Chunichi couldn't capitalize on a 3-1 series lead in their Final Stage match up with Yomiuri and were eliminated after a 4-2 loss last Monday. The Dragons were nearly the first non-first seed team to advance to the Japan Series since the extra advantages were given to the regular season champ in 2008.
I wouldn't say that the Dragons choked in this series, the Giants were the better team from the second month of the season on and I'm sure Yomiuri was a little rusty early in the series after not having played real games for a couple weeks. Still the Dragons had a real opportunity after winning Game 4, but were never able to put full pressure on the Giants as Yomiuri jumped out to early 2nd inning leads in Game 5, 6 and 7. The Dragons' best opportunity to take the series was in Game 6, when Tony Blanco tied the game late with a two-run home run. It looked like the game was destined for extra innings, but Hitoki Iwase was brought in to pitch the bottom of the 9th and was unable to get anyone out. If anyone choked it would have to be Iwase, he looked like he was aiming more than throwing and left some very hittable pitches up over the plate and the Giants took advantage, an unacceptable performance for someone with his experience.
Chunichi really missed having Yoshimi, there's no doubt in my mind that had he been available to pitch in any of the final three games, he would have been able to close out the series. Neither team was at full strength as Yomiuri was without one of their aces, Toshiya Sugiuchi, while Chunichi was without Yoshimi, Enyelbert Soto, Kenichi Nakata and also Soma Yamauchi was knocked out of Game 6 fairly early when he was hit by a batted ball. Without those any of those guys it probably would have been hard for Chunichi to beat Nippon Ham had they advanced, but it would have been fun to see them try. Without their main starters Takagi went with youngsters Yudai Ono and Junki Ito in Games 2 and 3 three and both came through with great performances, especially under the circumstances. Takagi went with Ito in Game 7, which would have been my choice, hoping talent would win out over experience, but Ito gave up four straight hits to start the 2nd inning and Yomiuri held control of the game from there.
It was a tough way to end the season, after starting the series with very little hope, then having things progress to where the chances of moving on were so good only to have them slip away. It just wasn't meant to be, but it was a memorable series, both teams showed a lot of heart (hate to say that about Yomiuri) and Chunichi's young pitchers gained some valuable experience, so maybe next year will be a year when Chunichi can hang another banner.