Kyocera Dome is odd construction to look upon. It stands out in opposition to its in any other case regular environment and its round form and silver shade give it a particular sci-fi vibe. The curve of the roof rises up from the center of a wavy tube that snakes across the dome’s circumference. It so resembles a spaceship few can be shocked if someday it simply instantly blasted off again to the place it got here from. A suitably bizarre setting to kick off the Japan Sequence on this undeniably bizarre season. A 2020 marketing campaign spent adjusting to the brand new regular introduced on by the COVID-19 pandemic has reached its conclusion with solely the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Yomiuri Giants nonetheless standing. They’ll meet in Sport 1 of the Japan Sequence at Osaka’s UFO-like dome on Saturday evening.
“This can be an actually wonderful stadium,” Yomiuri Giants supervisor Tatsunori Hara stated after his crews follow on Friday. It’s a great factor he feels that manner, for the reason that Giants will probably be taking part in their residence video games there. Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri’s residence park, is unavailable for the Japan Sequence because of scheduling conflicts attributable to the coronavirus-related delay in beginning the season. The Hawks will host their video games at PayPay Dome in Fukuoka as common. This 12 months’ Japan Sequence will begin with a blockbuster pitching matchup between Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano and Hawks right-hander Kodai Senga. Sugano, a two-time Sawamura Award winner, was 14-2 with a 1.97 ERA through the common season. Senga received the pitching Triple Crown within the Pacific League, going 11-6 with a 2.16 ERA and 149 strikeouts.
Japanese baseball is almost on the end line after a season that began late and was reduced to 120 video games, from 143, as a result of the pandemic. Whereas there have been constructive exams through the season, the league arrives at its finale having had no main scheduling disruptions as soon as the video games truly began. “We had been in a position to get to the Japan Sequence with two wonderful groups,” NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito stated. With the interleague schedule scrapped on account of COVID-19, the Giants and Hawks will probably be an assembly for the primary time this 12 months. “I feel they’ve put collectively an incredible crew,” Hawks supervisor Kimiyasu Kudo stated of the Giants. Each golf equipment practiced Friday, with a couple of Giants pitchers getting in some further time on the mound.
Along with the change in locale, the Sequence may even have a particular rule change, with NPB saying on Thursday that the designated hitter rule will probably be in impact for each sport. The league stated the rule is particular for these 12 months and supposed to guard the well being of the gamers, particularly as pitchers within the PL didn’t bat in any respect these 12 months. The final time the DH was utilized in each sport in a Japan Sequence was in 1985. “We’ll simply play underneath the foundations now we have, that’s it,” Hara stated when requested concerning the change. The Sequence is a conflict of two profitable, big-spending groups opposing followers like to hate. It’s additionally a rematch of 2019, which resulted in a SoftBank sweep.
Dropping to the Hawks within the Japan Sequence has to turn into a ceremony of fall for Central League groups. SoftBank has a Japan Sequence victory in opposition to every of the six CL golf equipment since 2011 and has received the previous three titles. Beating the Giants once more would make the membership the primary four-peat champion since Yomiuri’s run of 9 straight from 1965-73. “We’re going to do all the pieces we are able to turn into No. 1 in Japan for a fourth straight 12 months,” Kudo stated. The Hawks look as robust as ever, too. SoftBank was an NPB-best 73-42-5 and received the Pacific League by 14 video games. They punched their ticket to the Japan Sequence with a two-game sweep of the Chiba Lotte Marines within the PL Climax Sequence.
The Hawks might have NPB’s greatest participant in outfielder Yuki Yanagita. He batted .342 this 12 months and completed with a 1.071 OPS and had various homers that needed to be seen to be believed among the many 29 he hit. SoftBank has a humiliation of riches past Yanagita together with Senga, infielder Ukyo Shuto, who dominated the basepaths with 50 stolen bases, and Livan Moinelo, among the many sport’s prime set-up males. Then there may be Akira Nakamura and Cuban sluggers Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial, final season’s Japan Sequence MVP. SoftBank, which scored 531 runs this 12 months, received’t should deviate from its regular offensive sample with the DH in impact.
“We use the DH through the Pacific League video games, so we’ll play as regular,” Kudo stated. The Giants have had revenge on their minds for the reason that Hawks put the ending touches on the final season’s title at Tokyo Dome. They had been motivated by that loss throughout spring camp and overpowered the opposite 5 CL golf equipment through the common season. Yomiuri completed the 12 months 67-45-Eight to earn one other shot on the CL’s first Japan Sequence title since 2012 when Yomiuri beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham. “I feel we’re extra ready now than we had been in 2019,” Hara stated. One huge distinction from 2019 is a wholesome Sugano.
Yomiuri may even be hoping for a greater sequence out of star shortstop Hayato Sakamoto this time round. Sakamoto was the final 12 months’ CL MVP, however hit simply .077 within the Japan Sequence. He batted .289 with 19 residence runs in 2020 and might be a part of a Yomiuri turnaround on these 12 months. The Kyojin additionally comes bearing CL residence run champion Kazuma Okamoto and in addition outfielder Yoshihiro Maru. Whether or not or not profitable the CL has ready them for SoftBank, nonetheless, is one other story. “We need to struggle as one crew,” Hara stated. “We’ll play the identical type as we did through the season, which led us to the Central League pennant.”