Hanshin and Softbank Advance in NBP Playoffs

The Hanshin Tigers defeated the Yokohama DeNA Bay Stars 2-1 to win the Central League climax series two games to one. The veteran Kyuji Fujikawa pitched the final two innings to seal the victory for the Tigers to bring on their rivals the Yomiuri Giants for the Central Division championship. The series between these two franchises is equivalent to the Yankees/Red Sox rivalries. The Giants will start the six game series with a 1-0 advantage, with all six games played at their park, a daunting task for the Tigers to advance to the Japan Series.

The Tigers scored their first run on a wild pitch and the Bay Stars bounced back scoring a run courtesy of a Tiger error. A hit batsman and another wild pitch in the eighth inning allowed a runner to move to third where Ryutaro Umeno drove him in with a sacrifice fly to score the go ahead run. Fujikawa came in to successfully protect the one run lead for two innings. Many may remember this name. Fujikawa pitched three rather unsuccessful seasons in the major leagues where he left after 29 appearances and a 5.74 ERA with the Cubs and Rangers.

The losing Bay Stars have already announced the posting of their star player Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. He will be a popular target among major league teams looking for a power hitting left fielder. Tsutsugo hit two homeruns in the first two games of this playoff series but went 0 for 4 in the deciding third game.

The Softbank Hawks also advanced after beating the Rakuten Golden Eagles 2-1 to win their three game series two games to one. Seiichi Uchikawa drove in both runs for the Hawks, his last hit being the most critical with a solo homerun in the seventh giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead. Cuban Livan Moinelo shutdown the Eagles in the eighth and Yuito Mori closed out the ninth inning to earn the save.

Two more Cubans assisted in the Hawks victory. Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial ended the no hitter from Takayuki Kishi with back to back singles in the fourth inning. Uchikawa ended the shutout by making it back to back to back singles, scoring Despaigne with the first run and tying the game 1-1.

The Eagles scored their lone run in the fourth inning on a Hideto Asamura solo shot. It was his fourth homerun in the three game playoff series. He hit 33 homeruns during the regular season. He also accounted for seven of the ten Eagles RBIs.

The Hawks will have to face the Seibu Lions in the final of the Pacific League. They will start the six game series down 1-0 with all six games held at the Seibu Lions park.

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