Lotte Marines right-hander Roki Sasaki pitches against the Nippon Ham Fighters in his first start of the Nippon Professional Baseball season at Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba, near Tokyo, on April 6, 2023. (Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
The 2023 Nippon Professional Baseball Pacific League Climax series will start on October 14 at 5 a.m. EDT when the second place Chiba Lotte Marines (70-68-5) open up at home against the third place Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (71-69-3) at Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba, Japan.
Chiba Lotte Marines starting pitcher Roki Sasaki and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks starting pitcher Carter Stewart will face off in Game 1 of the Pacific League Climax Series.
The 2023 Pacific League regular season champion and defending 2022 Japan Series champion Orix Buffaloes (86-53-4) will await the winner of the Marines and SoftBank Hawks best-of-three Climax Series for the best-of-six Pacific League Championship Series, with times and dates yet to be announced.
The Pacific League Championship series will start with the Orix Buffaloes up 1-0 in the series due to having the best record.
The best-of-seven Japan Series will start on October 28 and the 2023 Pacific League champion’s stadium will host games one and two starting on October 29. Games three, four and five will be held at the 2023 Central League champion’s stadium between October 31 to November 2. Games six and seven, if necessary, will be held on November 4-5 at the 2023 Pacific League champion’s stadium.
There are ties in the first two-rounds of the Climax Series and the Pacific League and Central League championship series. If the team with the better record wins the first two games with game 3 resulting in a tie after 12 innings, the winner of the first two games advances from the league championship series to the Japan Series.
All times of the Japan Series are yet to be announced.
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation is the sponsor for the 2023 Japan Series.
Chiba Lotte Marines (70-68-5)
Marines closer Naoya Masuda will have to keep his command consistent up and down the strike zone for the playoffs. During the 2023 regular season, Masuda appeared in 58 games out of the bullpen, recording a 2-5 record with a 3.71 ERA over 53.1 innings, with 36 saves, 19 holds, allowing 49 hits, nine home runs, 22 earned runs, 14 walks and 54 strikeouts with a 1.181 WHIP.
Marines first baseman Hisonori Yasuda appeared in his first All-Star Game during the 2023 regular season. Yasuda batted .238 in 122 games with 472 plate appearances, recording 99 hits, 24 doubles, nine home runs, 43 RBI, 49 walks, and 95 strikeouts with a .678 OPS.
Starting pitcher Roki Sasaki was elected to his second All-Star Game this season, and landed on the injured list back in late July with a left oblique muscle tear which forced him to miss almost two months of the regular season until he was reactivated during the beginning of September. Sasaki is among one of the top players in Japan and has attention from a lot of Major League Baseball scouts.
Sasaki will be eligible to be posted, enabling Major League Baseball teams to bid on his services, before the 2027 season, when he will turn 25 years old and will have finished six seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball.
This season, Sasaki posted a 7-4 record starting in 15 games alongside a 1.78 ERA throwing 91 innings allowing 51 hits, 18 earned runs, one home run, 17 walks, and striking out 135 batters including a 0.747 WHIP.
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (71-69-3)
Right fielder Yuki Yanagita will have a huge impact for the SoftBank Hawks offense. Yanagita is a nine-time NPB All-Star and six-time Japan Series champion during his 13-year career. This season, Yanagita has played in 143 games, batting .299 over 625 plate appearances with 163 hits, 29 doubles, three triples, 22 home runs, 85 RBI, 64 walks, 97 strikeouts and a .861 OPS.
Starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, at 42 years old, is still putting up quality numbers. Wada has won five Japan Series during his career and has played 16 seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball, as well as two seasons in Major League Baseball with the Chicago Cubs from 2014-15.
During the 2023 regular season, Wada was elected to the sixth All-Star Game of his career and started in 21 games, throwing 100 innings with an 8-6 record and a 3.24 ERA, allowing 89 hits, 36 earned runs, 10 home runs, 29 walks, and 85 strikeouts with a 1.180 WHIP.
Outfielder Kensuke Kondoh will be a major factor for the SoftBank Hawks offense. This season, Kondoh hit .303 in 143 games with 613 plate appearances, smacking 149 hits, 33 doubles, 26 home runs, 87 RBI, 109 walks, and 117 strikeouts including a .959 OPS.
Orix Buffaloes (86-53-4)
Starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto has been remarkably consistent the last few years and won his third consecutive NPB Triple Crown after the 2023 regular season. Yamamoto has not posted an ERA above 2.00 since the 2020 season. Yamamoto is expected to be posted for Major League Baseball consideration this off-season.
The 25-year-old is in the midst of another outstanding season in Japan and was excellent in his final start of the 2023 regular season on October 2. He struck out 11 and walked two in seven scoreless innings, throwing 112 pitches against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Yamamoto finished the regular season with a 1.21 ERA and a 0.884 WHIP. He will be a pivotal piece to the puzzle if the Buffaloes are to win back-to-back Japan Series championships.
Yamamoto was elected to his fifth all-star game in NPB and finished the 2023 regular season with a 16-6 record with 23 starts throwing 164 innings allowing 117 hits, 22 earned runs, two home runs, 28 walks, and 169 strikeouts.
First baseman and outfielder Keita Nakagawa will have to keep his hot offensive going during the start of the Pacific League championship series. Nakagawa has played in 135 games this past regular season batting .269 with 563 plate appearances recording 136 hits, 29 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs, 55 RBI, 43 walks, and 90 strikeouts alongside a .751 OPS.
Nippon Professional Baseball playoffs can be viewed on https://nspotv1.com/ or the Pacific League TV’s Youtube Page until the final out of the Japan Series. For more information on streaming NPB games, please refer to our NPB Streaming Guide.