Alex (Ramirez). I faced him a lot when he was a player. You have a guy who can hit who is teaching other guys who can hit. I’m sure he had some input on how these guys are doing it and that’s why they’re a better hitting team than they’ve ever been.”