HIROSHIMA – The Hiroshima Carp clinched their second Japan Series berth in three years on Friday with a 5-1 victory over the Yomiuri Giants in Game 3 of the Central League Climax Series Final Stage.
The Carp started the six-game final stage at Mazda Stadium with a one-win advantage as league champions, and needed to win just three games to knock off the Giants, who finished the regular season in third place. In the Japan Series, starting on Oct. 27, the Carp will face the winner of the Pacific League’s final stage between the Seibu Lions and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
“The players came into this short championship series so well prepared, and then played so well,” said Carp manager Koichi Ogata, whose team has won the CL for three straight years but fell last season in the CLCS Final Stage. “I’m extremely grateful to them.”
The Carp scored in the bottom of the second inning, moments after right-hander Aren Kuri escaped a two-on, two-out situation in the top of the second. Alejandro Mejia pulled a leadoff double just fair down the left-field line off lefty Takanobu Imammura, and Takayoshi Noma followed by pulling one down the right-field line. Noma came home after a pair of groundouts to make it 2-0.
With two outs in the third, Yoshihiro Maru made it 3-0 with his second home run of the series, belting a hanging 1-0 slider from Imamura down the line in right.
The Giants’ comeback chances suffered a self-inflicted wound in the fifth, when a walk filled the bases with Carp after a single and an intentional walk. Two runners then came home on a throwing error by shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.
Kuri (1-0) allowed a run on three hits and two walks over 5-1/3 innings, while striking out seven. Yomiuri got on the board in the sixth on a one-out double by Sakamoto and a two-out Casey McGehee single.
“The pitchers were just outstanding, (Daichi) Osera in Game 1, (Kris) Johnson yesterday and Kuri today,” Ogata said. “The fielders too played some outstanding defense behind them.
“Speaking just for myself, I felt so much pressure. But the players must have felt even more. And even with that, they raised their games.”
Four Carp relievers held the Giants to a hit and a walk over 3-1/3 scoreless innings.
The game was the last for the Giants under manager Yoshinobu Takahashi, who had already announced he was stepping down when the season ended.
Imamura (0-1) was charged with three runs on three hits, a walk and a hit batsman. The lefty struck out one.