They start tonight. Or tomorrow. Depends where you are.
The first leg of Japan's Pacific League playoffs start today in Tokorozawa at the Invoice Seibu Dome as the second place Seibu Lions will host the third place Fukuoka Softbank Hawks at 1 pm Japan time Saturday. That is 9 pm PT and midnight ET.
Stephen Elsesser of the Japan Times has a preview. Seibu will start its ace, Daisuke Matsuzaka, who finished the season 18-5 with 200 strikeouts and a 2.13 ERA. The Hawks starter, Kazumi Saito, has been as good or as better than Matsuzaka. Saito was 18-5 with a 1.75 ERA and 205 Ks. Matsuzaka threw 186 1/3 innings while Saito worked in 201 innings.
Softbank had a team ERA of 3.13 and Seibu had an ERA of 3.64. The Pacific League does use the DH. Softbank scored 553 runs (4.10 per game) while Seibu scored 645 (4.80 per game). The Lions outhomered the Hawks by a margin of 131-82. Seibu has edges in batting average (.275 to .259), slugging (.421 to .373) and OBP (.342 to .324). Seibu's offensive star is slugger Alex Cabrera who hit 31 home runs and batted .315. Softbank's star is first baseman Nobuhiko Matsunaka who batted .324, slugged .528, and had an OBP of .453 thanks to 102 walks with just 37 Ks.
An even more important edge in this best of three series is homefield. All three games (if necessary) will be played at the Invoice Seibu Dome, Saturday through Monday at 1 pm. Monday is a holiday in Japan. As you can see in one of the photos here, the Seibu Dome isn't enclosed. The wind and rain can blow through the openings in the sides of the stadium. During the regular season, the Lions beat the Hawks 10 times, the Hawks won 9 times and there was one tie. The teams split 10 games at the Invoice Seibu Dome.
The winner of this series will face the first place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the second league of playoff starting on October 11 at the Sapporo Dome. That will be a four game series with the Fighters getting a one victory advantage. The final two games (if necessary) would be at either the Invoice Seibu Dome or the Yahoo Fukuoka Dome.
The winner of