New Royals manager's Ham Fighters lose Japan Series in 5

Updated: November 1, 2007, 10:48 AM ET
Associated Press

NAGOYA, Japan --Trey Hillman was on the wrong side of a perfect ending in the Japan Series on Thursday.

The Kansas City Royals' new manager and his Nippon Ham Fighters lost 1-0 to the Chunichi Dragons when Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase combined on a perfect game in Game 5 of the seven-game series, giving the Dragons the championship of Japanese baseball.

"I'm very disappointed that it's over," said Hillman, who was hired Oct. 19 to manage the Royals. "You want the series to go on as long as it can go, but we weren't able to take it back to our ballpark."

The 44-year-old Hillman has never played, coached or managed in the majors. But he was successful as a minor league manager, and the Nippon Ham Fighters played in the Japan Series for the second consecutive year.

The Fighters were attempting to repeat as Japan Series champions. They defeated the Dragons in five games to win the 2006 title.

The first perfect game in the 57 years of the Japan Series gave the Dragons their first title in 53 years.

Yamai, playing in his sixth professional season, struck out six over eight perfect innings, and Iwase retired the final three batters in order in the ninth.

Tyrone Woods scored the only run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Ryosuke Hirata in the second inning.

Norihiro Nakamura, who had four RBIs in five games, was named series MVP.

Nippon Ham pitcher Yu Darvish took the loss despite striking out 11 and giving up one run on five hits over seven innings.

After Iwase retired Eiichi Koyano on a grounder to end the game, the Fighters sat motionless in their dugout as Chunichi's players celebrated on the field before their home fans at Nagoya Dome.

Yamai was a surprise starter for Chunichi manager Hiromitsu Ochiai. Many expected ace Kenshin Kawakami to get the start.

Despite the loss, Hillman enjoyed his five years in Japanese baseball.

"This was a very rewarding experience for me," he said. "I like to think I'm a better person because of the time I've spent in this society."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press