Climax Series First Stage – Game 1 Preview

It’s here! Today’s the first game of the 2010 Pacific League Climax Series, First Stage. I could not be more stoked for this game.

I added some final statistics from this season so you can see how things shook out – check out the 2010 Statistics tab up top. One thing you’ll notice is the dominance of two players – Captain Tsuyoshi and Ace Naruse. The first pitch today will be thrown to Tsuyoshi and taking the hill is of course Naruse. This has a familiar, reassuring feel to it.

The late season Lotte lineup (especially in August) was a considerable departure from what took the field way back in March, thanks to a rash of injuries and ineffectiveness. In fact, Naruse is the only starter from the original 6-man rotation who was still starting at the end of the year. CF Ogino, out. RF Saburo, hobbled late and missed many games. C Satozaki, gone for the last two months of the year. But now Saburo is back to full health, and it looks like Satozaki will be in the lineup for the start of the Climax Series. Ogino (Ta-Ka-Shi!) is of course still out, but fellow rookie Kiyota has been a capable replacement, especially in the last month as Our Marines made their final push for the last spot in the Climax Series.

The overall depth in the lineup is low right now, but the bench isn’t nearly as important in the playoffs as in the regular season, especially in a short 3 games series such as this one. Pitching is still a concern as I can’t figure out who would get the ball in a prospective game three start (Naruse and most likely Murphy will start the first two games).

Lotte took the season series from the Lions 13-11, finishing 5-7 in Seibu Dome. This record is perhaps a bit skewed by the last series where Seibu (in the middle of a roll) swept Lotte (reeling at the time) in convincing fashion. Overall the teams split the four series in Tokorozawa, so they are clearly pretty evenly matched.

My feeling is that the series will be quite competitive – both teams can put up tons of runs (Lotte #1 and Seibu #2 in runs scored), both have had pitching adventures (Seibu #6 and Lotte #5 in team ERA). I think Lotte will take this first game on the strength of Naruse’s pitching. Naruse leads Pa-League pitchers in the Climax Series with a season WHIP of 1.02 (second overall only to Darvish’s 1.01) and has advantages over Seibu starter Wakui in K’s, BB’s, and ERA. Famously, Naruse and Wakui went to high school together (with Naruse being one year senior) – it’s time for the elder to take one over the younger. I look for another big game from Imae as well, who ended the season on a run-producing tear.

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