Today I took the train back up to Tokyo in the early afternoon. Because my friends weren't getting to town until later in the evening, and because I'm totally into young left-handed pitchers, I decided to go to Chiba and see Yoshihisa Naruse start for the Marines against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Unfortunately, the Eagles have a whole lot of guys named Yamazaki who seemed to be pretty good at getting on base and scoring against Naruse, culminating in designated hitter Takeshi Yamazaki hitting a home run into the left-center stands, and the Eagles eventually won the game 6-2.
Chiba Marine Stadium is a lot more annoying to get to than I remembered -- coming from Ikebukuro, at least, I don't see a good way to make it take less than two hours, because no matter what, you have to take two trains. I think I took the Yurakucho to Shin-Kiba when I was there two years ago, and this time I took the Marunouchi to Tokyo, which involved a ten-minute walk between platforms when changing to the Keiyo line. Yow. At least when I got to Kaihin-Makuhari, I pretty much stepped out of the station and there was a big "Club 26" bus that I rode to the stadium, rather than trying to remember how to walk there.
On the other hand, the weather was AWESOME. It looked grey and almost-rainy for the entire ride there, but it never actually rained, and because the stadium is on Chiba Bay, it was in the low 70's and not humid at all the entire time I was there. It basically felt like Seattle, and I was really happy about it.
Because this game was actually a make-up game on the schedule -- teams don't usually play on Mondays here -- the only tickets available were either outfield unreserved or infield unreserved, and the infield unreserved were basically the equivalent of Field seats at Safeco -- seats on the first level but beyond first base or third. I'm guessing you needed to be a season ticket holder or in the fan club to sit in the infield infield seats. I picked up an infield seat because it was only Y2300, and the outfield were Y1500, so what the heck.
I dunno, though, maybe I should have sat in the outfield cheering section, because the infield unreserved seats were pretty spread out and I didn't end up talking to anyone at all during the game, which sort of sucked. Also, I feel stupid for having brought a Marines noisemaker, because I swear, except for maybe one or two situations, nobody actually used them. They were just clapping or waving their hands a lot. I vaguely remembered a few of the player songs, but it just felt awkward to really stand up and cheer, so I just sang/cheered along while sitting.
The Marines not only have female cheerleaders like most other teams here, but their cheerleaders actually were going around in the stands selling the "match card program" for the Eagles-Marines series, and I swear the guy down the row from me bought one just so he could chat up the cheerleader selling it. It was kind of funny, actually.
I'm not sure whether there's a requirement that every team has at least one guy who uses a song by Def Tech as their at-bat music (sort of like how I joke in the MLB every team has someone using a 50 Cent song), but on the Marines it's Kouji Hirashita, using the song "My Way". I'm not sure whether it's pathetic that I actually realized that.
For the Matt Watson fans in the audience -- that is, the gang from Athletics Nation -- "Watty", as they call him here, not to be confused with Matt "Matty" Franco, had a so-so night, going 1-for-3 with a double, though he also made an error in the 6th inning that allowed two runs to score, when he dropped a fly ball. The thing is, I'm not sure whether it should have been a pretty good feat to reach the ball at all, so eh.
The game started off pretty well for Marines fans -- Naruse walked two guys and struck out two guys in the first but allowed no runs, and then the Marines scored two runs in the first three batters when Hirashita ran out an infield single and Kazuya Fukuuuuuura hit a home run into the Marines cheering section. Unfortunately, those would be the only runs the Marines would score all night, as they pulled a Mariners and got 9 more hits and no more runs for a total of 11 hits. Oi.
It really was just that they couldn't string any together, as they'd get a few guys on base and then somehow find a way to get out (though they nearly took out the Eagles shortstop Tatsuya Shiokawa when he managed to turn a double play, and later on Imae struck out really hard and chucked his bat at pitcher Toyohiko Yoshida, who was removed from the game immediately after (though I think it was just a coincidence).)
What really hurt Naruse in the long run was walks, as he walked 4 and two of them came around to score (and both of those were named Yamazaki). The Eagles tied it up at 2-2 in the second as Takahiro Yamazaki singled ahead Takeshi Yamazaki. Takahiro was out on a fielder's choice by the aforementioned Shiokawa, but then a Tsuchiya Teppei double scored both baserunners. Teppei himself was thrown out at the plate for the third out while trying to score from second on Akihisa Makida's single after that.
Naruse just probably got tired by the 6th, around 100 pitches, as he gave up that home run to Takeshi Yamazaki, and then got out the next batter, but walked Takahiro Yamazaki. With two outs, Shiokawa hit a long fly ball to right, and Matt Watson got there, but the ball bounced out of his glove, and it was a funny little shuffle on the bases as Yamazaki and Shiokawa both ran as far as they could, one getting to second and one getting to third. Naruse was pulled and Takagi came in to pitch, but Teppei yet again singled them both in.
That made it 5-2, and in the 9th inning, with Satoru Komiyama on the mound (gah, why do I keep typing Kanemura instead of Komiyama when I talk about him?), Yousuke Takasu hit what I scored as a triple but they scored as a double and advancing on an error. Basically, he hit the ball into the left-center gap and both Benny and Otsuka took a weird route to it and it took a while to recover the ball. Then Jose Fernandez hit a legitimate double and scored Takasu. Yoshioka followed that up by hitting the ball such that Benny dropped it and Otsuka recovered it, but due to poor baserunning, nobody advanced, and then a popout and a strikeout later, the inning ended.
I guess other neat things were getting to see Val Pascucci pinch-hit a single, and also getting to see Justin Miller come in to pitch (I think it's hilarious that they make him wear long sleeves because of all his tattoos). And of course, seeing most of the Marines is always fun; I mean, for the most part this is still the team I was cheering for last year, and I still like a lot of the players.
I've got to get going for now. My next game should be another Marines one on Wednesday, and hopefully I'll get to actually check out the Marines museum thingy and some other stuff around the area this time. There's the chance I'll go to Meiji Jingu for a Swallows game tomorrow if I'm bored, but it's unlikely.
EDIT 1/7/2007> Pictures from this day are now up here!