Tonight I went to Meiji Jingu Stadium to see the Yakult Swallows take on the Yokohama Bay Stars. With my luck, it just so happened that Daisuke Miura was starting for Yokohama, and Kazuhisa Ishii was starting for Yakult. Miura is unquestionably the best starter on the Yokohama staff, and Ishii's a former MLBer, so this looked to be pretty exciting.
First, let me say that I'm sort of ambivalent about Jingu Stadium. We got outfield unreserved seats, and while outfield unreserved actually stretches all the way past the foul poles into what's usually considered outer infield in MLB parks, there's this huge obnoxious THICK fence around the entire field. Second, there's no upper deck, being as the stadium was built in 1926. So basically, if you want to be able to see the field and/or take pictures without the fence in your way, you either need to sit in the very very front row, or sit in the very very last row. We weren't there early enough for the former, so last row it was! The funny thing is, if not for the fences, Jingu would actually have a pretty impressively laid out set of seats, all things considered. Sigh.
Um, my eyes are tearing up because there's someone SERIOUSLY smoking at the computer next to mine, so I'm going to just write a bit and get out of here before I can't see OR breathe.
The most annoying thing at Jingu to me right now is this cheesy-sounding English announcer they have. He reads all the players' names and positions and numbers in Engrish, so it's like, "And now - battingu sahdo, sahdo besuman, Akinori Iwamura, numbaaaah wan!" On a swinging strikeout, the announcer goes "Swing and a miss, strikeout!" or on a double play, he's like "What a nice double play!" or when Aoki got a double, it was like "It's aaaaa stand-up double!" or with a stolen base it'd be "That's a nice steal!" It was just really really weird.
The Swallows' cheering section holds up a Venezuela flag for Alex Ramirez. Also, they don't do the balloons thing or the fight song in the seventh inning thing, which is okay with me. Instead, they do their crazy umbrella dance. I went and bought one of the Jingu umbrellas after the game, because I figured that was really the thing that represented it best.
Today's game was weird in that it was high-hitting, low-scoring, and a comedy of errors, at that. The scorer at Jingu is almost as generous with making things hits instead of errors as the scorer at Safeco is. Sometimes someone would get the ball but not hold onto it and it'd be ruled a hit, or once, the second baseman actually dropped the ball, but the runner was still called out at second, and things like that. It was a little weird.
Yokohama started the scoring in the second inning off one of the aforementioned errors, when Hitoshi Taneda singled to right with a runner on, and right fielder Ryuji Miyade sort of got the ball, but didn't, and by the time he recovered it, Uchikawa had scored and Taneda was on third. Hiroyasu Tanaka made an amazing dive to get the grounder after that, but Taneda scored anyway, and then Miura struck out.
I think something must have just been wrong with Miyade today, because he seriously had the worst day ever, with that error and being 0-for-5 at the plate, striking out three times. On the other side, Akinori Iwamura was 3-for-3 and walked twice, made a ton of great plays, and even almost hit a home run except it went over the wall but not over the yellow line of the FENCE, another weird feature of Jingu. Since he got a single, double, and triple, all he would have needed was a home run for the cycle. (His triple was pretty funny. Both the center and right fielder were just sort of jogging after the ball as it rolled to the back wall, trying to figure out how and who was going to field it.)
Yokohama almost put ahead another run in the third, after Swallows catcher Yoneno chucked the ball into centerfield rather than throwing out Masaaki Koike at second on a steal attempt. Fortunately, when Murata grounded to third, Koike got caught in a rundown and didn't score.
The Swallows finally put a run on the board in the 5th after Norichika Aoki walked, following Ishii's second really high popout to centerfield of the day. Aoki stole second, and then scored on Iwamura's aforementioned WTF-triple. Unfortunately, Ramirez lined out to second after that to end the inning.
Yoneno chucked the ball into the outfield yet AGAIN when Yuuki Yoshimura stole following a single, though this time they kept him at second. Uchikawa singled after that too -- well, he hit the ball up the left-field line and Iwamura recovered it, not realizing it wasn't foul, and so Uchikawa was safe. Taneda hit into a double play after that, where Uchikawa was tagged out on the basepath and then the throw to first caught Taneda, and fortunately after an intentional walk, the pitcher Miura grounded out.
Yakult scored two runs in the seventh to bring them ahead 3-2 off some singles and a sac fly, but then Youhei Tateyama came in to pitch for Ishii and gave up something like ninety singles in a row and Yokohama got another run in the 8th, bringing it to 3-3.
Masao Kida, ex-Mariner farmhand, came in to pitch the 9th for Yakult. In his true fashion, he struck out a guy, got a groundout, then gave up a HUGE home run to Shuichi Murata which went all the way past the reserved seats into the unreserved cheering section seats in left field. Then he struck out another guy to end the side, but the damage was done.
With the score 4-3, Takeo Kawamura came in to pitch, and he hasn't had a successful save yet this year. So he immediately gives up a double to Aoki and a single to Adam Riggs. They walk Iwamura intentionally to load the bases, and... and... you're not going to believe this, but Kawamura struck out Ramirez, Miyade, and Tanaka in succession, to end the game and get the save. How insane is that?
I really have to leave now, so um, yeah, maybe I'll edit/add to this tomorrow, maybe not. I may even go back to Jingu. We'll see.
EDIT 1/24/2007> Pictures from this day are now up here!