Thursday, October 12, 2006

PL Playoff Liveblogging: Game 2!

Alright. I'm going to do this again. There's a few new things in store for today's game, though:

Yahoo video feed: Yahoo! TV Bank / Fighters
Yahoo gameday feed: Yahoo! Japan Gameday
And more importantly, there's a chance Michael Westbay will actually do a "Pro Yakyu Live!" internet radio broadcast of the game in English. I'm assuming he'll make an announcement in the News part of the forums on when he figures it out. There will also be a chatroom there, which is probably a lot more efficient than talking in comments here.

But please do chime in with comments if you want to, of course :)

Tonight's game starts at about 2am Pacific time. Tomoya Yagi is starting for the Nippon Ham Fighters, and Kazumi Saitoh is starting for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. Yagi should be the Pacific League ROY if there's any justice in the world - the 22-year-old lefty burst onto the scene and compiled a 12-8 record with an ERA of 2.48 and 3 shutouts. Kazumi Saitoh, on the other hand, BETTER get the Sawamura award this year. He beat that annoying Lions pitcher people won't shut up about in every statistic that matters, compiling an unreal 18-5 record with a 1.75 ERA in 26 starts, striking out 205 in 201 innings, and pitching 5 shutouts.

If the Fighters win this game, they go on to the Japan Series. If the Hawks win, Game 3 will be on Saturday in Fukuoka.

I'm going to try to take a nap for about an hour and a half and should be joining the chatroom and starting my posting here a little bit before 2am again. Join in for the fun!

Lineups, LL-style (but without the cool border):

Kawsasaki SS Hichori LF
Ohmura CF Kensuke 2B
Tanoue DH Ogasawara 1B
Matsunaka LF Seguignol DH
Zuleta 1B Inaba RF
Cabrera 3B SHINJO CF
Nakazawa 2B Naoto 3B
Ide RF Tsuruoka C
Matoba C Kaneko! SS
---------- ----------
Saitoh (18-5, 1.75) Yagi (12-8, 2.48)

It should be noted that I list Hichori Morimoto, Kensuke Tanaka, and Naoto Inada by first name instead of last because that's the name we use in their player cheers, i.e. "kattobase Hichori!" Tanaka and Morimoto are really common last names (there are two Tanakas on the top-level team, even) and I think Inada gets it because his name is so close to Atsunori Inaba's.

Also, if you came here for my English NPB playoff coverage from elsewhere, I've been a diehard Fighters fan for the past several years, which will probably be pretty obvious once you start reading this.

DUDE! I've got 768k and it's clear tonight! Awesome!

Top of the first: Kawasaki grounds out to second. Ohmura flies out to Shinjo. Tanoue (not Shibahara!!) grounds out up the middle, where second baseman Kensuke Tanaka charges the ball up the middle and gets it to first just in time to get the out. 0-0. 7 pitches for Yagi. Nice.

Bottom of the first:
Saitoh is already in fine form, striking out Hichori Morimoto on a 145km/h fastball down the middle. Ugh, this is going to be a difficult game to watch. Fortunately, Kensuke Tanaka seems affected by my singing his cheer song again and he singles to left, the ball falling in right in front of Matsunaka. Ogasawara lines the ball to first, where Julio Zuleta gets it on the bag and fires it to second and also catches Tanaka sliding in. Double play. Yow, that was really a pretty nice snag and throw. Still 0-0.

Top of the second: Matsunaka fouls off about ninety pitches before hitting the ball against the back wall in right field (fortunately only for a single). Zuleta grounds to third, where Naoto Inada snags it, fires to Tanaka at second, who fires to Ogasawara at first, 5-4-3 double play! Wooo! former Mariner Jolbert Cabrera comes out and blows a gigantic bubble of gum... then he just literally watches the first ball go by on the outside corner. Heh. He too grounds to third for an easy play by Inada. Whee. Well, that was 19 pitches this inning for Yagi, but the score is still 0-0.

Bottom of the second: Seguignol pulls an Inaba by fouling the ball way out to the stands, then ends up grounding to second, where Nakazawa charges in and underhand tosses the ball to Zuleta at first. Inaba grounds out, Kawasaki coming in towards second and throwing him out by a few feet at first. Shinjo's up, and Saitoh throws him a whole bunch of loopy low breaking stuff and eventually he swings at enough of them to strike out. Still 0-0. 22 pitches for Saitoh so far.

Top of the third: Ok, this is a little weird. Tadaatsu Nakazawa is at bat for the Hawks, and on the TV they show his name as 仲澤 but on the Yahoo lineups they show him as 仲沢. Oh well, either way, he singles up the middle. Shotarou Ide bunts him to second (looked like a 5-4 play on it). AND OOOOOH look at that one -- Yagi throws to Tanaka and PICKS OFF NAKAZAWA AT SECOND. Shinjo gets a huge grin on his face and cheers for them from the outfield, too :) Oh man, that was awesome, so then Naoki Matoba hits a long fly ball to left field and Hichori Morimoto catches up with it just short of the wall, gets the ball, hits the wall, and then falls into a somersault. Hichori definitely strikes me as the Eric Byrnes type (I mean that in a good way, of course). Yagi is up to 36 pitches. Still 0-0.

Bottom of the third: Naoto Inada grounds out to short. (man, Saitoh can really paint the corners.) Tsuruoka watches a few balls go by, then swings a few times, fouls one off, and... pops out to short. still, a 7-pitch at-bat is pretty good. Kaneko makes a silly swing or two but then hits it hard towards left, past a diving Kawasaki, for a two-out single! unfortunately Hichori pops out to second, ending the inning. Still 0-0, and Saitoh is up to 41 pitches.

Top of the fourth: Oh man, Kawasaki just watched a slider go by for a called third strike on the outside low corner. And then Ohmura bunted -- fielded 2-3, and was called out at first, but it was CLOSE. Ohmura does not look happy with the call, and here comes Moriwaki to argue it. On the replays I actually can't tell, it's VERY close, the first-base coach made a "safe" sign but it does look like he was out by a split second. Tsuruoka even had to duck Inada to actually field the ball. After a really long discussion Moriwaki gives up. Ohmura slams his hat on the ground. The entire time, Shinjo has been striking poses in the outfield and grinning at the fans. I am NOT kidding. Times like this when I really do love Shinjo for being a total idiot :) Tanoue then grounds out to third, another clean play by Naoto Inada. 43 pitches for Yagi through the fourth. Still 0-0. Still 2 hits by both Fighters and Hawks. This could take forever. Also, I HATE the arrangement of the Fighters song they're playing this inning.

Bottom of the fourth: Kensuke Tanaka grounds out to second. Ogasawara digs in and sends the ball out to center but Ohmura catches it at the warning track. Seguignol strikes out on a 150km/h pitch (I was sort of wondering when Saitoh was going to get back to his normal habits... I mean, his uniform says "K. Saitoh" for a reason). 51 pitches for Saitoh through four innings. Still 0-0.

Top of the fifth: Westbay informs us that we're apparently missing out on Shinjo underwear commercials by watching the net broadcast instead of on TV, heh. Matsunaka pops foul behind the plate and Shinya Tsuruoka runs back and slides in to make the catch!!!!! That was awesome! Unfortunately right after that, Zuleta grounds to third -- Naoto grabs it and sort of has to take a funny hop to throw it to first, and the ball takes a bounce and Ogasawara doesn't cleanly grab onto it, so it's either an E5 or an E3 as Zuleta's safe at the base. With Cabrera batting, Yagi shakes off the sign about ninety times (he looks like the little dudes in Pawapuro) and then ends up throwing a wild pitch and for some reason, Zuleta doesn't run???? Oh, and Tomoya Satozaki is commenting on the game! That's so COOL! oh man. okay, so Cabrera strikes out and THEN Zuleta runs to steal second, knocking over Kensuke Tanaka in the process and knocking the ball out of his glove. That is NOT cool. Hmm... they ended up calling him out for it! Oh, wow, on replays you can tell he not only slid into Tanaka but he kicked his glove and the ball. He's pissed off, but.. DUMBASS, YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST RUN TO SECOND ON THE WILD PITCH, YOU KNOW? Well, if the reruling stands, that's 0-0 through 5 and 56 pitches for Yagi.

(btw, later, we check and 三失 shows for the error, so they charged it to Inada)

Bottom of the fifth: Inaba fouls off a whole bunch, then grounds out to first, Julio Zuleta making the play at the bag himself. Shinjo sort of half-checks a swing on a way outside pitch... nah, on replays, he really swung, and strikes out. Inada singles up the middle, over a jumping Kawasaki! Tsuruoka joins the "if we foul off a ton of pitches Saitoh will get tired" theme of the inning, but after about 7 pitches strikes out swinging. Still 0-0 and 79 pitches for Saitoh through five innings. Hmm, apparently doing YMCA in the fifth inning break IS still happening, I'm not sure I caught it yesterday.

Top of the sixth: Nakazawa takes the first pitch he sees and hits a clean single to left field, grounding past Kaneko. Of course Ide immediately squares away to bunt... and succeeds, Yagi fielding the bunt, Nakazawa going to second. Westbay informs us that we are really delayed, but won't tell us what happened next (my reaction was: "don't tell me, Matoba hits a 2-run homer, and then aliens land from Mars, and I don't mean Hichori."). Ha, Matoba strikes out. Tsuruoka's been making funny motions to the infielders to get ready for a pickoff at second, too (but never does anything more than faking a motion to throw there). And... Kawasaki strikes out swinging too! Wow! Still 0-0, still nobody reaching third, and 68 pitches for Yagi through 6. Westbay notes that Nakazawa was the Hawks' first stranded runner and that the Fighters still haven't even gotten a runner to second.

Bottom of the sixth: Makoto Kaneko hits a flyball to right field, easily caught. Hichori Morimoto goes down on three straight strikes (jesus, he's not even following the ball, I swear he's Beltreing it, just guessing and swinging). And... and I sing along to Kensuke Tanaka's cheer song and he singles yet again. I sense a pattern here. Oh, um, I haven't been watching this screen suddenly. Ogasawara, sadly, struck out to end the inning. Bleh. 92 pitches for Saitoh, 7 strikeouts.

Top of the seventh: Ohmura pops out to short, easy catch for Kaneko. Tanoue flies out to center and Shinjo barely has to move to make the catch. Matsunaka grounds out to short. Short inning, too. 80 pitches for Yagi through 7. Daaaaaamn.

Bottom of the seventh: Seguignol pops up foul towards third, and Matoba and Cabrera both run for it, Cabrera making the catch right in front of all the camera-wielding press box folks. Inaba sends the ball far into left field, Matsunaka making the catch. Shinjo lines out to third, another quick inning, but we're up to 103 pitches for Saitoh through 7.

I've been sparse in my details this last inning because I've been trying to figure out where the hell Oppama is. Don't ask. Also, nothing really interesting has happened. When Shinjo lined out, for some reason he started grinning like a madman. What a weirdo.

Top of the eighth: Wow. Zuleta grounded out to third, as Inada dove to his left to get the ball, stopped it but didn't quite get it, but then rescued it bare-handed and made the throw to first quickly and cleanly. That was beautiful. Cabrera... walks... on four straight balls. The first walk of the contest, even. Nakazawa flies out to right, Inaba threatening to throw out Cabrera (if he was actually capable of tagging up to get to second, heh). WOW! Ide hits a grounder up towards short, and Kaneko runs a few steps and dives for it and makes the stop and throws to Tanaka at second in time to nab Cabrera. That was BEAUTIFUL! Have I mentioned today yet that I love Makoto Kaneko? :) 96 pitches for Yagi through 8. I think I love him too.

Bottom of the eighth: While I was typing the last sentence there, Inada flew out to center, oops. Tsuruoka grounds out to third. This is the problem, we keep getting two quick outs... hard to do anything with anyone on base after that. Kaneko pops out to center after taking a really silly swing at a slider (right after we were talking about his glove being so much better than his bat) and that's another quick inning. 111 pitches for Saitoh through eight. Still 0-0.

Top of the ninth: Matoba hits a long fly to left and Hichori Morimoto gets it on the run. And OH GOD THE PEOPLE ARE DOING THE WAVE WTF. Conor would be very disappointed to see that, I'm sure. In the meantime, Kawasaki pops out foul to left field and Hichori catches it just short of the stands wall/fence. And then Ohmura also flies out to left! Wow! That's three catches in a row for Hichori :) 103 pitches through 9 for Yagi. That is AWESOME. Still 0-0. Westbay's pointed out that if this game ties the Fighters clinch due to their one-game advantage. That's really really weird.

Bottom of the ninth: The crowd is going WILD, and Saitoh is still out there. Yakiniku E-RI-KA! A 5-minute walk from Nippori... and a 90-foot walk for Hichori, as Saitoh throws four straight balls. 115 pitches for Saitoh. Kensuke squares away to bunt and it's successful, Hichori going to second, Nakazawa covering first on the 2-4 play as Zuleta fell over or something. Mound conference... Ogasawara's up with a runer in scoring position... oh. Yeah, that's a good idea, intentionally walking Ogasawara :) Here comes Seguignol... oh wow. strikeout! Damn. Wow. runners on first and second, two outs, Inaba at bat... otherwise heading into extra innings if he can't do anything here, and Saitoh at 125 pitches.


I'm going to crib from Westbay in the chat. I saw the play but am just sort of overwhelmed right now.

So Inaba hits a grounder up the middle, which Nakazawa dives for, and he throws it to second, but Ogasawara slides into the base safely JUST in time... in the meantime, Hichori rounds third and heads for home while the Hawks are futzing with the ball at second, and scores, and THE FIGHTERS WIN THE GAME 1-0!!!!

Kazumi Saitoh had to be carried off the field by Zuleta and Cabrera. My heart breaks to see him like that. I'm serious. That's two 1-0 losses in the playoffs, and I know he considers the entire fate of the club to be on his head. I hope he's okay, I really, really do. He's the only Hawks pitcher I would not have wanted to see saddled with this loss.

Anyway, after that they go nuts with celebrating and jumping and crying and a whole buncha doages, from the manager, to a coach, and to YUKIO TANAKA, who's been on this cursed team since 1986 and didn't get into the playoff games but who cares, he's going to the Japan Series.

Hillman's interviewed as the championship manager. He did the first couple of questions answering in Japanese... they asked what he was thinking and all he could say was, "信じられない." ("I can't believe it.") When asked to give a message to the fans he said, "北海道のみんなさんは世界の一番です!!" ("Everyone in Hokkaido is the best in the world!!!")

Talks in English about how they built the team, how great everyone is, how he's happy for everyone as baseball fans but even moreso if they're Fighters fans. At the end he tells the stadium, "let's say it together... 1-2-3 信じられない!"


The wackiest part is that the game was over in 3 hours and neither team went to their bullpen at all -- and the Fighters didn't go to the bullpen at all for the entire SERIES. Yagi and Darvish both went complete games. Think about that... won by a 22-year-old and a 20-year-old, neither of whom were alive when the Fighters played in the 1981 Japan Series.

They gave the PL pennant flag to Ogasawara to hold, and the regular season #1 flag to Kaneko to hold, and the TV coverage continued online for about an hour and a half after the game ended. The fans didn't seem to want to leave the stadium, and I don't blame them. People threw flowers to Shinjo and waved and screamed and cried to the players, doing banzais and more cheer songs. Eventually they showed the team filtering into the press room, and they had Hillman speak for a while and then various players like Kaneko, Shinjo, Ogasawara, Hichori, etc. Hichori was wearing goggles and had painted a nosebleed on his face or something. The entire team was wearing white "Fighters 2006 Pacific League CHAMPIONS" t-shirts, and boy, do I want one of THOSE!

Blogger died on me at 5:40am so I didn't really get to finish this entry. I've got some screenshots of the game, and tomorrow's entry here will most likely be a more coherent summary with some screenshots linked. When I get a chance, maybe this weekend, I'd like to put together a set of English info pages on the Fighters.

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