Yakult Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu is tossed in the air by his players after the Swallows claimed their first Japan Series baseball title in 20 years with a 2-1, 12-inning Game 6 win over the Orix Buffaloes on Nov. 27 at Hotto Motto Field Kobe in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture. (Kyodo Photo)

Japan Post Co. said Friday it will begin selling Shohei Ohtani stamp sets to commemorate the Japanese baseball star receiving this year’s American Major League MVP award.

Costing 6,100 yen ($53), including tax and delivery fees, the standard set will include five 84-yen stamps, eight postcards and a foldable booklet showing time-lapsed photos of Ohtani at bat, as well as a face towel.

Japan Post will begin taking on-line applications from Saturday to Jan. 16, and in-person applications at post offices across the country from next Wednesday to Jan. 14.

Deliveries of the made-to-order sets will start in late January, and will be sent out in the order in which they were received.

Ohtani, the Angels’ two-way star, became the second Japanese in 20 years to receive the award after Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.

Tsutsugo to Re-sign With Pirates, Agent Confirms

Free agent Yoshitomo Tsutsugo will sign a new deal to stay with the Pittsburgh Pirates next season, his agent, Joel Wolfe, confirmed Sunday.

The 29-year-old first baseman-outfielder will ink a one-year contract worth $4 million with the Pirates, who finished the 2021 season bottom of the National League Central division. He is expected to play primarily at first base next season.

Tsutsugo joined the Pirates last August, reviving his major league career with the club following unsuccessful stints with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 43 games with the Pirates, the left-handed slugger batted .268 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs.

In his 132-game major league career, spanning two seasons, Tsutsugo has averaged .209 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs. He became a free agent following the expiry of his two-year contract originally signed with the American League’s Rays.

Before he moved to the U.S. in 2020, Tsutsugo played 10 seasons for the DeNA BayStars in Japan, where he was a five-time All- Star and three-time Central League Best Nine Award recipient.

Kawabata Drives Swallows to Japan Series Title

The Central League champion Yakult Swallows clinched their sixth Japan Series championship as Shingo Kawabata’s 12th-inning RBI pinch-hit single earned them a 2-1 Game 6 victory over the Pacific League champion Orix Buffaloes on Saturday.

The Japan championship was Yakult’s first since 2001 and the first by a CL club since 2012.

With the game tied 1-1 since the fifth inning, the Swallows broke through in the 12th against Orix’s sixth pitcher, Ryo Yoshida. A two-out Yasutaka Shiomi single and a wild pitch put the runner in scoring position for Kawabata, whose little flare found space to fall in shallow left for the tie-breaking single.

With Japan Series games only allowed to go 12 innings before being called a tie, Kawabata represented Yakult’s last chance to prevent the series from going to Game 7.

“All season long, he got the job done for us,” manager Shingo Takatsu said of Kawabata. “With two outs in the 12th inning, an out would eliminate our chance to win. It wasn’t much of a hit, but it was tremendous batting on his part.”

Yakult closer Scott McGough (1-2) took the mound with two outs in the 10th and retired five straight before putting the potential tying run on in the 12th by hitting a batter. But the right-hander hung on to get the final two outs and end the PL’s long reign of postseason dominance.

“It was really a hard season, coming off back-to-back last-place finishes, so the joy right now is off the charts,” Takatsu said. “We wanted to represent the Central League with pride, but the Buffaloes were extremely difficult opponents, so this was no easy task.”

With regular-season and playoff games this season limited to nine innings to reduce the risk of infections amid the coronavirus pandemic, the game was the first in Japan in over a year to go to extra innings.

Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto allowed a run over nine innings at Hotto Motto Field Kobe, during which he gave up six hits, walked a batter, hit a batter and struck out 11 and threw 141 pitches.

Swallows right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi was pulled after allowing his fourth hit of the game. He also allowed a run on four hits and two walks while striking out seven over 4-2/3 innings. Albert Suarez worked 2-1/3 innings of scoreless relief and setup man Noboru Shimizu two more to force extra innings.

“We came here to win tonight but knew we would have few chances against such a tough starting pitcher,” Takatsu said. “Everyone took care of business at the plate and on the mound, and even though it took extra-innings, we got there.

“Starting with Takanashi until we got to McGough, all the pitchers were able to bring their unique talents to bear.”

The teams exchanged fifth-inning runs. Jose Osuna singled to lead off the Swallows’ fifth, was sacrificed to second and scored on a Yasutaka Shiomi single off Yamamoto. The Buffaloes then eked out a run on a pair of fluke singles.

Kenya Wakatsuki reached on a poorly hit ball to second that took a tricky hop. After a one-out sacrifice, leadoff man Shuhei Fukuda’s weakly hit fly took a lucky bounce past shortstop, and Wakatsuki only scored because the throw home hit him in the arm while he was still coming down the third-base line.

McGough, Yakult’s fifth pitcher, has surrendered Adam Jones’ Game 5-winning ninth-inning home run and suffered both of Yakult’s losses. He took the mound in the 10th and struck out PL home run champ Yutaro Sugimoto to end the inning and then hung on to earn the win in relief.

Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura was named series MVP.

“The Orix hitters are so good. They never give away at-bats, so this was really hard for us, but our pitchers did an amazing job,” Nakamura said.

The series championship is the Swallows’ third against the Buffaloes’ franchise, having previously beaten their predecessors, the Hankyu Braves, in 1978 and the Orix BlueWave in 1995.

— Kyodo News reports

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