The SoftBank Hawks opened the Japan series with a bang when the youth Ryoya Kurihara homer and drove in four races to lead the Pacific League champions to a 5-1 victory over the Yomiuri Giants in Saturday’s game 1.
Kurihara went 3-for-3 with a walk, a two-run homer and a two-run double off Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano before 16,489 at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome. Hawks ace Kodai Senga, who started Game 1 for the fourth year in a row, worked seven pointless rounds to earn the win.
Ryoya Kurihara from SoftBank Hawks hits a two-run home run in the second round of Game 1 of the Japan Series against the Yomiuri Giants at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka on November 21, 2020. (Kyodo) == Kyodo
The victory extended the Hawks’ record winning streak after the season to 13 games. SoftBank has also won nine straight Japan Series Games dating back to Game 3 of the 2018 series.
The 24-year-old Kurihara opened his Japan Series account with a two-run second-round homer after Yurisbel Gracial, the series’ MVP for 2019, opened the round with a single. Sugano, who led both leagues with 14 wins this season, hung a 2-0 slider in the heart of the zone for Kurihara who drove it into the right field.
“I was just so nervous. I thought I was just making as good a turn as I could on the first strike I saw,” said Kurihara, who was in his first season as usual this year.
“Kurihara really gave the bench energy by hitting a home run from a great pitcher like Sugano,” Hawks boss Kimiyasu Kudo said.
Kodai Senga from SoftBank Hawks beats in match 1 in the Japan series against Yomiuri Giants at Kyocera Dome in Osaka November 21, 2020. (Kyodo) == Kyodo
Giant left-back Zelous Wheeler prevented the Hawks from taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth. Kurihara doubled with two outs, but Wheeler threw him out at home and tried to score on an Alfredo Despaigne single.
Kurihara and the Hawks made it 4-0 in the sixth. Sugano withdrew on the first two strokes before hitting Yuki Yanagita and handing a flare single to Gracial. Kurihara scored a good 2-1 fast ball this time for their third goal of the match.
Giants rookie Shosei Togo worked a pointless seventh, but PL stole base leader Ukyo Shuto went, stole second and scored easily on an Akira Nakamura single against left-hander Yuki Takahashi on the eighth.
Sugano allowed four runs on six hits and one hit while hitting four over six innings. The bed went three and gave three hits over seven. He knocked out six.
Hawks left Livan Moinelo struck out three strokes on a pointless eighth, but closer to Yuito Mori filled the bases with the Giants on the ninth. A walk, a single and a one-hit hit champion allowed Wheeler to break down the shutout with a sacrificial fly.
The Giants are hosting their games this year in Osaka because the home park, Tokyo Dome, is not available due to a planning conflict. Due to the new coronavirus pandemic, which forced the shortened season to start late, attendance at this year’s series is limited to half the arenas’ capacity.
The Giants will send Nobutaka Imamura to the mound for Game 2 at the Kyocera Dome. Lefty went 5-2 this season with a 3.16 ERA. The Hawks will start right-hander Shuta Ishikawa, who put out a 2.42 ERA and tied Senga to the PL lead in a win of 11.
Games 3 and 4, and 5 if necessary, are played at the Hawks’ home park, Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Ryoya Kurihara of SoftBank Hawks hits a two-run home run in the second round of Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano in Game 1 of the Japan Series at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka on November 21, 2020. (Kyodo) == Kyodo