Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pacific League opening weekend roundup

I could write a play-by-play of the games in English, but someone has already done a much better job than I would of it: Saturday, Sunday

I stayed at home to see the opening pitch of the Lotte-Softbank game on Friday night, and I guess I should have stayed for more, as the Marines got absolutely hammered by the Hawks 7-2, and then also got smacked down again the next day 9-7. It's not a particularly encouraging beginning to the season except when you realize that the two best teams in the league were playing each other, and the Marines were down their two best starters to post-WBC training. Kevin Beirne started the second game of the weekend for Lotte, and utterly sucked it up, facing 14 batters in only an inning and a half of work and coming out of that with a 37.80 ERA so far -- no, I'm really not making that up. He walked 3, struck out 2, and gave up 6 hits, yielding 7 earned runs, 6 of which came from 3 home runs (Matsunaka, Ohmura, and Zuleta). Yeesh. Kazumi Saitoh continued his winning ways from last year in the opener by dominating for eight innings, striking out 7 and only giving up 2 runs in his last frame. Ex-Mariner Jolbert Cabrera hit a home run in the Opening Day game for the Hawks, too. Nobody except Fukuura seems to be getting off to a huge start in the hitting department for the Marines, either.

The Fighters won their first two games of the year, which would be encouraging if not for the fact that they were against Rakuten, a team which currently exists to prevent the Fighters from finishing dead last. They play Lotte next, which will be a much more interesting contest. The first game was won against lauded prospect Yasuhiro Ichiba though, so it's not all bad. Ogasawara launched the first pitch Ichiba threw him into the right field bleachers, too! Shinjo apparently drove out on a motorcycle before the game dressed like a rock star and drove players to their positions on the field. What a weirdo. Michael Nakamura is looking promising as a closer, and god knows we need it after Yokoyama imploded last year. Opening day starter Satoru Kanemura was supposed to be out still recovering from his elbow surgery, and I thought outfielder Tomochika Tsuboi was injured as well, but I guess I was wrong.

Seibu and Orix played and split the two games 1-1. Danny Serafini got hammered in the second game starting for Orix, and I'd feel bad except it's his fault Kevin Beirne is playing for Lotte. Old Man Kiyohara is off to a great start, whereas Nori Nakamura is off to an incredibly slow start. Small sample size, and you'd expect them both to pound Rakuten when they face them this week. Interestingly enough, you think I'd be kidding about calling Kiyo "Old Man", but in Sunday's game, Seibu had a teenage battery that, if you combined their ages, would still make them collectively younger than the 38-year-old Kazuhiro Kiyohara, with 19-year-old starting pitcher Hideaki Wakui and 18-year-old catcher Ginjirou Sumitani. I suppose this balances out last year when the Seattle Mariners tried to set a record for oldest battery when they put Jamie Moyer and Pat Borders out for a few games.

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