2017 Climax Series First Stage Preview

 

The Hanshin Tigers will host the Yokohama DeNA BayStars over the weekend for the right to head into Hiroshima in the Final Stage of the Climax Series. Today, we look at the two teams’ starting lineups, key players, key matchups, and some predictions. First, the bad news… rain is in the forecast for the entire weekend. How much rain, I’m not sure. But if games are played, it will be shower room baseball.


Potential Pitching Matchups:

Keep in mind, the clubs do not release this information ahead of time, so these are just our speculations, which are partly based on media reports we’ve read.

Game 1 – Saturday October 14, 2:00 pm: Randy Messenger (vs. DeNA: 1-1, 3.00 ERA) vs. Shota Imanaga (vs. Hanshin: 3-1, 3.34 ERA)

Game 2 – Sunday October 15, 2:00 pm: Takumi Akiyama (vs. DeNA: 2-1, 5.48 ERA) vs. Joe Wieland (vs. Hanshin: 2-0, 1.76 ERA)

Game 3 – Monday October 16, 6:00 pm: Atsushi Nohmi (vs. DeNA: 1-0, 2.14 ERA) vs. Haruhito Hamaguchi (vs. Hanshin: 3-0, 3.03 ERA)


Possible Starting Lineups:

 Hanshin TigersYokohama DeNA BayStars
1CF ShunsukeCF Masashi Kuwahara
22B Hiroki UemotoRF Takayuki Kajitani
3RF Yoshio ItoiLF Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh
4LF Kosuke Fukudome1B Jose Lopez
51B Yusuke Ohyama3B Toshiro Miyazaki
63B Takashi ToritaniC Yasutaka Tobashira
7SS Yamato2B Tatsuhiro Shibata
8C Seishiro SakamotoPitcher
9PitcherSS Toshihiko Kuramoto

T-Ray says… The Tigers could go with Ryutaro Umeno at catcher, but Sakamoto is rumored to be ready to go. There have also been whispers of Wacky Tomoaki using Ohyama in the 4-slot.

Ryo says… Ramirez said he will go with Shibata for 2B as his defense is better than any other alternatives. This is the lineup for the game vs Carp when we clinched 3rd place so he’ll probably stick to it. Tobashira has better batting stats than Minei at Koshien.


Key bullpen pitchers:

Hanshin – Naturally, Rafael Dolis is the team’s closer and Marcos Mateo is the principal set-up man. However, the team boasts a robust bullpen with multiple arms that had ERAs of under two and a half: Akifumi Takahashi (L), Suguru Iwazaki (L), Kentaro Kuwahara (R), Kyuji Fujikawa (R), and Tsuyoshi Ishizaki (R) will be leaned on heavily if the starters don’t hold the BayStars bats down. The key man is likely Takahashi, who will be called on to shut down Tsutsugoh in later innings. Their battles this year have been one-sided: The Yokohama Masher is just 1-12 with a single, a walk and 4 K’s against Takahashi.

DeNA – Assuming Yasuaki Yamasaki (closer) and Spencer Patton (set-up) will do just as good as they did in the season, the key bullpen pitchers will be Tomoya Mikami (R), Koki Sunada (R), Kenjiro Tanaka (L) who haven’t been steady all year. There will be situations (tie, close behind, or lead) when they will have to go on mound, so whether or not they can perform their best could affect the course of the game.


Owning the Opponent:

Hanshin – Yoshio Itoi (26-75, .347 AVG, 3 HR, 15 RBI, .984 OPS). Kosuke Fukudome (23-73, .314 AVG, 3 HR, 15 RBI, .948 OPS). Takashi Toritani (27-81, .333 AVG, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 17 BB, .943 OPS).

T-Ray says… These three veteran lefties will be key to the series, as two of DeNA’s slated starters are lefty pitchers. If they can do some damage, it will help the Tigers bats see more pitches from the porous DeNA bullpen.

DeNA – Takayuki Kajitani (.326, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 5 SB) and Toshiro Miyazaki (.376, 1 HR, 6 RBI).

Ryo says… Kajitani is the one who has been giving us the game changing HR and plays. He also has the speed to steal bases, IF he can get on base. The other side of the coin, however is that he has the highest strikeout rate in league. If we just focus on Game 1, Miyazaki has hit 6-6 against Messenger so I’m looking forward to him continuing that hitting streak.


Owned by the Opponent:

Hanshin – Shunsuke (11-44, .250 AVG, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .608 OPS)

DeNA – Jose Lopez has not been good against the Tigers and especially at Koshien with .196 BA, 1 HR.


Predictions:

T-Ray says… DeNA has starters that have owned us this year, but if we can chase them after 5-6 innings, comebacks will happen. Hanshin’s bullpen is rock-solid, and will come in and shut down early if need be. Also, the Tigers have strong bench depth, providing late inning threats in pinch hit situations. Tigers in 3.

Ryo says… I will have to say BayStars 2-1, but the chances will drop drastically if we lose Game 1.
On the bright side, the BayStars went through this last year against the Giants and actually went on to Hiroshima so the experience can’t hurt. I am also counting on the fact that the Tigers’ key young players like Nakatani and Ohyama will struggle under pressure at their first playoffs, especially at Koshien. I’m sure we’ll see some great team spirit from both sides and I am genuinely looking forward to the series. Please don’t rain out…


About the Guest Contributor:

Ryo
– Yokohama native
– Lived in Vancouver, BC during my years at university
– Currently residing in Tokyo working as a “salary-man”
– Guy behind @baystarsEN on Twitter

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.