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Monday, Oct. 29, 2007

Cool customer: Seguignol keeps composed, produces in big games


Staff writer

SAPPORO — Channeling his anger into production, that's what Fernando Seguignol exhibited in his first at-bat of the 2007 Japan Series.

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' massive slugger gave the reigning Nippon Professional Baseball Champions a boost with his three-run homer off Chunichi starter Kenshin Kawakami on Saturday, catching his fastball up in the middle of the strike zone in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1.

That hit propelled the Fighters to a 3-1 victory over the Dragons. Yu Darvish, meanwhile, fanned 13 in a complete-game victory.

Seguignol recalled before Sunday's Game 2 that he was angry about the first pitch he was thrown.

It was a called strike.

"I was mad at the at-bat," the 32-year-old said. "I got a strike that was called. (But) I was trying to keep focusing and stay relaxed. I kept my cool even though I was mad so I could get Darvish a lead."

It appeared that staying cool certainly worked for him when he smacked Kawakami's ball right on the fat part of his bat. Seguignol, who hit a two-run dinger off the Dragons right-hander in Game 5 of last year's Series (which would eventually be the Series clincher), had a ready wit and looked for a fastball.

"If I remember correctly, I got him with the cutter so I don't think he wanted to pitch inside, even though he tried to come inside," the Panamanian said.

"(The first pitch) was a fastball that passed by, so I just tried to sit back and relax. (On the second pitch), he came with the fastball and I reacted to that one and got it.

"For sure, I know (Chunichi catcher Motonobu) Tanishige was out over the plate. He pulled that ball back in."

After all, that was a pretty big homer for the Hammies because Kawakami regained his usual dominating form back and only gave up one more hit after Seguignol's round-tripper.

Even so, Seguignol was a hero two games in a row.

He hit a three-run homer off Chiba Lotte Marines lefty starter Yoshihisa Naruse to give Nippon Ham a 3-0 lead in the third inning in the decisive fifth game of the second stage of the Pacific League Climax Series on Oct. 18 at Sapporo Dome. The Fighters went on to win the contest 6-2 to advance to the Japanese version of Fall Classic for the second straight year.

But before the game, he was in a slump. Seguignol, who had a lukewarm .249 batting average with 21 homers and 68 RBIs in the regular season, went 2-for-15 with no ribbies in the previous four games, and then critical notes about it started running in the media reports.

Seguignol, however, never lost his cool.

"I pushed all that out," he said. "I'm a professional. If somebody says I suck or whatever, I push that back. It's not going to bother me."

That mind-set is working for Seguignol.

He smashed a homer off Kenichi Nakata in the fourth inning of Game 2 to increase his Japan Series total to four.



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