Despite the NPB season almost being over, second place in the Pacific League and its accompanying playoff spot was still up for grabs for the last few days. What once looked like a sure shot came down to a dogfight between the Chiba Lotte Marines and Saitama Seibu Lions. Whoever grabbed second place would win the right to play the three-time defending champs, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, in the Pacific League’s Climax series.
The Marines could’ve clinched a playoff berth a while ago if they hadn’t struggled so mightily through October. Over the month, they won just eight games and lost 17. Over that same span, the Lions managed to keep steadily eating up the lead. They went 14-11-1 to come within a game of second place in the Pacific League.
In the end, the Marines managed to hang on and extend their season. But I don’t think anyone is feeling overly confident about their playoff chances. They finished the year just above .500 with a record of 60-57-3. Now, they have to face the team with NPB’s best record, the 73-42-5 Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
With the way the Climax Series is structured, the Hawks will have a one game advantage for winning the pennant when the playoffs start on Saturday, November 14. That means the Marines will need to win three out of four games against the team with not only the best record, but the best run differential in NPB. The Hawks finished the year at +142 runs while the Marines failed to break 0, finishing at -18.
Simply put, I think the Marines are outmatched. Look for the Hawks to handily win that series. They’ll then move on to face the Yomiuri Giants in the Japan Series.
The Japan Series will start on November 21. Even though the Giants will have more rest than their opponents, I’m picking the Hawks to win the whole thing. Yomiuri stretched its lead over the Central League into double digits at one point, before backsliding to end the season.
The Giants aren’t a bad team, but the Hawks are going for their fourth straight Japan Series. My grandfather always taught me that you play a streak until it peters out. I’m not about to bet against this Hawks dynasty that’s going for its seventh championship in ten years.