Fighters 3, Hawks 1 (Box Score)
It's really hard to remember that Yu Darvish turned 20 barely two months ago.
Tonight he went the distance, throwing a 138-pitch complete game win against the Hawks, giving up one run, striking out 11.
He did have a shaky start, and the Hawks put a run on the board in the first inning when Munenori Kawasaki and Naoyuki Ohmura led off the game by singling, Hiroshi Shibahara bunted them ahead, and Nobuhiko Matsunaka hit a sac fly to left that scored Kawasaki.
But that was the only run they'd score in the evening, as Darvish handled them pretty well along the rest of the way. Only one Hawks batter got to third base for the rest of the evening, and that was only because Homare Inamine beat out the throw at first on what should have been a double play in the sixth.
The Fighters put their runs ahead in the bottom of the third inning. Hichori Morimoto singled, and was bunted over by Kensuke Tanaka. Michihiro Ogasawara walked (which was a theme for the evening, he was walked three times, once intentionally), and Fernando Seguignol hit a single to left, scoring Hichori. (You should have seen the look on Seguignol's face, he was ecstatic.) Atsunori Inaba popped out to short right field, and then Shinjo singled to right, scoring Ogasawara, and Shinjo looked even goofier and happier. Jose Macias flew out after that, too, but it was 2-1 Fighters. Toshiya Sugiuchi, the Hawks starter, only lasted those three innings, and the bullpen took over after that.
It'd stay at 2-1 until the bottom of the eighth. Akihiro Yanase, the rookie who pitched pretty well against the Lions the other day, wasn't pitching so well here. He walked Yuuji Iiyama, and then Shinya Tsuruoka ripped one into the right field corner for a single, moving Iiyama to third. Yoshiaki Fujioka took over on the mound, but allowed a single to Makoto Kaneko, who hit a low blooper into shallow center, scoring Iiyama.
Ryuuma Kidokoro got a single off of Darvish in the top of the 9th, but that was all the Hawks would manage, as he struck out Ohmura to end the game for his 11th strikeout of the evening.
Fighters manager Trey Hillman's taken some criticism for leaving his starters in too long recently, hence the current situation with Satoru Kanemura being off the roster for the playoffs, but leaving Darvish in for today's game worked. There's a good chance he'll want his bullpen fresh for tomorrow's matchup of Kazumi Saitoh vs. Tomoya Yagi, as well.
The crowd was a sellout crowd and red/white Fighters logo placards were given out to fans at the gate at the Sapporo dome. In addition to those, several homemade signs could be spotted, cheering for individual players, or one that said "Let's go to Nagoya!", a reference to the Chunichi Dragons clinching the Central League pennant. The blue inflatable dolphins were out in force for Ogasawara as well.
Bob Timmerman is in Japan for the playoff series and writing about it on his blog. His Game 1 account, with a few photos, can be found here.
My late-night semi-coherent game-updating babblings from liveblogging last night's game are still up as well.