is a left-handed pitcher for the Pacific League's Saitama Seibu Lions of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball . He has recorded 224 career wins...
took the mound for the Hawks and asserted his dominance from the beginning of the game. He would strike out 13 batters, and scattered six hits. His counterpart, Shigeki Noguchi, did not fare as well. Noguchi walked five batters in five and 2/3 innings, and while he only gave up two hits, one of them was costly. One of the hits in question came off the bat of Daiei leadoff man Akiyama, who cranked his first home run of the series at the start of the 6th. Two walks to the dangerous Kokubo and Johjima set up Nieves, who doubled to center to bring them both home. Kudoh took it from there, as the Dragons did not record any extra-base hits and did not have any men reach third base in the game.
This game went much better for the Dragons, as they teed off on the uncharacteristically wild Daiei pitching. Five Hawks pitchers combined for a total of 10 walks. Second-year starter Kenshin Kawakami started for the Dragons and had a much better game than Noguchi did the previous day. Kawakami also got a lot of help from both his offense and Daiei starter Kenichi Wakatabe, as he was all over the place in the first inning. Wakatabe walked leadoff man Koichi Sekikawa, then recorded the first out of the game. However, it only got worse as Kosuke Fukudome
is a Japanese professional baseball outfielder.Prior to arriving in the United States, Fukudome played nine seasons for the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Central League...
and Leo Gomez
Leonardo Gómez Vélez , is a former professional baseball player who played in the Major Leagues primarily as a 3rd baseman from 1990–1996. He currently manages the Aberdeen IronBirds of the New York-Penn League.-Minor leagues:Gómez was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1985 as an amateur...
both drew walks to load the bases. Kazuyoshi Tatsunami
is a Japanese professional baseball player for the Nippon Professional Baseball Chunichi Dragons, having played his professional career for them since his debut in...
then followed it up with a towering two-run double to center to give the Dragons a 2-0 lead. Wakatabe also walked Kazuki Inoue for a total of four free passes in the first inning.
Daiei answered in the bottom of the inning quickly, as Akiyama blasted his second home run to left field, slashing the Chunichi lead in half. However, Wakatabe coughed up any opportunity that the Hawks had of getting back into the game by giving up two more runs in the second, with the walks again hurting him. This time, he got two quick outs, but a double to Mashida and Fukudome's second walk set up Gomez, who knocked in both runners and chased the Daiei starter. Wakatabe's final line was just one and 2/3 innings, with four runs earned on three hits, five walks, and one strikeout.
Masuhiro Sakumoto ended up cleaning up the mess, as he worked three and 1/3 innings, as he did not get away unscathed. He was knocked around for two runs in the 5th, as he gave up a single to Tatsunami and a double to Lee Jong-Beom before loading the bases with a walk to Kazuki Inoue. Catcher Takeshi Nakamura then came through with a two-run single to give the Dragons a 6-1 lead.
Shuji Yoshida was called upon to try to stop the tide in the 6th, but the Chunichi bats could not be cooled down. Yoshida walked Fukuno to begin the inning, then gave up doubles to Fukudome and Gomez that scored both runs he would give up in the inning, bookended by another walk, this one to Tatsunami.
Daiei would strike for one run in the 8th off a tiring Kawakami, this one off the bat of Koichiro Yoshinaga after Chihiro Hamana singled, but it was far too little, too late as Chunichi tied the series with a dominating 8-2 win.
With the series shifting back to Nagoya Dome
Nagoya Dome , constructed in 1997, is a baseball field, located in the city of Nagoya, Japan. The dome has the capacity to seat up to 38,414 people . It is an example of a geodesic dome....
for Games 3 through 5, the Dragons had hoped to have some home-field advantage going as they sent veteran screwballer Masa Yamamoto to the mound against Hawks' starter Tomohiro Nagai. Again, the Hawks pitching prevailed, posting their second shutout of the Series on Chunichi, in what was a dominating performance by the Hawks' staff.
In fact, Nagai was in the middle of a no-hitter
A no-hitter is a baseball game in which one team has no hits. In Major League Baseball, the team must be without hits during the entire game, and the game must be at least nine innings. A pitcher who prevents the opposing team from achieving a hit is said to have "thrown a no-hitter"...
before he was taken out after six innings. All Chunichi could muster in that span were three walks, two of them coming in the first inning (Fukudome and Gomez). In all, the Hawks would have 6 and 1/3 innings of no-hit ball before Gomez singled to left. The Dragons' best chance to score was in the 6th inning with a runner on first, but an amazing catch by Akiyama in the right field corner turned into a double play as the runner failed to tag up.
Offensively, all Daiei would need came in the 4th off the bat of Kenji Johjima. He crushed a long home run to left to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead. The Hawks would add one more in the 7th and two more in the 8th to give Pedraza all he needed to close the door. With the Hawks 5-0 win, the Dragons needed to solve the Hawks' pitching riddle before it was too late.
The Dragons would find no answers for the Daiei pitching for the second straight day, and for the third time in the series, Chunichi was shut out. This time it was rookie starter Junji Hoshino who did the honors for the Hawks. Over 6 and 1/3 innings, Hoshino gave up no runs on three hits, with only one walk and one strikeout. Lefty reliever Takayuki Shinohara took over, striking out two and giving up a hit in 1 and 2/3 innings, and Pedraza closed the game out in the 9th with a hit and a strikeout to his record.
Kazuhiro Takeda started for the Dragons and matched zeroes with Hoshino through the first two innings, but Akiyama once again came through for the team as he knocked in two runs, set up by an error by Takeda which put Chihiro Hamana on first and Hoshino sacrificed him to second. Akiyama once again reinforced his case for the series' Most Valuable Player by singling in Hamana for the first run of the game. After Arihito Muramatsu
Arihito Muramatsu is a former professional baseball player from Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan. He was an outfielder for the Orix Buffaloes, but now is with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks....
walked, Kokubo singled in Akiyama for a 2-0 lead. Kokubo would strike again in the 6th with a solo blast that put the Hawks up in the game 3-0.
In the three games in which Daiei had won, the Dragons had failed to score. With their backs against the wall at three games to one, the Dragons had to get something together against the Daiei pitching and fast. One thing was certain: one team's championship drought would end sooner or later. It was all a question of if it would take one more or three more games.
The answer would be one more game. Anxious Hawks fans were counting down the outs as the game went on at Nagoya Dome. Masahiro Sakumoto made the spot start for the Hawks as the Dragons sent Game 1 starter Noguchi to the mound. The Dragons got off to a good start in the first as Sakumoto walked in the first run of the game after two errors from Daiei, giving the Dragons their first run in 21 innings.
However, the lead would not last. Daiei's offense clicked once again in the third, this time for six runs which would be the Hawks' only offensive output in this game. Yanagida led off the inning with a single, and then after a Sakumoto strikeout, Akiyama singled yet again to keep the rally going. Then, the defense fell apart for Chunichi, as did their hopes of their first Japan Series Championship since 1954. First, it was Noguchi who threw away a grounder by Muramatsu, and then Fukudome's throw missed the mark on a Nieves grounder. After Kokubo struck out, the wheels really fell off for Chunichi. Johjima doubled home another run, and after Iguchi was intentionally walked, Matsunaka doubled home two runs of his own for a 6-1 lead.
Chunichi did mount a rally, though. The bottom of the third saw Chunichi's first home run of the series, as Gomez helped to chase Sakumoto, cutting the deficit to 6-2. Nakamura halved the Daiei lead in the 6th with his first home run of the series, and an RBI double by Lee Jong-Beom pulled the Dragons ever closer at 6-4.
However, it was not enough. Pedraza worked the last 1 and 1/3 innings, striking out Lee to end the game 6-4, and the series, 4-1.
The series MVP was Koji Akiyama, who would retire three seasons later in 2002. In the series, he batted .286 with two home runs and he also made the miraculous jumping catch in Game 3.