FULL COUNT: Sox, Golden Eagles close in on titles

The Boston Red Sox stand on the brink of their eighth World Series title with a 3-2 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals heading into Game 6 on Oct. 30.

Right-fielder Shane Victorino returns to the starting lineup after missing Game 4 with lower back stiffness. He was available off the bench in Game 5. He notably hit a grand slam off Detroit’s Jose Veras on Oct. 19 to seal the Red Sox ALCS victory.

Closer Koji Uehara was named the series’ Most Valuable Player of the AL Championship Series after recording one win and three saves against the Tigers. He is 1-1 with seven saves and 15 strikeouts this postseason. He picked off rookie Kolten Wong at first base to end Game 4 of the Fall Classic.

Junichi Tazawa has been equally effective in the playoffs, earning a win and three holds in the ALCS while setting up for Uehara.

With the next two World Series games in Boston, their chances for another championship look very strong.

In NPB news, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles are tied 2-2 with the Yomiuri Giants in the Japan Series. The winner advances to compete in the Asia Series, a round robin tournament featuring the champions of Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Australia.

Then Sendai-based Tohoku roster features former major leaguers Kaz Matsui and Takashi Saito along with MLB destined ace Masahiro Tanaka, who went 24-0 this season. Big league veterans Andruw Jones and Casey McGehee are also members of the team.

The Golden Eagles were founded in 2004 and played their first season in 2005. They won their first Pacific League pennant this year.

Meanwhile lefty reliever Hideki Okajima elected to become a free agent on Oct. 18. The 37-year-old pitched in five games for the Athletics this season, but spent the majority of the year with the Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento. Signing a minor league deal or returning to Japan are his primary options.

Drew Morita, a Yonsei from the island of Kaua‘i, grew up rooting for the Oakland A’s but is now a loyal San Francisco Giants fan. He writes from San Francisco. Follow him @drewmorita or e-mail him at drew_morita@yahoo.com.

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