The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks defeated in six games the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and won for the second time in a row, the fourth in five years, the Japan Series.
The Hawks clinched the title in front of 30,723 fans in Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima, in the sixth game of a series that took off with an unusual draw: 2-2 in 12 innings. Dutch righthander Rick Van den Hurk went six innings, allowing only three hits and one walk, while striking out ten.
“That was great and obviously when you win the championship, that’s amazing,” said Van den Hurk at the end of the game.
Fukuoka got the lead against left hander Kris Johnson thanks to a squeeze bunt by Tetsuro Nishida. The second run came on a solo homer by Cuban third baseman Yurisbel Gracial.
Middle relievers Shota Takei, Shinya Kayama pitched the seventh and the eighth for the Hawks. Closer Yuito Mori got the final three outs. He retired Seiya Suzuki to end the game.
“Our players have been working relentlessly since the end of the season,” commented Fukuoka manager Kimiyasu Kudo.
Koichi Ogata, the Hiroshima Carp manager, said: “We had a very good chance to win. Our players gave their best until the very end.”
Hiroshima had taken the lead winning, 5-1, on home turf the second game of the series behind a dominant Kris Johnson. As the series headed back to Fukuoka, the Hawks won all of the games played at Yafuoku Dome in front of crowds regularly exceeding 35,000 fans.
Game 5, won in the tenth on a sayonara home run by Yuki Yanagita (a Hiroshima native) became the turning point of the series.
Fukuoka catcher Takuya Kai, who caught a record six consecutive runners stealing, was named the series MVP.
The Japan Series are played every year by the teams emerging from the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB; Central League and Pacific League) play offs.
The 2018 NPB season had record attendance numbers: 14,235,573 spectators in the Central League and 11,315,146 in the Pacific League. This makes a total 25,550,719 spectators through the year.
Cover picture (courtesy of the Japan Times): Kimiyasu Kudo, manager of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, is given the traditional doge, a victory toss