Tuesday, May 02, 2006

NPB Roundup: Watanabe ejected while pitching a no-hitter

Alright, I'll admit it. Joel Pineiro pitched a hell of a game tonight, getting a complete game win as the Mariners beat up the Twins, 8-2. Yeah, sure, Pineiro didn't strike anyone out, but he also didn't walk anyone, and he got a ton of grounders. Good stuff.

I should be asleep, but I'm not, and the Marines-Hawks game is playing on the net, since it's a Hawks home game in Fukuoka. And yet, I can clearly hear the Marines' players cheer songs from the stands (打て福浦ぁぁぁ~~~), which is refreshing, as GYAO still hasn't straightened out broadcasting Lotte games outside of Japan. Despite how much I try to dislike the Hawks, I have to admire their pitching staff. Saitoh, Arakaki, Wada, Sugiuchi... that's easily the most talented starting rotation in Japan. Nagisa Arakaki, who rules, is starting for the Hawks tonight against the Marines' Kevin Beirne, who sucks. Arakaki is 5-0 in 5 games, and the Hawks are already up 3-1 in this game. Julio Zuleta, who apparently has finished serving his ten-game suspension for charging the mound and beating the crap out of Fighters pitcher Satoru Kanemura, clobbered a 2-run homer in the first inning.

Anyway, today's blog entry is mostly about the Chiba Lotte Marines pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe, even though he isn't starting today's game. Watanabe is one of my favoritest pitchers in Japan; he's a submariner, and a crazy good pitcher and a really good guy. Last weekend, while pitching against the Rakuten Golden Eagles, he had something pretty bizarre happen to him: he was ejected from the game in the 7th inning of a no-hitter he was pitching.

Links: Japanball.com, Yomiuri Shinbun, Japan Baseball Daily, the japanesebaseball.com, and the play-by-play from marines.co.jp (in Japanese).

Here's an english box score of the game. Watanabe threw 63 pitches in 6 innings, walking none, striking out six, giving up no hits, no runs, and aside from hitting two batters, had a virtual perfect game going.

Problem is, he didn't really hit two batters. He hit one batter, Teppei Tsuchiya, twice. Hitting Tsuchiya in the fourth inning broke up the perfect game, though he was shortly retired on a double play anyway.

Apparently it was raining quite a bit, and when Tsuchiya came back up to bat in the seventh, he squared in as if to bunt, and Watanabe missed his spot upwards by a foot or two and hit Tsuchiya in the head, cracking his helmet. Since Watanabe had already hit Tsuchiya earlier and the beaning, even though unintentional (Watanabe stepped off the mound to to ask if he was okay), was ruled a "dangerous pitch" and so Watanabe was ejected immediately. It was the first time he'd ever been ejected at any level of baseball.

Tatsuya Uchi and Yasuhiko Yabuta finished out the game for the Marines and kept the shutout, but not the no-hitter, sadly.

Watanabe was still considered the game's MVP for his spectacular pitching performance, and in typical humble Watanabe style, the very first thing he said in his post-game "hero interview" (sorry, no English version) was, "I'm really sorry, Teppei-kun." Later on they ask him whether he thought the rain had some effect on the pitch getting away from him, and he says "No, it was my mistake. I'm really, really sorry."

At any rate, it's pretty crazy. I wonder if a pitcher has *ever* been ejected in the middle of throwing a no-hitter over here in the MLB.

In other NPB news:
The Yomiuri Giants' shortstop/secondbaseman Tomohiro Nioka turned 30 on April 29th, and then on April 30th he hit three home runs. Two of them were grand slams in consecutive at-bats, for 10 RBI in the game. It was a big enough deal when Benny Agbayani launched grand slams in two consecutive *games* last year, let alone two consecutive at-bats, so this is a pretty big deal. Talk about hitting your prime when you turn 30.

In case you haven't already heard, Yusaku Iriki was hit with a 50-game suspension for drug policy violation. Couple that with being on the losing end of Cole Hamels's 14-strikeout debut, and it was a pretty bad week for Iriki.

A guy on japanesebaseball.com pointed out that there's a game-used Hiroshima Carp jersey currently up on Ebay, which is kind of cool, though totally not my sort of thing. I do want a Carp jersey, but a nice clean one is just fine with me.

And I'll leave you on a vaguely disturbing note. Last week I mentioned that Shinjo announced his intent to retire after the season. The Mainichi Times has a story on what he may be doing after retirement: nude modelling. Uh, yeah. Well, the article is still pretty funny, including a picture of him dressed up as Darth Shinjo before the 2005 opener. Quite frankly, Shinjo scares me.

Three things:
1) The Marines have started up their own internet broadcasting station! How sweet is that? Broadcasts everywhere, not just in Japan. Yaaaay! (Although... it looks like the "game live!" links to GYAO. Dammit.)
2) Also, they actually won last night's game after all, 6-4, by picking up 4 runs in the 7th and 9th inning. So Arakaki still hasn't gotten a loss, but hey, the Marines beat the Hawks, that's happy. Tsuyoshi Wada (Hawks) vs. Yasutomo Kubo (Marines) up tonight, should be a great game.
3) Marines first baseman Kazuya Fukuura went 3-for-6 last night and is off to a scorching start: counting last night, he's 46-for-108 for a .426 batting average (and .471/.509 OBP/SLG). The next highest average in the Pacific League is the Fighters' Ogasawara at .333, and the Lions' Alex Cabrera trails Fukuura's OPS lead by 11 points, .980 to .969. Also, Hawks pitcher Arakaki's 5 strikeouts in last night's game put him at 48 for the season, 11 more than Daisuke Matsuzaka's 37.

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