The Hiroshima Carp fell 3-0 to the Chunichi Dragons on Wednesday, finishing the regular season in fourth place in the Central League and missing out on a chance to make the Climax Series playoffs.
Instead, the Hanshin Tigers claimed the third and final CLCS berth and are set to play the Yomiuri Giants in the first stage of series, which starts Saturday at Tokyo Dome.
Hiroshima in the ninth inning got a runner on first when Yoshihiro Maru walked, but Takahiro Arai’s grounder to third base was the final out of the season.
The sighs of fans, who had expectations for a CLCS berth, filled Mazda Stadium afterward.
The game symbolized the Carp this season, as their pitchers limited their opponents, but the hitters were unable to produce.
Starter Kenta Maeda, pitching on four days’ rest, battled to keep the Dragons scoreless over seven innings. The Carp, though, were unsuccessful against Yudai Ono, who took the mound with one out in the first inning, and Shunta Wakamatsu (10-4), who came on in the seventh inning.
In the end, they finished with a season-low one hit in suffering their 17th shutout loss.
“It’s not one person’s fault,” Maeda said. “If we lose, it’s on every member of the team.”
Two players out front as team leaders, Ryosuke Kikuchi and Maru, both hit over .300 last year but experienced big dropoffs in production. The Carp finally put a runner in scoring position in the sixth inning, but Maru and Kikuchi went down with back-to-back strikeouts.
“That’s where our ability is at this point,” Maru said. “Not only in this game, we’ve been a consistent burden on our pitchers.”
Maeda hopes to play in the major leagues at some point, and his status for next season is uncertain, as is that of fellow starter Hiroki Kuroda.
Said Ogata: “We’re going to start preparing from autumn [camp] to get our team ready to compete for the championship next season.”
Yamamoto pitches final game
Meanwhile, Dragons left-hander Masahiro Yamamoto became the first Nippon Pro Baseball pitcher to start a game at 50. He was scheduled to face just one hitter and retired Maru on three pitches.
It was the final appearance of his nearly 32 years of action.