October 19, 2022 (Mainichi Japan)
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Catcher Yuhei Nakamura, last year’s Japan Series MVP, said Tuesday he and his teammates are motivated by the chance to win the Yakult Swallows’ first consecutive championships.
The Central League champions worked out at the team’s practice facility across the street from Jingu Stadium, where the best-of-seven series will begin Saturday in a rematch with the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes, who like Yakult are two-time defending champs.
“Because this team has never been No. 1 in Japan in two straight seasons, it looms large in our consciousness. And we’ll do our best also as individuals to achieve it,” said Nakamura, who fielded grounders at shortstop along with the Swallows infielders.
Nakamura is again expected to provide strong pitch-calling behind the plate against an Orix offense led by slugger Masataka Yoshida, who finished runner-up for the PL batting title after winning it the previous two years.
“Everybody knows what an exceptional batter Yoshida is,” Nakamura said. “And there’s also (slugger Yutaro) Sugimoto, whose clutch hitting and power has been decisive in short championship series. They are formidable.”
Southpaw starting pitcher Keiji Takahashi, who is expected to start sometime from Game 2 on, said this year’s showdown will be a completely new challenge.
A year ago, Takahashi helped Yakult bounce back from a Game 1 walk-off loss with a Game 2 shutout.
“Last year was last year,” Takahashi said. “This year, too, what’s important will be concentrating on each and every batter as I pitch.”