2016 Japan Series
- 1 Japan Series
- 2 Introduction
- 3 The Teams
- 4 Games
Nippon Ham Fighters
The Nippon Ham Fighters had won the Pacific League regular season title by 2 1/2 games then topped the Softbank Hawks, 3 games to 2, in the playoffs. Managed by Hideki Kuriyama, the team boasted two-way star Shohei Otani. Otani hit .322/.416/.588 and was 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA; had he qualified, he would have led the league in slugging and ERA but his time at each position was too low due to his dual role. Brandon Laird (.263/.319/.516, 39 HR, 97 RBI) led the PL in homers and Sho Nakata (.250/.308/.431, 25 HR, 110 RBI) led in RBI while Haruki Nishikawa (.314/.405/.398, 41 SB) was second in average. Other than Otani, key hurlers included Kohei Arihara (11-9, 2.94), Hirotoshi Takanashi (10-2, 2.38), Hirotoshi Masui (10-3, 10 Sv, 2.44), Chris Martin (2-0, 21 Sv, 1.07) and Naoki Miyanishi (3-1, 2 Sv, 1.52).
Managed by Koichi Ogata, Hiroshima was making their first Series appearance in 25 years and their first without former star player and managed Koji Yamamoto. They easily won the CL by 17 1/2 games, then topped the Yokohama BayStars 3 games to 1. Seiya Suzuki (.335/.404/.612, 29 HR) was second in the CL in average and slugging while veterans Takahiro Arai (.300/.372/.485, 19 HR, 101 RBI) and Brad Eldred (.294/.362/.538, 21 HR) provided additional pop, Arai finishing third in the league in RBI. Yoshihiro Maru (.291/.389/.481, 20 HR, 23 SB) was third with 98 runs. On the hill, they had a fine rotation headlined by Kris Johnson (15-7, 2.15), Yusuke Nomura (16-3, 2.71) and Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.09). Johnson was second in the CL in both wins and ERA and Nomura led in wins and was third in ERA. Shota Nakazaki (3-4, 34 Sv, 1.32), Jay Jackson (5-4, 1.71) and Takeru Imamura (3-4, 2 Sv, 2.44) provided fine relief.
Game 1: Hiroshima's hopes high after home win
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Fighters: Brandon Laird
Hiroshima won its first Japan Series game in decades to please the home crowd. The tone was set for the Fighters offense in the top of the first when LF Nishikawa and RF Hiromi Oka both singled and were stranded. The team would wind up stranding 11. Johnson gave up 9 hits and 2 walks in 6 2/3 IP but only one run.
In the bottom of the second, RF Suzuki drew a walk from Otani. With one out, 3B Tomohiro Abe singled him to third. The Carp then pulled off a delayed double steal, Suzuki swiping home to take the lead. It was the first steal of home in a Japan Series since Shozo Doi in 1969 and the 5th such steal (all were on double steals). In the 4th, they got insurance when both LF Ryuhei Matsuyama and 1B Eldred went yard off Otani to make it 3-0. Otani struck out 11 in 6 innings but would get tagged with a loss.
Nippon Ham got their only run in the top of the 7th when 3B Laird homered against Johnson. The Fighters continued their pace after that, though, getting three more singles that frame and scoring no one thanks to a double play and an inning-ending fly out from Oka with two men aboard. In the bottom of the 7th, Hiroshima added insurance. SS Kosuke Tanaka greeted reliever Yuya Ishii with a double; with one out, CF Maru singled him in. Anthony Bass relieved but walked PH Arai and Suzuki to load the bases. A sacrifice fly by Eldred capped the scoring.
Game 2: Historic happenings at home plate
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Carp: Brad Eldred (2)
Hiroshima repeated their 5-1 margin from game 1 but this time, Nippon Ham had a lot fewer scoring opportunities. On the other hand, it was not decided today until the 6th. In the bottom of the second, Carp 1B Eldred singled off Matsui with one out and scored on a double by 3B Tetsuya Kokubo. In the 4th, the Fighters tied it against Nomura, who allowed only two hits in six. 1B Nakata singled. With one out, 2B Kensuke Tanaka walked. After another out, C Shota Ono hit into a run-scoring error by 2B Ryosuke Kikuchi.
In the bottom of the 6th, the hosts went ahead for good. SS Kosuke Tanaka doubled and Kikuchi singled, Tanaka coming home on a close play. Originally, he was called out at home but the call was overturned on video replay, the first time replay was used in a Japan Series for close plays at home. CF Maru bunted and Matsui threw it away, scoring Kikuchi. With one out, RF Suzuki hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 then Eldred homered again for the 5-1 score.
After Nomura's six strong frames, Hiroshima got 1-2-3 innings from Imamura and Jackson. In the 9th, though, Nakata and 3B Laird singled off closer Nakazaki to open the frame, but he rebounded to whiff Kensuke Tanaka and PH Otani then CF Oka grounded out to end it.
Game 3: The Fighters fight back
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Carp: Brad Eldred (3)
Nippon Ham started digging their way out of the 2 games to none hole with an extra-inning win as the Series moved to their home turf. Hiroshima turned to 41-year-old Kuroda, the 4th-oldest player to appear in a Japan Series (Masahiro Yamamoto, Takashi Saitoh and Tadashi Wakabayashi had been older). The long-time Carp star started slowly. RF Kensuke Kondo singled, DH Otani doubled and 1B Nakata grounded in Kondo for a first-inning run.
In the top of the second, the Carp took the lead. With one out, RF Suzuki singled off Arihara, one of only four hits he allowed in seven innings. DH Eldred then smashed a two-run shot, making him the first Hiroshima player to homer in three straight Series games. From there, things settled down into a pitching duel between Kuroda and Arihara. In the 6th, Kuroda suddenly left the mound with two outs, still holding a 2-1 lead. After treatments in the dugout for cramps in the calves of both legs, he returned to the field to throw warm-up pitches but again had cramps and had to leave early in perhaps the last start of his career.
Kuroda was still on pace for the win in the 8th when Hiroshima brought in Jackson, who had been so strong during the season. Today was not his day, though. SS Takuya Nakashima walked and LF Nishikawa bunted him over. With two outs, Otani walked. Nakata then hit a two-run double to left to give himself three RBI as Nippon Ham suddenly took the lead. It didn't last long, though. In the top of the 9th, Suzuki tripled off Tanimoto. Eldred whiffed and LF Matsuyama flew out. Down to their final out, Hiroshima tied it as 3B Abe singled in Suzuki. C Yoshiyuki Ishihara walked but SS Kosuke Tanaka flew out.
In the bottom of the 9th, Osera went 1-2-3, striking out two. In the top of the 10th, Arai had a two-out single off Bass, bringing up Suzuki, who was 2 for 3 with a walk and the triple, but he whiffed this time. In the bottom of the tenth, Osera got the first out but walked Nishikawa. CF Dai-Kang Yoh whiffed but Nishikawa stole second. Otani then singled in the game-winner with his third hit of the day.
Game 4: Another bullpen meltdown for the Carp
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Nippon Ham evened the Series by again torching the strong Hiroshima relief corps. In the 4th, the Carp went ahead. CF Maru and 1B Arai drew walks from Hirotoshi Takanashi, who allowed only two hits in five but walked five. With one out, DH Eldred hit into a run-scoring error by RF Kondo. Meanwhile, Akitake Okada blanked the home team through five on three hits and three walks. In the 6th, though, 1B Nakata homered to tie it up.
Bass (2 IP, 2 H, 3 K, 0 BB) and Tanimoto (1 IP, 0 H, 0 K, 1 BB) provided solid relief for Takanashi. In the bottom of the 8th, Jackson walked Nakata with one out. With two away, 3B Laird hit a two-run bomb to center for the game-winning blow. Hiroshima staged a rally with two outs in the 9th against Fighters closer Miyanishi. PH Tsubasa Aizawa walked and SS Kosuke Tanaka and 2B Kikuchi each singled to load the bases for #3 batter Maru, but he went down swinging to end the threat as the Carp stranded 11 today.
Game 5: A grand grand slam
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Fighters: Haruki Nishikawa
The trend of the past few games continued with a strong start by Hiroshima wasted by a poor relief outing. This time, Johnson threw six shutout innings against the hosts. Meanwhile, Nippon Ham's starter Takayuki Kato lasted just 1 1/3 IP. In the first, Hiroshima scored on singles by SS Kosuke Tanaka, CF Maru (with one out) and RF Suzuki (with two away). In the top of the second, 3B Kokubo walked and LF Ko Shimozuru doubled to put two men on scoring position with none out. Kato got an out then was relieved by Luis Mendoza. Mendoza turned in a gem, stranding both runners then allowing only one hit and one walk in the next five innings. He was the first foreigner to throw 5+ innings in a Japan Series. Tamamoto and Bass followed with a scoreless frame apiece, each surrendering one hit.
In the bottom of the 7th, Nippon Ham started their comeback against Imamura. 2B Kensuke Tanaka walked. With one out, SS Nakashima singled and RF Oka hit a sacrifice fly to tie it. After being blanked by Jackson in the 8th, they faced closer Nakazaki in the 9th. With one out, Kensuke Tanaka walked and C Tomoya Ishikawa laid down his third sacrifice of the day. Needing only one more out to force extra innings, Nakazaki allowed a single to #9 hitter Nakashima and then plunked Oka. That brought up, Nishikawa, who was hitting .100 in the Series and had only five regular-season home runs. He smacked a game-winning grand slam in right to become the hero. It was only the second sayonara grand slam in Series history, following Toru Sugiura in 1992, only the second walk-off homer by a Fighters franchise member in the Series (following Koichi Iwashita, 1962) and only the 4th player to hit a walk-off Series homer after hitting 5 or fewer homers in the regular season, the most recent having been Hector Cruz in 1983.
Game 6: One for the road
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Fighters: Brandon Laird (3)
Carp: Yoshihiro Maru
For the fourth game in a row, Hiroshima's bullpen took the loss. For the first time this Series, though, the road team won. The Fighters started strong. LF Nishikawa continued his heroics from two days ago with a game-opening triple to right-center off game 2 ace Nomura. SS Nakashima walked and RF Oka hit a run-scoring single.
Hiroshima evened their scoring from games 4 and 5 combined with two runs in the bottom of the second off Masui. LF Matsuyama singled and RF Suzuki doubled, then with one out, C Ishihara hit into a two-run error by 3B Laird. Nippon Ham retook the lead in the 4th. RF Kondo singled and Laird hit into an error by SS Kosuke Tanaka. 2B Kensuke Tanaka singled in Kondo. With two outs, Nishikawa tripled again for a 4-2 lead. Nomura lasted just four innings, one more than Masui.
Hiroshima clawed their way back into it. In the bottom of the 5th, with two outs, CF Maru went deep off Kagiya to make it a one-run game. In the 6th, Matsuyama singled off Yuya Ishii. Kazutomo Iguchi relieved and walked Suzuki. With two outs, PH Shimozuru hit a run-scoring single to tie it up. Bass and Tanimoto again provided strong relief for Nippon Ham, though, with three shutout innings (1 H, 1 BB, 3 K), Bass improving to 3-0 as the relief duo got all of Nippon Ham's wins in the Series.
Imamura and Jackson became the second and third pitchers to appear in six straight games in a Series, following Kazuhisa Inao. Jackson got the first two outs of the 8th but then his recent woes resurfaced. Nishikawa, Nakashima and Oka hit three straight singles. Jackson then walked 1B Nakata to force in a run; it was the third time a player had drawn a bases-loaded walk in a Japan Series game, following Ryuzo Yamasaki (1986) and Munenori Kawasaki (2011). Kuriyama let Bass bat and the reliever singled to make it 6-4. Laird then put it out of reach with a grand slam off Jackson. Nippon Ham became the second team to hit two grand slams in the same Series, following the 1993 Seibu Lions.
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