The 2020 Nippon Series, the championship series of Nippon Professional Baseball, started today. The Yomiuri Giants from Tokyo took on the SoftBank Hawks from Fukuoka. The Giants are the first team to reappear in the Nippon Series after being swept in the previous year. The Hawks have been dominating Japanese baseball in the past decade. Since 2011, the club has won the Nippon Series six times.
Tomoyuki Sogano was the starter for the Yomiuri Giants, Kodai Senga took the mound for the SoftBank Hawks. Dutchie Wladimir Balentien wasn’t on the Hawks roster after a rough year in which he underperformed and was sent down to the minors. Also Dutchie Rick van den Hurk didn’t make the roster but he was injured for the biggest part of the season. The Giants will play their home games at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka since the prestigious corporate leauge is playing a tournament there. That tournament is normally played in August/September but due to COVID-19, everything is different.
In a game that wasn’t very exciting after all as Kodai Senga dominated the Giants’ linuep in seven innings, The Hawks stayed at the right side of the score thanks to timely hitting. After a scoreless first inning, the SoftBank Hawks took the lead. Yurisbel Gracial led off with a single, followed by a home run by Ryoya Kurihara.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Giants pushed for some runs. Zealous Wheeler singled to left field and advanced to second base on a ground out by Takumi Oshiro. A 1-3 ground out by Naoki Yoshikawa moved Wheeler to third base. With a fly out to left field by Seiya Matsubara, Kodai Senga got out of the inning without any damage.
In the top of the fourth inning the Hawks had a chance to extend their score with a runner in scoring postion, but after a hit to shallow left field, Ryoya Kurihara was sent home by the third base coach and was tagged out by a mile after a perfect throw from Zealous Wheeler from left field.
The Hawks threatened in the top of the sixth inning when Sogano gave up an HBP and a bloop single to right field that put runners on the corners. Ryoya Kurihara followed with a double to deep left center field, his third hit of the game, to drive in two runs and give the Hawks a 4-0 lead. In the eighth inning, the Hawks extened their lead with a run when Akira Nakamura hit towards shallow left field and drove in Ukyo Shuto from second base.
Eventually, the game got a bit exciting when the Giants loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth as Hawks’ closer Mori had trouble with finding the stike zone. A high hit fly out to left field by Zealous Wheeler drove in the first and only run for the Giants.
There were some nice plays but the good atmosphere was missing. Normally Japanese fans sing and play on musical instruments. But due to COVID-19, that is all not the case this year. A notable play was the diving play by Yomiuri Giants’ first base man Hiroyuki Nakajima that prevented a base hit.
Also Yurisbel Gracial’s catch in left field was worth mentioning. Hiroyuki Nakajima hit a towering fly ball that appeared to end up in the stands for a home run. But it was too short. Gracial had to do his utter best to catch the ball as he literally stood with his back to the wall, jumped and caught it.
Kodai Senga earned the win. He pitched solidly to keep the Giants at bay but he needed 118 pitches in sevem innings of work. He walked three, struck out six and allowed three hits to the Giants.
Tomiyuki Sogano took the loss. In six innings, he gave up four runs on six hits and a HBP.
The final score: