Fukuoka – If the sight of Yuki Yanagita holding up his bat while taking a few steps toward first base didn’t tell the story, the sound that filled the stadium surely did.
The crack of Yanagita’s bat meeting the ball gave way to the immediate roar of the crowd to form a thunderous symphony of inevitability. No one, not the other Pacific League teams or the best the Central League could muster, was going to deny the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks this year.
Yanagita erased an early one-run deficit with a two-run home run in the first, Takuya Kai hit a two-run shot in the second and the Hawks captured their fourth straight Japan Series title by completing their second straight sweep of the Yomiuri Giants with a 4-1 win on Wednesday in front of a crowd of 19,679 at PayPay Dome in Fukuoka.
“To be honest, I’m relieved,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “I’m so happy and it feels so great to become the best in Japan here in Fukuoka.”
SoftBank claimed its seventh title since 2011 and did it with a sweep that was even more dominant than the last one.
The only time the Hawks trailed in the series was after Hayato Sakamoto gave the Giants a 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the first inning of Game 4. Yanagita’s blast in the bottom half wiped out that deficit.
Kai then gave the club a little breathing room with his homer in the second.
“We allowed them to score first for the first time in this series,” Kudo said. “But those homers changed the mood on the bench and gave our players some momentum.”
The Hawks outscored the Giants 26-4 overall and were one out away from a combined no-hitter in Game 3. The Series was nearly as one-sided as the Chiba Lotte Marines’ famous 33-4 demolition of the Hanshin Tigers in 2005.
Ryoya Kurihara, who was 3-for-3 with a homer and four RBIs in Game 1 and 4-for-5 in Game 2, was named Japan Series MVP.
“I didn’t do well during the Climax Series, so I wanted to help our team in any way I could during the Japan Series, Kurihara said.
Kurihara got the Hawks going with his very first swing of the series, a two-run home run off Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano that gave the team a 2-0 lead in Game 1.
“I was hoping I could get off to a good start, so it felt great to make it happen,” he said.
Hawks first baseman Akira Nakamura also won in a way. Kurihara and Nakamura trained together during the offseason, which Kurihara was reminded about on Wednesday.
“I want to buy Akira something,” Kurihara said, as Nakamura was shown pumping his fists on the scoreboard.
The Hawks won this title in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the season to start nearly three months late. Restrictions on crowd size resulted in a total attendance of 69,798, the lowest in Japan Series history. The Hawks players wore masks during the championship ceremony and later as they paraded around the field.
SoftBank has dominated the postseason for the past decade. The Hawks have won their last 12 Japan Series games and their last 16 home games in the Japan Series. They’re also currently on a 16-game postseason winning streak.
The Hawks are the first team to win four straight Japan Series titles since the V9 Giants, who won nine straight from 1965-73, and are the first PL team to achieve the feat.
“From the time we won the championship last season, winning a fourth straight title became our next goal,” Kudo said.
“Our players had a difficult start, but they kept playing at their best and it led to us winning the league title. Then, a fourth straight title became more realistic.
“I’m grateful to the players for making this Japan Series as great as it was.”
The Giants had been looking for their first Japan Series title since 2012, the last time any CL team won the crown.
Instead, the team, which lost to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Game 7 of the 2013 Series, tied a record with its ninth consecutive Japan Series loss.
The Kyojin set the mark for lowest batting average at .132.
Yomiuri made it interesting in the ninth against closer Yuito Mori, with Kazuma Okamoto drawing a walk and Hiroyuki Nakajima hitting a one-out single.
Mori struck out Shunta Tanaka for the second out and retired pinch hitter Yoshiyuki Kamei to secure the game, the series and the title.
SoftBank’s Yuki Matsumoto earned the win in relief of starter Tsuyoshi Wada and Mori was credited with the save.
Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.
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