Monday, November 14, 2005

Konami Cup Finals - A Tale of Two Watanabes

Well, as predicted, Shunsuke Watanabe started the KC final game for the Marines, and the Marines won 5-3, sweeping the series. If you haven't been keeping track, and you count this as part of the postseason, the Marines are 13-2 between the playoffs, the Japan Series, and the Konami Cup. (They'd be 13-0 if Kobayashi hadn't imploded in the ninth inning of the third game of the PL Second Stage and given up that 4-0 lead, too.)

This Watanabe strikes from below.

The Samsung Lions actually got a reasonably high number of hits off Watanabe, but he managed to get them out at the necessary times to keep them off the board for the most part. game summary / konami cup box score

The Marines came on the board in the first inning, when Franco hit a sac fly with the bases loaded, scoring Nishioka. The Lions tied it up in the top of the third, on an RBI single by Han-soo Kim. Then the Marines brought things up to 3-1 in their half of the third, Benny hitting a 2-RBI hit after Imae singled and Franco doubled.

Imae was taken out between the third and fourth innings (Westbay-san says that Imae's arm might be broken after he was hit by a pitch in the first inning?) and Masato Watanabe came in to take his place at third, setting the stage for his fourth-inning 2-run homer. "The other" Watanabe, as it were, struck from above. It's sort of funny since I'm not sure Masato Watanabe has hit a home run in an actual NPB game since 2003. Think of him sort of like Scott Podsednik, if you will.

At this point it was 5-1 Marines, and there it stayed for the next few innings as both the Lions relievers and the Marines relievers held their respective grounds. Fujita, Yabuta, and Kobayashi pitched the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings for the Marines.

Kobayashi seemed in danger of repeating his implosion from the PL playoffs and the Japan Series for a bit there. He struck out Jin, but then Morozumi (subbed in for Benny) made a throwing error fielding Sok-min Park's hit to left, and Han-yi Park took advantage of it with an RBI single, scoring Sok-min Park and bringing it to 5-2. Kang got an infield single, and Yang struck out. Han-soo Kim hit another RBI single, scoring Han-yi Park and bringing the score to 5-3. Fortunately, Kobayashi managed to strike out Dai Kim, and that was it for the game.

It sounds like it was overall a pretty cool series of games, even if it was a bit of a landslide in the Marines' favor. I wouldn't expect it to be so easy for the Japanese teams in the future necessarily, and I do hope they continue this in future years!

Also, if Imae really is injured badly, this is also a damn good case for why you hold these events in the fall, after the season, not in the spring before the season.

The most interesting thought I have after this is: if the NPB is considered "AAAA" ball compared to MLB, does that mean the rest of Asia is considered "AAA" to their "AAAA"? Is the skill differential between NPB and KBO/CPBL comparable to the differential between MLB/NPB? If it's transitive, does that mean an average MLB team would just sweep the floor with a Korean or Taiwanese team?

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