Friday, September 15, 2006

Game Report: Lions vs. Buffaloes - Leave it to Liefer

I dunno what I was thinking, but I ended up going back to the Seibu Invoice Dome tonight to see the Orix Buffaloes lose 5-3 to the Seibu Lions. I'm going to Yokohama tomorrow afternoon to see the Bay Stars take on the Giants, assuming a typhoon doesn't hit between now and then. Not sure if I'll go back to Jingu for the Swallows-Carp game on Sunday, since I have a bunch of stuff to get done before I head back to Seattle on Monday.

Anyway, this time I got infield reserved seating, rather than outfield unreserved, and sat pretty close in on the third base side. I actually originally got a seat in row 2, which looked cool and was very close up, but there was no way in hell I could take pictures from there, since they have a freaking fence surrounding the infield as usual, so I moved back to row 22 instead, which actually had a great angle on just about everything. Fortunately, the game was sparsely attended enough that nobody noticed or cared.

I've decided that sometime I'll have to write up a ranking of which fans I think are the coolest, or maybe more like, which team I think it'd be the most fun to be a fan of, but not right now. I think the Lions would rank second on my list, only behind the Fighters. Their team songs and cheers and all just looked like a whole lot of fun, as they dance, sing, run around, wave flags, bang sticks, etc. (I didn't notice last time, of course, because I was in the other cheering section.)

Anyway, there was a game. Most of the scoring was done via home runs. It was sort of weird. The Buffaloes' three runs all came on solo home runs -- from Tetsuya Matoyama, Makoto Shiozaki, and Karim Garcia. The Lions, on the other hand, had it so that almost all of their runs were either home runs or batted in by Jeff Liefer or home runs by Jeff Liefer. Alex Cabrera also hit a home run, and Yasuyuki Kataoka singled in a run, but the other three were batted in by Liefer, and he was, accordingly, the game hero for Seibu.

An amusing part about the home runs in the Seibu field is that the outfield wall is short enough that every time, the outfielders would basically jump on the wall, cling to the fence, and try to catch the ball futilely anyway. I'm not really sure what part of the wall the ball has to clear, and Karim Garcia actually thought his home run was a ground rule double at first, but was then waved around by the umpires.

Speaking of the umpires and scorers, I saw two of the stupidest calls ever tonight -- one was a double not called an error, when Jeff Liefer hit a high fly ball to left field, and Shimoyama, Gotoh, and Shiozaki all converged on it, then none of them waved off any of the others, and it fell for a double and a run scored, and it wasn't called an error. On the other hand, later in the game, Hisashi Takayama hit a bouncing grounder towards the middle, and shortstop Mitsutaka Gotoh made a great charge to the side, got the ball near second, and threw it to first, but the throw was slightly low and bounced, but it got there in time and didn't draw Mizuguchi off the bag as far as I could tell, but it was called a throwing error anyway.

Hironori Matsunaga got the start for Seibu but didn't even last through four innings, for some reason. He was taken out after giving up two of the home runs, and at the time Seibu was down 2-1, but they soon tied it up with Liefer's home run in the fourth. Yoshihisa Hirano got the start for Orix, and he was in for six innings, taken out right after he gave up the lead from a 3-3 tie.

Seibu has the most amazingly cheered bunts I've ever seen. Catcher Toru Hosokawa pretty much stuck his bat out to bunt every time he was up (he was following Shogo Akada, who singled three times), and people would be cheering things like "Timely!" or "Home run!" or whatnot for Hosokawa, which made ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE when he had his bat sticking out to bunt. After each sac bunt they'd put up "Mission Complete!!" on the scoreboard. It was odd.

Does anyone else get really nervous when a player makes a headfirst slide/dive into a base? Does anyone else get really annoyed when they do it running to FIRST BASE? Well, that's just what Arihito Muramatsu did in the 7th inning, although it's true that if he had been safe, a run would have scored, and he was just out by a hair... but still. That's just dumb, IMO. For a fifth-place team, this late in the season, you don't risk stuff like that -- unless you're Japanese, I suppose.

Sometime in the 7th inning two things occurred: 1) they showed the opposing team scores and I saw that the Fighters were winning their game, and 2) two extremely obnoxious and chatty young women came down and sat right behind me. Now, just them talking nonstop for three innings might not have been so bad, but here's the funny part: at one point they started talking about me and my scorecard, and trying to figure out what I was writing down (and I'm pretty sure one of the girls didn't know anything about baseball to begin with), and saying how weird it all was. Anyway, since I've been writing down all the players' names in kanji, and the team names and stadium and all other details on my page in Japanese, did they somehow see my white white skin and just decide I didn't understand Japanese? Or did they just not care? The mind boggles. As usual, I just didn't think it was worth turning around and saying anything. I think my spirit's been broken from two weeks here.

Anyway, uh, the game was 5-3 heading into the 8th inning, and that's where it stayed, as six Buffaloes batters in a row struck out for the last two innings. Chikara Onodera, who seems to be a holy-crap-awesome closer every time I see him, came in and struck out the side by himself for the ninth inning and the save, after Minoru Yamagishi, Tomoki Hoshino, and Takashi Ishii took care of it in the 8th.

You know, even the Eagles are only 3.5 games behind Orix at this point. That's plain sad.

After the game, since I was just wearing my Johjima shirt and posing as an innocent gaijin, rather than a Fighters-fan-Matsuzaka-hater, I went and got a Matsuzaka Lions uchiwa fan, and some pins from the gatchapon machines they had since I was curious to see them, and some photobooks -- a Matsuzaka one just because I didn't actually get to see him while I was here, and a Hiroyuki Nakajima one because I still think he's completely adorable.

I think I'm going to duck out now -- this keyboard is actually making my shoulders hurt. No joke.

EDIT 2/6/2007> Pictures from this day are now up here!

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