Saturday, September 30, 2006

Game Report: Mariners vs. Rangers - Padilla Padilla Padilla, That's All Folks

Oh god, I have totally wanted to use that as a game report title since reading it on the Dugout. Heh heh.

This weekend's pitching lineup for Texas has the curious quality that all three starters were on the Phillies within the last two years. Kevin Millwood (Saturday) was there until the end of 2004, Vicente Padilla (tonight) and Robinson Tejeda (Sunday) were both starting games for the Phillies in 2005. Thus, these are all guys I'm relatively familiar with, Tejeda less so than the other two, I suppose.

I wore a Phillies hat to today's game to give Jamie Moyer extra karma, but in theory, you could say I was wearing it in honor of the Phillies-Rangers connection. Who knows. It certainly sounds like it helped, as Moyer got the win against the Marlins in a landslide 14-2 game, even getting a hit and scoring a run himself. Fun stuff.

I didn't bother bringing my camera to the stadium tonight -- it's just too dark at 6pm in Seattle now to really get any good shots with my lenses. Instead I showed up and found Conor Glassey and his wife out in the right field seats and just hung out with them for like twenty minutes before the game, since I hadn't seen them in forever. Conor promised me he'd type up the interview he did with my favorite 2006 Mariners draftee, Doug Fister, so you should all get on his case as well.

Anyway, tonight's Mariners game, eh. It featured Ryan Feierabend starting for us against Padilla for the Rangers. I was sort of looking forward to seeing Feierabend; young left-handed pitchers are always fun. He pitched a reasonable five innings, struck out a few people, only got into serious trouble once, in the second inning, when he walked three guys, but fortunately Adrian Beltre made two pretty good plays in a row to keep it scoreless, so it was 3-2 when Feierabend left the game. Unfortunately, Emiliano Fruto came in and gave up three runs in the 6th inning; it was probably an auspicious start to the inning that out of his first 7 pitches, 6 were balls and the other one was hit for a single to right by Rod Barajas. (I send Conor a text message at that point that simply reads: "Barajas." If you read Fantasyland, you'd think that was funny too)

Anyway, by the time Fruto gets off the mound in the 7th it's 5-4 with two runners on, (The Mariners added a run in their half of the 6th after Ichiro got yet another triple -- he's now tripled in three consecutive games, is that a record?) and Jon Huber comes in, and a Betancourt miscue (in theory) allows Carlos Lee to score on a Nelson Cruz fielder's choice. So it's 6-4 when Pineiro takes the mound for the top of the 9th, and I hold my breath as he quickly retires three batters. Raul Ibanez hits his 33rd home run of the year into the walkway behind the right-center wall to get the Mariners another run, but that's where it stands as they lose the game 6-5.

Some notes:
- I haven't seen much of the Rangers this year, so I didn't realize they had a bunch of fun delivery guys in Scott Feldman and Wes Littleton. Always fun to watch sidearmers, in my opinion.

- You know, I picked up Ian Kinsler halfway through the year for my fantasy team, and he's been outstanding for a middle infielder, but I'd never actually seen him play. I like his instincts, his speed, his arm, his pitch judgment, basically everything about him, especially his high socks. It doesn't hurt that he got two hits and a walk in this game, but still. He's no Chase Utley, and is definitely helped by his home park, but I think he's a good kid, one to keep an eye on for sure.

- I'm not sure I've ever been to a game where TWO BALKS happened. Seriously. Padilla balked early on with Ichiro on base, which was mostly a moot point as Adrian Beltre hit the weakest home run in the history of Safeco Field right after that, an opposite-field shot that landed about three millimeters beyond the right-field wall corner and was measured as being 340 feet. I'm usually an incredible judge of fly balls and I thought it was going to be caught at the wall. Oh, right, balks. Feierabend also balked over Kinsler in the 4th, and he did eventually score. That one was weirder -- with Padilla I actually saw him make a fake move, but with Feierabend, it was like, he threw to first base, and the umpire told Kinsler to go to second, and we couldn't figure out why, and then they put up "Balk" on the scoreboard. Hrm.

- In the first inning, when Ben Broussard came up, I said, "Hey, Ben. Can you get a hit? I haven't seen you do anything since I got back from Japan, and --" he hits the ball to right field, and it looks like it's basically just going to fall into Nelson Cruz's glove, except something goes wrong and it falls ON Nelson Cruz instead and Broussard ends up with a double.

- Jose Lopez made a pretty sad blooper-reel error in the 8th, when Carlos Lee grounded the ball to him, and he scooped it off the ground, only he didn't. And then he tried to pick it up again, and still didn't... and a third time, and you'd almost think the ball was crazy-glued to the ground. He did eventually manage to get it to defy gravity, but by the time he threw to first, Lee was already safe.

- Oh, so in the 6th inning I look up at the pitching info board, and it says Padilla's been in for 115 pitches, and I express my disbelief at the situation, then have to explain pitch counts to my friend, and as I'm explaining why you don't leave in pitchers for too long because it abuses their arms and they get tired and become more likely to hit people or give up hits and BAM, Ichiro hits that triple of his I was mentioning earlier.

It was Fan Appreciation Night, which means "we're going to call out a whole bunch of random seat numbers which aren't yours for prizes you most likely don't want anyway, like an autographed Joel Pineiro cap." between the innings instead of the normal gimmicks, with three notable exceptions: they still had dancing groundskeepers, the Extreme Hat Trick, and the goddamn Hydro Races. Now, HERE is the weird part -- before tonight's hydro race, the score was 24-27-27, with the Yellow boat at 24. So I'm like, "Yellow's going to win, hel-LO," except... they didn't. I forget which of the other two won, but apparently they DON'T always finish the season at 27-27-27?

Anyway, between innings they gave away a lot of player-signed stuff, and each inning had an "inning grand prize" which started off with things like an iPod, and eventually became things like a Nintendo DS, a Karaoke machine (complete with a horrendous rendition of "Sweet Caroline"), 2007 Season Tickets, and then a 42" Plasma TV, ending in a trip for 2 to Cancun. Needless to say, I didn't win anything, although someone three rows behind me won an autographed Beltre ball and someone in my seat but one section over won a Broussard autographed jersey. We thought it was sort of funny that people in field seating won "front row seats to a game", though at least they were in row 31 instead of row 1 already. Another wacky thing was seeing seats in the Hit It Here Cafe get picked -- not sure I'd seen that before.
It's late and I'm going back to the park in the afternoon with my camera to hopefully get some good pictures of Kevin Millwood and Felix Hernandez pitching, so to reiterate the title of this post: Padilla, Padilla, Padilla, that's all folks!

Friday, September 29, 2006

2007 Mariners Schedule announced

And it's a pretty interesting setup, at least to me.

Press Release, with PDF links to the schedules

For example, we play 7 games against the Devil Rays, 3 away and 4 here (and knowing my luck, I will still not get to see Scott Kazmir pitch in person).

We play 9 games against the White Sox, with 5 of them at Safeco, split into a 2-game series in May and 3 games in August.

We play 10 games against Detroit, but only 4 are in Safeco, right after the ASG.

We play in Cleveland as the second series of the year, and we play the Indians at home as the second-to-last series of the year.

Only one Yankees series yet again, and it's the second weekend in May, so if you want to see the Yankees, you'll need to lock down tickets early, as I think the only reason the Yankees didn't sell out quickly this year was because it was a weekday series.

Since the Mariners aren't actually in town on my birthday (May 7th), I'll either have to choose May 11th against the Yankees or May 2nd against the White Sox as my "birthday game", probably. Looks like the Phillies are in San Francisco the 4-6 weekend, too...

Amazingly, yet again, we get the first and last series of the year as home games. I think that's been the case every year I've lived here. Crazy.

Oh, and I forgot the best part! In interleague, THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES ARE COMING HERE!!!!!!!! Weekday series, June 19-21. I'll be at all the games unless something tragic happens. I went to college in Pittsburgh, so the Pirates are one of my "other home teams", though below the Phillies and Mariners. And there's a pretty good chance I won't get to see the Pirates when I visit Pittsburgh in April this time. Plus, I'm a huuuuuge Jason Bay fan (you know, there are a ton of awesome players from British Columbia, and none of them are on the Mariners...), though most of the other players I liked on the Pirates in recent years were traded elsewhere. Though one of them (David Ross) will also come here with the Cincinnati Reds, assuming he still plays for them next year. Yeah, I might be the only person out here who sees "The Reds are coming" and thinks, "Yay! David Ross! Scott Hatteberg!"

And on a last note, no, unlike the rest of you blogizens, I don't think the whole "Bavasi and Hargrove Return in 2007" thing is worth fussing over, which is why this is about the only mention of it I'm going to make for quite a while.

I'll be at Fan Appreciation Night tonight, up in section 334 as per usual. Look for the Phillies hat -- Jamie Moyer needs my karma...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Game Report: Mariners vs. A's - Gone With The Windsor

I didn't bring a camera to the game today, and I didn't even really hang out for much of BP at all. However, let me posit a question to you: which person do you think it'd be harder to get an autograph from -- a bullpen catcher, or a star pitcher?

The answer: the bullpen catcher.

I printed out a few of the pictures from the Huston Street dummy incident a few weeks ago, and I really, really, really wanted to see if I could get Brandon Buckley to sign one, since he had instigated it all.

So I get to the park around 6:15, and some pitchers are playing catch on the field, but that's about it. Haren's tossing in the bullpen, and finishes, and Buckley comes out with him. The guy next to me yells, "DANNY! HEY DANNY, WILL YOU PLEASE SIGN?" but Haren completely ignores him and goes by. So I start yelling too:

Me: "Hey! Brandon! Buckley!"
Buckley, jogging: "What?"
Me: "Will you sign something?"
Buckley: [shakes head]
Me: "No, I'm dead serious!"
Buckley: "Yeah, I KNOW you are!"
Me: "Awww, cmon?"
Buckley, already past: "I'm not a player, I don't sign stuff."


The guy next to me was like, "Whoa, what is that from?" and I showed him the pictures, and some of the other people around, and they all thought it was really funny.

Well, Rich Harden was standing one section to my left, and he didn't seem to be in any hurry, so I went over to him -- I still had a Harden baseball card in my bag. When he was signing something for another guy, he was saying how awful he thought he did yesterday, so when he got up to me, it was like:

Me: "Ummm, Rich, you only gave up two hits in five innings yesterday..."
Harden: "Yeah..."
Me: "...and you're calling that bad?"
Harden: [sheepishly] "Oh man, you have no idea, I felt terrible."
Me: "You looked awesome from the stands."
Harden, looking up, smiling at me: "Well, hey, thanks!"

I must admit that a smile from Rich Harden is more than enough to cancel out any grumpiness I had over being dissed by Brandon Buckley. Harden just seems like such a sweetheart, sort of a Dan Wilson type of guy.

Anyway, I ended up sitting in Terrace Club today, and they only seem to have four kinds of mustard instead of seven, which was a letdown. I did, however, find what may be one of the best food-to-money-ratio items in Safeco, namely the sauteed pasta sold behind section 216 or so. It was $9 for a GIGANTIC bowl of sauteed pasta with chicken, vegetables, and alfredo sauce; I couldn't even finish it. I don't think there's EVER been a time that I got food at the ballpark and it was too much; usually it's more like they're charging too much for way too little.

Of course, I can't really recommend the pasta in my "ways to eat cheap at Safeco", because you have to be in Terrace Club in the first place to get it, so I think I'm still going to say that my top three food items I generally get at Safeco are:

1. Ivar's Fish'n'Chips, $7
2. BBQ Sandwich from Dixie's/Porter's/whatever, $8.75
3. Bullpen Bratwurst, $5

(The third item has mostly come about during my new camera days -- after BP ends at 6:20-6:25ish, there's at least 10-15 minutes before pitchers start warming up, and the bratwurst is relatively cheap, relatively filling, pretty tasty, and best, I can eat it with one hand and not worry about making my camera all greasy. It's more for the days when I don't expect to leave the bullpen until about 2 minutes before the first pitch and still need to get up to section 334; otherwise I duck out before the national anthem and buy one of the first two choices and am in my seat for the first pitch anyway.)

When I said at the bottom of my last game report that "maybe we'll get to see some players we wouldn't otherwise, like Jeremy Brown or Hiram Bocachica," I had no idea how accurate that prediction was going to turn out. The starting lineup for Oakland was Bocachica CF, Scutaro 2B, Kielty RF, Swisher LF, Johnson 1B, Melhuse C, Jimenez SS, Brown DH, Perez 3B. Jason Windsor got the start instead of Barry Zito, too.

And yet, the Mariners still found a way to lose the game 7-6 in the end.

I don't feel like writing a long entry, so what you need to know is:

1. On the very first play of the game, Hiram Bocachica (!) hit the ball to third base. It was a sort of difficult play to make, and Beltre got the ball and threw it to first, only it didn't quite go to first, and Richie didn't make the catch. Bocachica had already overshot the bag when the ball rolled wild, and he tripped and fell over on the ground, but managed to get up and dash to second while Jose Lopez was recovering the ball. Lopez threw to second to get Bocachica there, and the ball and the Bocachica arrived at about the same time, only Betancourt didn't make that catch either. Fortunately, in the end, Bocachica only ended up getting to second. This play should have really been indicative of the way the Mariners were going to be that evening -- nothing was going to go their way, and they were going to find some way to lose the game no matter what.

2. Meche threw 125 pitches in 6 innings. Something tells me they don't really care about whether his arm falls off or not anymore. To be fair, though, he struck out 4 of the last 6 batters he faced, all after hitting 100 pitches. The thing is, he gave up 6 hits, and 3 were doubles and 1 was a triple. And the triple was to Antonio Perez, too.

On the other hand, tonight I wore my Meche #55 shirt that I bought in early 2003 back when the Mariners didn't suck. I've worn it a lot these last few years; I've been to a lot of Meche starts, it seems. It's sort of weird to think that it might be the last time I wear it for one of his games.

3. On Monday, Ichiro tied Harold Reynolds's club record for career triples with 48. Today, after Nick Swisher couldn't quite recover a hit to left field, Ichiro ended up on third base for his 49th, which means he's now the club record-holder.

4. Dan Johnson looked like he was ACTUALLY trying to knock Kenji Johjima down when he was running home during that disastrous 9th inning. I mean, the ball was grounded to third, Beltre threw to Johjima, and Johnson just barrelled down the baseline with his arms up like he was blocking punches, and ran hard into him. I thought that was sort of uncool.

5. Yes, turnabout is fair play. It's funny that on Monday, Huston Street imploded and JJ Putz was the one to get the win in extra innings, whereas today, JJ Putz imploded and Huston Street picked up a save in extra innings. Worse, Street struck out the side, and Jay Witasick struck out two out of the three guys he faced in the 9th. Yawn.

Woo, off day tomorrow, then Fan Appreciation Night on Friday. I almost feel like I need the off day more than the team does.

The Phillies won after a long and grueling 14-inning game tonight, but I'm sort of worried for them. I don't think the Dodger juggernaut is going to slow down, and the same "must-win" situation as last year feels really precarious to me. Ironically, just like last year, a late-season game with the Astros seemed to determine their fate. Well, whatever happens, I still love those guys. Utley, Howard, Hamels, and especially Chris Coste -- who would have ever expected this year to work out this way?

The Fighters have digest movies up of the last two Hawks games, with Shinjo's retirement ceremony and the crazy beer-pouring first-place celebration. I love these guys too, of course.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Seventy-Nine Fruit Baskets

I just thought this was really cool and it warranted its own post because otherwise I'll forget it.

Bobby Valentine sends Tommy Lasorda a bizarre birthday gift.

Tommy Lasorda appreciates it.

The story: Apparently, Tommy Lasorda had said to some of his former players at one point or another (including Valentine), "You guys never got me a birthday gift -- not even a fruit basket."

Lasorda sent Bobby a birthday card this year via Japanese reporter courier post, and so Bobby thought it'd be a good idea to rectify this birthday gift situation. He contacted a whole bunch of Lasorda's former players from all over, and at 10am on September 22nd, Lasorda was greeted by a strange delivery -- 79 fruit baskets for his 79th birthday, each one with a personal message from one of his players. There's a crazy picture of Lasorda surrounded by a whole ton of fruit baskets in that second link. It's pretty funny -- check it out.

And in case you're wondering, rather than eating all of that fruit or letting it go to waste, he donated it to the UCLA Children's Hospital.

The Fighters Win the Pennant!!!!!

I didn't MEAN to stay up until 5am listening to the game, but I couldn't help it. As the Nippon Ham Fighters won their game against the Softbank Hawks, they clinched the Pacific League first place slot, regardless of what the Seibu Lions do in their game with Lotte.

game-ending DP
(Picture from

Fighters 4, Hawks 1 (box score)

Kensuke Tanaka and Fernando Seguinol hit solo home runs in the fourth inning to go ahead 2-1, Jose Macias and Makoto Kaneko both hit doubles to knock in two more runs in the 7th. Masaru Takeda went five strong innings to start, Yu Darvish (!?!?!) pitched two innings in relief, striking out 3, awesome setup man Hisashi Takeda pitched the 8th, and Micheal Nakamura closed it out for what should be something like his 39th save of the year, thus OBLITERATING the old club saves record of 34 held by Yutaka Enatsu.


Technically this isn't the PL pennant, I guess, but it IS first place, and gives them a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Yeah, Lotte toppled Softbank last year and anything could still happen, but so what? FIRST PLACE! YEAAAAHH!!!!!

And here people laugh at me when I say I "lucked in" to becoming a Fighters fan several years ago. I've been wearing my Fighters hat around Seattle nonstop since I got back from Japan, yes, even to both Mariners-A's games, and dammit, I'm PROUD of it.

By the way, if anyone knows how I can somehow get access to a dependable Japanese proxy server so I can actually WATCH the playoffs (and hopefully Japan Series), it'd be greatly, greatly appreciated :)

Now uh, I need to sleep.

Game Report: Mariners vs. A's - Behold Your AL West Overlords

Tonight, along with about 20 other people at Safeco Field, I got to see the Oakland A's clinch the AL West pennant.

Beware of flying Melhuses.

I'm not sure this game really needs a recap, in all honesty. Oakland won 12-3 as the Angels lost to Texas, and that's it for the American League pennant race, as it'll be the Twins, Tigers, Yankees and A's in the postseason.

The light was terrible at Safeco tonight, but I did take a bunch of pictures nonetheless. I got Brandon Buckley and Barry Zito to make faces at me at one point, and the pictures came out all blurry. Bleh. Swisher was taking fielding practice at shortstop as a joke for a while, though he kept falling over. He had a new facial hair pattern today, with these crazy thin long sideburns. We called him over to the stands eventually, and I got him to sign a baseball card with his completely weirdo signature, and said, "Swish, you're my favorite shortstop ever," and he laughed.

At the end of BP a bunch of guys came over -- Zito, Halsey, Blanton, a few more down by the dugout that I didn't see, so I got Zito to sign a baseball card as well (boy, I'm glad I remembered to bring them to work this morning), and then got Joe Blanton to sign my ticket. Wheee!

I took pictures of Harden warming up, too, though again, I got screwed over by the lighting. I sort of like this one where you can see his face clearly but his arm is a big blur. Unfortunately, due to the "bullpen tavern buffet" promo today, it turned out I couldn't just go to my normal spot in the tavern and take pictures through the holes in the wall. Grumble. So I went over to the Mariners bullpen instead, and got Francisco Cruceta to also sign my ticket. Bonus! I didn't think the players were supposed to do that, but maybe the "no autographs" sign is more so that people don't always pester the players, not necessarily that the players don't want to sign stuff.

Anyway, what can I say? Rich Harden is really good -- despite being limited to around 75 pitches (76, to be exact) -- and despite that he sort of seemed to be relatively sucking today -- he went 5 innings of 2-hit ball, striking out 5, walking Leadoff Bloomquist, and hitting Beltre. By the time Kirk Saarloos came in from the bullpen, the A's already had a 6-0 lead, with Swisher hitting a solo homer to lead off the second and Milton Bradley hitting a 3-run homer which I thought was almost going to reach the Hit it Here Cafe. I suppose it's fitting that the first runs the Mariners scored were when Beltre and Ibanez hit back-to-back home runs in the 6th off Saarloos, Beltre's being a huge shot into the fifth row of the left field bleachers, and Raul's going a few feet past the FSN sign in center field (but somehow being called 389 feet).

I think the M's pretty much decided not to bother trying to win this one once Woods had given up 6 runs, and instead turned it into an episode of American League Idol, running a bunch of young pitchers and hitters and fielders through a bunch of auditions to see who will get a major league recording contract next year. We got to see Jorge Campillo pitch, of all people, and Emiliano Fruto, the pride of Colombia, and then Eric O'Flaherty, the only Mariners pitcher to NOT give up a run. By the end of the game, almost every starter had been replaced with a callup player.

As a side note, neither Ichiro nor Johjima played in this game, making it the first one in I-have-no-idea-how-long that I didn't write a single player name on my scorecard in Japanese. I guess Hargrove noticed that the stadium was practically empty and figured he'd play a joke on any Japanese tourists who were dumb enough to come out for the game, by playing Bloomquist and Rivera instead. But the starting lineup was Bloomquist, Lopez, Beltre, Ibanez, Sexson, Broussard, Betancourt, Snelling, Rivera, and the lineup at the end of the game was Bloomquist, Lopez, Bohn, Jones, Dobbs, Perez, Navarro (!!), Morse, Rivera.

By the end of the game, the only people left in the stadium were the A's fans, pretty much, and when Kielty caught the final out, a spontaneous party erupted down by the A's dugout, both by the players and by the fans. Up where I was sitting, there was a guy who'd brought an A's flag and was waving it every time the A's scored a run (it reminded me of being in Japan again), and a bunch of A's fans rallied up there as well before running down to join their green-and-gold compatriots.

I keep not paying attention to writing this while I listen to the Nippon Ham Fighters vs. Softbank Hawks game, and I really should be sleeping instead, so I'm going to cut this entry short. I'm a little sad that Zito isn't pitching tomorrow -- they've changed the page to say that Jason Windsor is -- but maybe we'll get to see some players we wouldn't otherwise, like Jeremy Brown or Hiram Bocachica. And maybe Eric Chavez will finally get some rest.

Congratulations to the Oakland A's. I think it's shaping up to be a fun set of playoffs, and at this point I'm not even sure who I'll root for anymore.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Game Report: Mariners vs. A's - Meltdown Street

I have something really important that I have to admit first, before writing the rest of this post. You may wish to skip down a few paragraphs.

I'm totally in love with Rich Harden! He's the cutest guy in the entire galaxy!

See, I went to tonight's game with Gomez for our last chance to get Cheap Monday Tickets, and we got there around the end of batting practice time. I look out on the field, and there's an A's guy down at the front of the stands signing stuff and chatting with people. From afar, I thought it was Kirk Saarloos, which would make sense since he's local and all. I've gotten him to sign stuff before, so I thought I'd skip it. But for lack of anything better to do, I ran down to at least take a picture.

Except I get up to the front, and it's not Kirk Saarloos. It's King Richard the Brokenharden! He was just chatting with some kids from Vancouver and signing things, so I got him to sign my ticket stub, and wished him luck and said it was great to see him back from the DL and kicking ass, and he looked right into my eyes and grinned, and suddenly all those crazy chicks on Athletics Nation who had voted for him as being even cuter than Swisher didn't seem quite so crazy. What eyes! What a smile!

Alright, so now that nobody's reading this except maybe Jennifer, I'll actually talk about the game.

You have to understand that I went into this game joking that I was going to break the curse of the A's -- remember, the Mariners haven't beaten the A's since April 6th, and have a 1-15 record against them. However, the Mariners also hadn't lost a game I'd attended at Safeco Field since their last game against the A's here, on August 6th. So, was my winning streak going to win out, or was their losing streak going to win out?

You also have to understand that despite this being my first time seeing Cesar Jimenez making a major league start, it was the third time this year I'd actually seen him make a start, as BOTH of the times I went down to Tacoma for games this year, he was the starter. Once was the time where he took over a next-day-start for Clint Nageotte in a doubleheader of doom where he was matched against Jered Weaver, who struck out 12 guys in 6 innings, but neither starter figured in the decision as the Bees bullpen blew up. The other time, I went down to see Justin Leone play at the end of June, but neither Jimenez nor Jared Wells could throw strikes, to the tune of Jimenez having 6 walks and 4 strikeouts in 6 innings. The starters didn't figure in that decision either as both bullpens imploded.

So it should have been no surprise to me today to see Cesar Jimenez make a start, do some mediocre pitching, and then have neither starter figure in the decision as a bullpen imploded.

Things got off to a pretty neat start as Jason Kendall hit a fly ball to right field that Chris Snelling caught barehanded, but then immediately after that, Bobby Kielty hit a double to center that Ichiro couldn't quite get his glove on. As Gomez was informing me that he expected Jimenez to get hit pretty hard, Milton Bradley launched a 374-foot home run into the left-field seats. Then, Frank Thomas hit a long fly ball to centerfield, which both Ichiro and Snelling made it to, and Ichiro caught it, but went flying in a somersault over Snelling as they almost collided. Fortunately, he held onto the ball, and then Jay Payton struck out. 2-0.

Richie Sexson struck back in the bottom of the second with a solo homer, 428 feet to right-center, to bring the score to 2-1, but then the A's chained together a bunch of singles in the top of the third to push ahead another run. 3-1.

The Mariners weren't about to take that, though, and Yuniesky Betancourt led off the bottom of the third and nearly decapitated Eric Chavez with a line drive double to left field. Ichiro, who would eventually go 5-for-6 on the evening, singled, and Betancourt scored as Beltre grounded into a really nice double play -- I say "really nice" in terms of Scutaro making a diving stop, flipping the ball to Ellis, and Ellis turning the play to first in time. Johjima wanted none of that nonsense and doubled to left, and when Ibanez singled to center, Johjima rounded third and ran home. Jay Payton's throw actually beat him home, but he somehow avoided the tag and was safe. 3-3. Sexson hit a line-drive single to right after that, but then Ben Broussard struck out, which was his theme for the night, eventually ending 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

The A's broke the tie immediately after that. Swisher singled, and then Mark Ellis hit a ball to deep left field, and for some reason neither Betancourt nor Lopez were actually covering second base at the time, so when Ibanez threw it in, it actually almost looked like he was throwing it TO Ellis, only Ellis ducked it and ran to the base, as Richie Sexson ran in wildly to recover the throw. It was sort of bizarre. Marco Scutaro walked the bases loaded, and Kendall doubled in two runs. Whoosh. 5-3.

We'd been trying to figure out who #64 was, warming up in the Mariners bullpen, but he came out to pitch the top of the fifth, and it was Travis Chick. Gomez told me that Chick had been banged up pretty badly in his last outing, but pointed out that "no matter how badly he does, at least unlike Eddie, his arm still works." I commented that "Great, my friend's 12-year-old brother is now going to want both a Putz jersey AND a Chick shirt. Has anyone started calling his delivery a Chick Flick yet?"

Chick got off to an impressive start, striking out Frank Thomas, but that was about all he did that was impressive. After that the next six batters reached base either by walking or getting a hit, including Jason Kendall walking in a run, at which point Chick was pulled for Francisco Cruceta. Mark Kotsay came in to pinch-hit for Bobby Kielty, though the scoreboard folks and announcers didn't even notice until a few pitches later when Kotsay had singled Mark Ellis home and was standing on first base, and they were about to announce Milton Bradley, and then announced that "The last batter was pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay." Cruceta struck out Bradley and then Frank Thomas hit a long fly ball out to right, and that was it for the inning, and the A's were ahead 9-3.

At least Chick doesn't dig the long ball, I guess.

They showed a "Science Of Baseball" movie thingy narrated by Rick Rizzs, which presented the ages-old question of "What is Pine Tar?" Unfortunately, the movie didn't involve George Brett or Brendan Donnelly, but instead involved actual pine trees and stuff. Bo-ring.

Ichiro led off the Mariners' half of the fifth inning by singling for the third time in the evening, and a few batters later, Ibanez was at the plate with two outs.

"Hey, do you think Raul could--"
"Whoa. That's totally--"
"Amazing. Bradley didn't even MOVE."

Yeah, so Raul hit a home run that I almost thought was going to get to the Hit It Here Cafe, before it sailed into the back rows of the right-field seats. 9-5.

Now, er, here's the kind of cool part, see. Francisco Cruceta, who so far this year had 5 walks, no strikeouts, and 2 home runs to his name, pitched all of the 6th and 7th innings and most of the 8th, during which there were only three base runners, no runs, and a second strikeout to go with one walk. Not bad, and I'll tell you what his secret is: Cruceta was pimpin'.

Cruceta the Badass
Hello, ladies. I'm a major-league pitcher.

Right, so the A's actually never scored another run after the fifth inning, but in most circumstances, 9 runs is more than enough to beat the Mariners, so it shouldn't have been a big deal. However, after the hot dog hydro races ("rerish noooo!"), and after the seventh-inning stretch, the Mariners found themselves refreshed enough to hit some baseballs. Ichiro hit a long fly to right, which Milton Bradley dove for and instead slipped and fell over and by the time he recovered the ball, Ichiro was at third base, and had tied Harold Reynolds's club record for career triples with 48. Then, to add insult to injury, Johjima hit a ground ball which scored Ichiro, and then Raul Ibanez grounded out to the mound, only Joe Kennedy slipped or tripped or something while trying to field the ball at first, and Ibanez was safe, and Kennedy was out of the game.

Justin Duschshcshcshchererererer held down the fort until the 9th inning though, and so it was 9-6 when Huston Street came in. I'm sure you've all seen this before -- Huston Street comes on the mound, throws some dazzling smiles at the women in the stands, some dazzling sliders at the batters at the plate, and everyone goes home a little while later.

Only this time, it didn't happen. I was cheering, "Huuuuuston Streeeeeet!" with the hopes of him getting the save, me getting my bus home, and getting the win for Loaiza on my fantasy team. But then Beltre hit a long fly ball to center field. "It's not out..." I started to say, as it bounced past Mark Kotsay and over the centerfield wall. " least, not on the first bounce." Then Johjima singled to left, though it was a short enough single that Beltre was held at third. Ibanez, however, singled to left as well, and Beltre scored. 9-7, no outs. Johjima was replaced with Adam Jones at second, and then Richie Sexson also singled past a diving Scutaro to left field, loading the bases as Jones was held at third, and Willie Bloomquist was put in as a pinch-runner for Richie. Ben Broussard struck out for his fifth unproductive at-bat of the evening, and then Jose Lopez hit a loooong fly ball to right field, which was caught, but Adam Jones easily tagged up and scored, and Ibanez even made it to third.

Mike Morse had come in to pinch-hit for Chris Snelling in the 6th, and now everyone's other favorite Rainier, Greg "Dobby The Bench Elf" Dobbs, came in to pinch-hit for Morse. Here it was, 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth, two outs. "And who's going to save the day now? Greg Dobbs?" remarked Gomez, as... Dobbs singled to left and Raul Ibanez ran home, tying the game at 9-9. "Huuuuuuston Streeeeeet, what happened to yoooooou?" I sighed. Betancourt grounded into a force-out at third after that, but hey, extra innings.

At this point I realized both that Esteban Loaiza could not get me a win for my fantasy team, and that I was going to get home late no matter what, so suddenly I was like, "That's it, you Oakland bastards, the Mariners are going to win. Eat karma, losers."

JJ Putz obliged by striking out Kendall, Kotsay, and Bradley on something like ten pitches, and then the fun began. Kiko Calero came in to pitch the 10th for Oakland, and Ichiro led off by doing what he normally does -- he singled, bouncing the ball towards third, where Eric Chavez made a really nice leap and dive to snag it, but then couldn't get the throw to first in time. Calero threw a pickoff to first, and Swisher had to dive down to get the ball, and somehow he and Ichiro ended up somewhat tangled up and the ball ended up rolling towards the stands, and Ichiro subsequently ended up on second base. A trainer came out to look at him, since it seemed he'd either bruised his legs or arms, we couldn't tell which, in the tangle.

Beltre attempted to bunt but utterly failed, and ended up hitting a line drive out to center field, which unfortunately went to Mark Kotsay instead of into the stands. Rene Rivera was up next, since someone had to come in to catch after Johjima was pinch-hit for, and we couldn't pinch-hit for him because we had no other backup catcher. (What the heck -- it's September, helLO?) Rivera predictably struck out, and then they intentionally walked Raul Ibanez to get to Willie Bloomquist, which is almost always a pretty good idea, regardless of him being a lefty or a righty.

So Gomez is like, "Great, we're going to be here forever."

I was like, "Just watch, Willie is going to do something cool here and win the game and then you'll NEVER hear the end of it--"

And then Willie did something cool there to win the game so we'd never hear the end of it, as he hit the ball, it bounced over the infield towards left field. Ichiro was off and running and nearly all the way to home plate by the time Jay Payton had charged in for the ball anyway, and he dropped it as Ichiro scored the winning run and the entire team mobbed Willie Bloomquist and tried to either bash a hole through his skull or congratulate him, it was hard to tell which.

The older gentleman sitting on Gomez's right said, "Do you think he could have gotten Ichiro out if he'd thrown the ball in?"

Gomez was like, "Uhhh... no."

And that was the game.

Today was Joel Pineiro's 28th birthday, but he wasn't pitching, which was probably a good thing.

I need to talk about the Japanese baseball high school draft sometime, though the big news is that the Rakuten Golden Eagles won the lottery to draft Masahiro Tanaka. More later.

Tomorrow, the adorable and talented Rich Harden takes the mound for Oakland, as the sort of cute and not as talented Jake Woods takes the mound for Seattle. I think it's going to be an interesting game either way, and not just because of my winning-at-Safeco karma. So stay tuned!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Deanna's Japanese Baseball Stadium Ratings

If I keep adding to this post I'll never get it out, and then I'll never post in this blog again. So here's a draft at my Japanese Stadium Rankings.

I tried to do this on a bigger scale than just "Did I like being in this stadium or not?", but keep in mind that these are still entirely from my observations and perspectives, sometimes aided by the friends I went to the game with. Also, I only did ones I visited this trip, hence Tokyo Dome isn't on here, but I think it would have rated pretty high, probably in the top three.

The categories:

Convenience: How far is it from the main JR station in the city? Is there a ton of additional walking? 15 minutes (Tokyo Dome) is a 10, 75+ minutes is a 1.
Comfort/Amenities: Was a 171cm-tall gaijin comfortable watching the game? Are the bathrooms and other such conveniences plentiful and good?
View/Fences: Do most of the seats seem to have a decent view? How thick/high/intrusive are the goddamn fences and other obstructions?
Food: Good selection? Tasty food? How about drinks? Vendors? Etc.
Crowd: Was the stadium full or empty? Was it a good group of people to be around? Are the home cheers decent/entertaining?
Team: Is it worth going to this stadium to see the team?

Each team is listed with the city (for the ones that are Tokyo area but really in other cities, I've listed both), whether it's indoors or outdoors, the team that plays there, and what year it opened.

So, here's how they rated, based on me trying to judge them by those categories:

1. Nagoya Dome (Nagoya, indoors, Chunichi Dragons, 1997)

Convenience: 7. From the Nagoya JR station, you can either take the Sakuradori subway to Hisaya-Odori and then the Meijo line from there to Nagoya-Dome-mae station, which takes about 25-30 minutes in all with good transferring, or you can take the JR Chuo line to Ozone station, which takes like 10 minutes, but then it's either a 15-minute walk to the park or you have to go find the Meijo transfer at Ozone and take it one stop to Nagoya Dome-mae, which seems like a waste of money. The Dome-mae station isn't that great anyway, as you still have to walk through a long tunnel called "Dragons Road" and decorated with Chunichi Dragons stuff, then walk some more to get to the dome itself. Still, it shouldn't take you more than 30-35 minutes total from the JR station with either way you choose to go.
Comfort/Amenities: 9. No issues here, all the seats were comfortable. Lots of bathrooms and stuff. Only vague downside was having to go past the smoking area in the back to get to stuff sometimes.
View/Fences: 8. Fences all around the infield but ample upper decks and higher seats to see over them. No outfield fence, just a bar. View from the upper deck was pretty nice, though a slight bit of the rightfield corner was obscured from our part of the rightfieldish upper deck.
Food: 8. I dunno, I got a burger and fries and they were cheap and decent. Selection seemed repetitive but reasonable. They have a food court restaurant thingy in back of the stadium on the terrace level, too.
Crowd: 9. Great fans, great cheering, great songs. Everyone around me was really enthusiastic and nice and I found myself humming/singing the cheer songs and at-bat songs pretty quickly. The only thing detracting from the atmosphere for me was the dome.
Team: 10. Also, the Dragons are pretty damn good. They're old, but good.
Total: 51 out of 60

2. Fullcast Miyagi Stadium (Sendai, outdoors, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, 1950, renovated 2005)

Convenience: 9. Miyaginobara station is 2 stops from the main Sendai JR station on the Senseki line, about 5 minutes. From that station you have to walk around a smaller sports field to get to Fullcast, but it's not far and the path is obvious.
Comfort/Amenities: 10. Great renovated seats, big and comfy. Nice clean modern bathrooms.
View/Fences: 9. The fences exist for most of the park but there's plenty of reasonable seating above it or around it. The outfield fences are relatively low. Most of the views in the stadium seem pretty good. It's not all that huge a place to begin with so you're never that far from the action.
Food: 10. Lots of selection and it all seemed pretty good.
Crowd: 10. Even though the team sucks, I think the player songs and cheers were reasonably good and people actually seemed to be pretty into the game, which I wasn't expecting. The small size makes the crowd seem more cohesive, I'm sure.
Team: 1. They suck and they're not even entertainingly sucky. Sigh.
Total: 49 out of 60

3. Meiji Jingu (Tokyo, outdoors, Yakult Swallows, 1926)

Convenience: 8. You'd probly take JR from Tokyo to Shimbashi and then the Ginza Subway Line from Shimbashi to Gaienmae, I think, and it'd take you about 15 minutes. Thing is, once you exit at Gaienmae it's really not entirely obvious where the stadium is. I had to ask someone my first time there, and my second time there it was only luck that I went the right way; it's out of sight from the station, a few blocks away.
Comfort/Amenities: 7. Outfield unreserved is vast and you can choose your level of seat comfort, whether you want backs or not and how high or low you want to be. So in some ways, it's our own damn fault we sat so far up and away from the bathrooms and food stands.
View/Fences: 3. It was just really tough to get an angle without fences in our way of home plate, and when the field fences weren't, the stands fences were. In the outfield, to be over the fences, you had to be pretty far out or in no-seat-back territory.
Food: 10. I was actually pretty impressed with the food choices. They had these huge bento boxes you could get with lots of yummy things in them, or they had noodle shops where you could get yakisoba-type stuff or udon noodle soup, which my friend got and said was decent, or there was a place with fried chicken baskets and hot dogs, and all sorts of stuff.
Crowd: 9. Oh god, do I love Swallows fans. The umbrella thing is awesome and crazy. Seriously, the only reason there isn't a 10 in this slot is because the Engrish announcer drove me NUTS and I'm not sure where to compensate for it.
Team: 8. I picked this team to win the CL this year, in all honesty. Lots of ex-MLB pitchers and a nice gang of position players to round them out.
Total: 45 out of 60

4a. Yokohama Stadium (Tokyo/Yokohama, outdoors, Yokohama Bay Stars, 1978)

Convenience: 9. I'm torn about how to rate this one. Kannai station is a 45-minute ride from the Tokyo JR station, but is only a 5-minute ride from the Yokohama JR station. Also, you literally get out of the Kannai station, follow the sign that points "Yokohama Stadium" to the right, and you turn and look and... there's the stadium. Yokohama's enough of a separate and contained unit of a city that I feel okay calling it that.
Comfort/Amenities: 4. Comfortable seats, but that's about it. See, the way it seemed to be laid out is: there's a concourse running behind the lowest level of seats, with food stands, drink stands, merchandise stands, bathrooms, etc. The second level of concourse seemed to only be per staircase, and only smoking areas and vending machines (and maybe bathrooms, I forget). The third level of concourse was... stairs down to the other two. So if you were sitting high up, you pretty much had to run down to the bottom level to get food or anything else. I never saw food vendors come by except popcorn either, so I was starving and ended up running downstairs for food during the 7th inning fight song. I only missed one batter, though.
View/Fences: 10. NO FENCES!!!!! Just don't sit behind the home plate netting :) Seriously, the views were pretty great, I thought.
Food: 5. It seemed average. I had yakisoba and it was awful, but to be fair, I didn't spend much time looking at the food choices.
Crowd: 9. Despite the quality of the team this year, they have a pretty good fan base, it seems. I mean, I saw three BayStars games and was impressed by the oendan turnout at Koshien and Jingu as well. The people I sat near were really great, both before and after I switched seats.
Team: 5. A losing team, but with many bright spots, and a host of young players who they can hopefully build something around.
Total: 42 out of 60

4b. Hiroshima Municipal Stadium (Hiroshima, outdoors, Hiroshima Carp, 1957)

Convenience: 10. From the Hiroshima JR Station, you can either walk (about 20 minutes at a brisk pace) or take the #2 or #6 streetcar to Genbaku Dome-Mae (about 15 minutes). It's right between the atomic bomb memorials and Hiroshima Castle, for all your touristy needs.
Comfort/Amenities: 4. So the good part is, you can usually stretch out on several seats with your feet and stuff, and the seats aren't terribly uncomfortable, though the outfield unreserved have no seat backs as usual. The bad part is that there's no concourse behind the seats, so if you don't like what the vendors behind you are selling, you get to wander in and out behind other sections, only they're pretty much all selling the same thing anyway. If there's no appropriate-gender toilet behind your section, you go to another one. If there's no appropriate-country toilet, well, you deal with it.
View/Fences: 9. My view was spectacular, at least. The fences are low in the outfield and normal in the infield and the annoying thing is that they get higher as you get closer to the plate. The neat thing is that during BP they open the fences up so you can watch, take pictures, and possibly even get players to sign stuff.
Food: 7. Average, but for such a sparsely-attended game there were a LOT of vendors. They sold a sort of sno-cone-in-a-bag thing that my friend really liked.
Crowd: 8. You know, for a group of people who have had to watch a second-division team for the last ten years, they have a pretty good turnout in the cheering sections. I also think the lack of skimpy cheerleader girls is good, and think Slyly is the best mascot in Japan.
Team: 4. They suck, but they suck in an entertaining way. Marty Brown is hilarious. I think they've got a lot of players with potential, too.
Total: 42 out of 60

6a. Kyocera Dome Osaka (Osaka, indoors, Orix Buffaloes, 1997)

Convenience: 9. It's a 10-minute ride to Taisho station from Osaka station on the JR Osaka Loop Line. If you don't feel like walking from Taisho, it's a 2-minute ride to Osaka-Dome Mae station on the subway, which lets you out a block from the Dome.
Comfort/Amenities: 9. I was pretty comfortable for the entire game, even without a seat back in outfield unreserved, but that might be mostly because the game I saw, the Fighters were at bat for 80% of the time and thus I was always standing. There were lots of bathrooms and food stands all over the place, as you'd expect in a modern dome stadium with a concourse.
View/Fences: 8. My view from the outfield was pretty great, actually. The outfield has bars but not fences. The infield has fences, but there's also plenty of upper deck seating to see around it unobstructed.
Food: 5. Seemed average. IIRC there were fish flakes on my yakisoba though, which was kind of gross.
Crowd: 6. Unfortunately, being as I was there as part of the Fighters cheering section, I'm not sure I can really judge it. It didn't seem like Buffaloes fans could really fire up the place, though.
Team: 3. They don't suck as much as the Eagles, but they aren't a particularly exciting brand of mediocrity either. The famous-dudes-on-the-DL Kiyohara thing sucks, too.
Total: 40 out of 60

6b. Chiba Marine Stadium (Tokyo/Chiba, outdoors, Chiba Lotte Marines, 1990)

Convenience: 4. Chiba Marine Stadium is a big pain in the butt to get to; you've got a 38-minute ride from JR Tokyo station to Kaihin-Makuhari station, and then you get to either walk for 15 minutes or catch a bus over to the stadium. (I opted for the bus.) Hell, even if I count it from JR Chiba station, it's still at least 15 minutes to either Kaihin-Makuhari or Makuhari-Hongo station and you still need a bus from either. At least there's some other stuff out there like the Makuhari Messe convention center and such.
Comfort/Amenities: 9. Here is where I think Chiba is a pretty big win. Aside from the lack of seat backs in the entire outfield, it's got pretty decent seats and a ton of stuff everywhere.
View/Fences: 8 The fences are annoying as usual, but there are plenty of places you can go to see above them, and there's even a field box type of area that I think was in front of the fences.
Food: 9. Alright, I'm a big dork, but I like Lotteria. The other choices weren't bad either.
Crowd: 3. I think Lotte fans are the most boring of all, in terms of cheer songs and such. Also, why have noisemakers if they're only for like two player cheers? Sheesh. Most of the people around seemed relatively unfriendly, too.
Team: 7. They may have finished in the second division, but I actually think they're still a pretty damn interesting team to watch.
Total: 40 out of 60

8. Hanshin Koshien Stadium (Osaka, outdoors, Hanshin Tigers, 1924)

Convenience: 9. It's a 23-minute ride to the Koshien station on the Hanshin line from the Umeda Hanshin station, which is linked to the main Osaka JR station, and even less if you get an express train. The stadium is pretty much half a block from the Koshien station, with about 2349234239 vendors set up in case you forgot to bring any Tigers cheering equipment. Getting on a train with 40,000 people after the game sucks, but eh.
Comfort/Amenities: 2. I was miserable for most of my game there and I'm only 171cm tall. I worried that my legs were going to have permanent damage from being curled under the seats with no circulation in my feet. I couldn't find any western style toilets, either.
View/Fences: 9. I had an excellent view from my seat, and it seemed like most of the stadium would. The fences exist in the infield and are kind of high, but actually seemed pretty nonobstructive. The outfield fences are low, almost nonexistent as far as I could tell.
Food: 4. This is more "drink" than "food", to be honest, but I was pretty fazed by the fact that I couldn't get a non-alcoholic beverage from my seat easily. After about 238492389 beer and chuhai vendors walked by I finally flagged down the cola/tea vendor, and my bottle wasn't even cold.
Crowd: 7. I realize some people think it's great being surrounded by crazed Tigers fans, but the people surrounding me waving their noisemakers in my face the whole time didn't help. Also, how come I came home smelling like smoke despite all the no-smoking signs? I have to give them credit for being the most insanely devoted fan base I saw in Japan, and the fact that Tigers fans seem to consider themselves all part of one big toralicious family is pretty crazy. From the inside, I'm sure they're the best ever. From the outside, eh.
Team: 8. The recent Tigers are a pretty decent team to watch. Kanemoto and others are wonderful to embrace; the "JFK" and such gimmicks are actually pretty good. Unfortunately, I have major issues with Okada's managing and thus only rate them an 8.
Total: 39 out of 60

9. Invoice Seibu Dome (Tokyo/Saitama, kind of indoors, Seibu Lions, 1979)

Convenience: 3. Seibu Kyujo-mae station is pretty much right there in front of the stadium entrances, but if you don't get an express train it's a 46-minute ride on the Seibu Ikebukuro line, which can be lowered to 30-35 minutes with expresses. From Tokyo JR station it's another 15-20 minutes to Ikebukuro though, which makes it an overall pretty long trip. Also, there's nothing else to really go out to Tokorozawa for, as far as I can tell.
Comfort/Amenities: 4. The seats are comfortable enough in the infield but the outfield slanted turf is just annoying. Having beer accidentally spilled on me probably didn't help. There are no "concourse gates", the concourse just runs outside the back of the stands, so the better your seats are in the infield, the further you have to climb up the stands to get to bathrooms/food. The bathroom I was in was mostly Japanese-style toilets with a few western-style -- at least they were clearly marked...
View/Fences: 3.The fence in the outfield seating is pretty annoying and thick. From the infield it's the same, but if you sit in row 18 or higher you can get a clear shot to home plate. The lighting is plain terrible for taking pictures, though, even during the daytime.
Food: 7. Maybe slightly above average. The bento stand outside the stadium had a cardboard cutout of Takeya Nakamura eating udon soup with chopsticks. It was cute. They also had some tasty beverages, but it was annoying that they wouldn't sell us plain old bottled water. That was weird. On the other hand, they had vendors coming through with anything from Baskin-Robbins ice cream to green tea.
Crowd: 8. I have to admit that Lions fans seem to have more fun than most other fans. I don't understand why there are so few of them in attendance, besides that Tokorozawa is in the middle of nowhere, of course.
Team: 10. I'm not supposed to say this as a Fighters fan, but the Lions are really pretty good these days, y'know?
Total: 35 out of 60

Also, without the actual team factor, we get:
1. Fullcast (48)
2. Nagoya (41)
3. Hiroshima (38)
4. Jingu, Yokohama, Osaka (37)
7. Chiba (33)
8. Koshien (31)
9. Seibu (25)

Like I said elsewhere, I thought Fullcast was great. The only downside of the place is that you have to watch the Eagles.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pictures and Book Club and Stuff

Ugh, I have a whole lot of things I want to write but not much mental energy. A side-by-side evaluation of Japanese stadiums has been in the forefront of my mind a bit, along with finishing off the MLB All-Cute Team, though now I'm suddenly inspired to try to do an NPB All-Cute Team as well. I expect to head to a bunch of the Mariners home games next week, so there'll be game reports then, too.

So, um. I put a random sampling of my non-baseball-related Japan pictures online if anyone wants to see them, because it was easier to go through the 500 non-baseball pictures first before fully diving into the 2500 baseball-related ones. It's some stuff from Nara, Asakusa, Hiroshima, etc, mostly castles and deer and the ferris wheels at Aichi and Yokohama. As far as baseball pictures go, what do y'all want to see? Players? Stadiums? Fans? Mascots? Cheer girls? Beer girls?

Also, I finally updated the sidebar and the book club page -- I was expecting the next book club to be October 7th. What time it's at depends on when people can meet. I was just asked to do another project that day that'll run until 6-7pm, so if people could meet that evening, it'd be great, or we can just put it off until after the postseason, maybe. I dunno. The book's going to be Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders, which is a really interesting and entertaining book. If you're interested in book club, I'm hoping to continue it past the baseball season, so any input would be great.

(Unfortunately, the baseball book I'm currently reading wouldn't exactly make the best book club candidate, plus it takes me like 5-10 minutes to read a page)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Jim Tracy: Ahoy, mateys, ye might be wonderin' why I've called me fine crew together today!

Jack Wilson: Dude, we just swept the Mets.

Zach Duke: I rule, don't I?

Chris Duffy: I rule too! [high-fives]

Xavier Nady: WHY GOD, OH GOD, WHYYYYY? [breaks down in tears]

Jim Tracy: Avast, ye're all missin' th' point, men. Hear ye, we be about t'begin a three-battle melee with them scurvy dogs of th'western coast.

Ryan Doumit: No problem, chief, we can take them.

Ian Snell: Yeah, it's no big deal. I'll shut 'em down for the first couple of innings tonight and then Torres over there'll slam the door on them. Easy cheesy.

Jim Tracy: Yarrrr, but they be wily curs, full of deceit an' ready t'launch a grapeshot attack 'tany moment. Beware ye their late-inning blasts! 'Twere just Sunday they launched four back-t'back volleys over th'fence. Ye kinnae sink 'em that easy, lads!

Jason Bay: He's got a point. I've got no problem hitting four home runs myself, but I think some of the rest of you are going to have to step up for this thing to work.

Freddy Sanchez: Jay, you know we're not capable of hitting like you are. How about we just try to string together four back-to-back singles a couple of times? A wise man once pointed out that four singles in an inning equals a run.

Chris Duffy: Yo, I am the KING of singles.

Freddy Sanchez: Word.

Jason Bay: Uh, that works. You guys go man the bases and hoist the bats or whatever and I'll go drive in some runs.

Chris Duffy: I can't believe you just said "hoist the bats".

Monday, September 18, 2006

I'm still alive

Sort of. I survived the plane flight back, and no, we weren't eaten by a typhoon.

You know, one of my absolute best Japanese baseball memories wasn't actually from this last trip, but was from my trip in April of 2004. I trekked out to Chiba Marine Stadium by myself to see the Fighters play the Marines, sit in the Fighters cheering section, and yell and scream and sing and cheer. I got there early, got a lyrics sheet, and took a seat in the middle of the cheering section, in the middle of a bunch of people who looked at me funny at first.

By the end of the game I was just one of the gang, high-fiving everyone when the team scored runs, chatting about how awesome they were, about how cold the weather was, and sticking around to do the victory songs and cheers, etc, and riding the high as the Fighters won the game. I got on the bus back to the station, and this one guy, maybe ten years older than me, in a Fighters jersey saw me and my Fighters jersey, and looked confused at first, and then said,

"Gaijin da yo..." ("You're a foreigner...?")

"Hai, demo yakyuu ga daisuki da ne!" ("Well, yeah, but I LOVE baseball!")

Well, we get off that bus, and I get on a train at the station, and sure enough, that same guy is on the same car as me.

So he comes over and sits next to me, and despite him not speaking a word of English, and my Japanese being decent but not spectacular, and at the time my baseball vocabulary wasn't all that great either, we sat and talked about baseball and the Fighters for about half an hour. His first year as a Fighters fan was 1981, when they made it to the Japan Series but lost to the Giants in 6 games. I told him about being a Phillies fan when I was a kid, and talked about the Mariners and Ichiro a little bit of course as well. It was really pretty cool.

Anyway, when he reached his stop he said something to me like "Please come back to Japan and cheer for the Fighters again. You'll make them win for sure!"

Well, they've won 20 of their last 24 games and are in first place by a tiny, tiny sliver (79-52 .603, to 77-51-2 .602 and 75-50-5 .600).

I know Seibu gets an easy schedule down the stretch, facing Lotte and Rakuten, while the Fighters and Hawks have to play against each other at the end of the month, but still. I love this team.

And to the guy from the train that day -- I hope they get to the Series, and I hope you get to go with them.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Game Report: Bay Stars vs. Giants - Yoshimi Battles the Orange Giabbots

Hey there. I'm leaving Japan in about 20 hours to return to Seattle, sadly. I have no idea how long it'll take me to get reacquainted with the Mariners once I return; I looked briefly to see that we're completely eliminated from all races at this point (not a surprise), that Ichiro got his 200th hit again (not a surprise), and that Hunter Brown isn't on the expanded roster (goddamnit). Everything else, well, I'll have a lot of catching up to do. Feel free to send some links my way that I need to see.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my adventures, even though most of these entries have been typed up haphazardly while I've been on internet cafe 100-yen-per-15-minutes time limits.

Anyway, before I talk about the game I went to yesterday afternoon, let me briefly mention that I went to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame today, which apparently has lifted the ban on pictures that they had when I was there three years ago, so I took a whole bunch. There's a WBC exhibit with trophies and uniforms and pictures and signed baseballs now, and they've got the 2005 Japan Series highlights playing on video in a room. My favorite thing was this gigantic baseball -- I mean, like 8 feet tall -- with stuff written on it from tons of NPB players in the 2005 season, most of which is pretty funny to read. The English stuff is all like "I want to help my team", or "Come watch me hit home runs!" from Alex Cabrera, and so on. Japanese players wrote things like "Watch my guts pose after our victory" from Kenshin Kawakami, or "We exist only for the fans!" from a signature I couldn't read, and of course a certain Fighters outfielder wrote simply "SHIN-JOY". The second most interesting thing to me was a base sent to Yutaka Fukumoto from Rickey Henderson, back when Fukumoto broke Lou Brock's career stolen base record (which of course Henderson later passed). I think my least favorite thing, though, is that they seemed to have a lot more non-baseball-players in their hall of fame than we do -- business people, architects, college players, etc. It's a little weird.

The upshot is, I know a lot more about Japanese baseball history now than I did a few years ago, so I appreciated the museum a lot more. I think last time I was just going around saying things like "My god, did ANY of these teams keep their names the same for more than ten years?"

Anyway, I went to a game yesterday, where the Yomiuri Giants pounded the Yokohama Bay Stars 5-2, but I'm not sure anyone actually noticed who wasn't at the game themselves, because the big news yesterday was that Chunichi's Masahiro Yamamoto pitched a no-hitter against the Tigers at the Nagoya Dome. Yamamoto's been around absolutely forever; he just turned 41 last month, has been with the Dragons for something like 23 years, and this was his first ever no-hitter. You could say he's sort of like Jamie Moyer in that he's old and left-handed and pretty good at changing speeds and control, but that'd probably be about where the similarities end. This game was one batter away from being a perfect game, too, when Norihiro Akahoshi reached base on an error by third baseman Masahiko Morino. Yamamoto also broke the record for being the oldest pitcher to pitch a no-hitter in the NPB; the former record was held by Yoshinori Sato of the Orix BlueWave on August 26, 1995.

Okay, now I should talk about the game I went to.

First off, let me tell you something funny about Yokohama Stadium. Unlike every other park I've been to in Japan, Yokohama does NOT have those goddamn fences up all around the infield and outfield. Ironically, however, I still ended up with a seat behind a fence. I was a little bit to the first base side of home plate, and as it turns out, their netting behind home plate is not only an upright one, but it also has diagonal nets extending off of it. So, basically, if you want to take pictures, don't sit anywhere in the S seats or in the B seats behind them. You want seats in either FA or in A. They're pricy at 4500 or 4000 yen per seat, but well worth it on a bright day. B seats actually have a great view for the 3500 yen, but they're just lousy for taking pictures is all. (chart here)

Secondly, now that I think about it, I'm not sure what to tell you offhand about the game. There weren't all that many big exciting hits or big exciting plays or even big exciting innings, really. The Giants just sort of kept chipping away at the lousy Bay Stars pitchers and the holes in their defense, and it mostly worked. The scorers at Yokohama are really generous, and several things that could have been called errors were actually called hits, so it looks like a high-hitting game on paper -- 5 runs on 13 hits for the Giants and 2 runs on 10 hits for the Bay Stars -- but eh.

The only Giants player I still really like, Yoshinobu Takahashi, had a pretty lousy day, striking out twice, only getting on base once in 5 at-bats, and then ended up getting himself tagged out in a really stupid rundown between third and home when he did get on base. He also made one of those "non-error" plays of the game when he caught a ball at the back wall and it bounced out of his glove, hit the wall, and the runner was credited with a double by the time he recovered it.

Takuro Ishii uses the Orange Range song "Isshin Denshin" for his at-bat theme (which was pretty funny when I realized it), Hitoshi Taneda uses the song that the Mariners always play when taking the field at Safeco that I don't know the name of, and Masaaki Koike uses "Hey Mickey", though I'm not sure what version. The Giants' Takayuki Shimizu has the same cheer song he did two years ago, and I still can't place what song it's to the tune of. Takahiro Suzuki's cheer sounds like "Train Train" by the Blue Hearts.

After the game I asked a guy to take my picture at the stadium like I have been doing, and one of his buddies was wearing a Softbank Hawks shirt -- Wada #21 -- and I was wearing a Mariners t-shirt, so we got into a conversation for a bit about Kenji Johjima. He asked me who I liked on the Hawks and of course I replied Kazumi Saitoh, and he was like "Well, Saitoh is good, but I cheer for Wada!" Of course, I like Wada too, but in general I want the Hawks to lose, and I didn't think it would be a good idea to say that, so I didn't.

Speaking of which, the Fighters actually have more wins than any other team in the PL, but due to rainouts and ties, they're still a few percentage points behind Seibu and a few up on Softbank currently (.606 to .600 to .597 as I write this). Softbank, oddly enough, had a rainout today -- even though they have a domed stadium. I don't really have time to investigate more details, except I saw this on the Yahoo front page, which basically says "The Softbank-Rakuten game today was cancelled due to typhoon". Eeeeeeek.

See you all on the other side of the globe!

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!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Game Report: Swallows vs. Bay Stars - A Comedy of Errors

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!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Game Report: Marines vs. Eagles - You Can Be My Shingo Ono

Today I got to meet up with Tokyo Sam, a guy who posts around various Mariners blogs and forums, and who has the wacky outlook of being a Japanese guy in Tokyo who'd rather follow the MLB, as opposed to me, an American girl in Seattle who'd rather follow the NPB. The cool thing is that we both know a lot of baseball stuff that's interesting to the other party just by osmosis, I think.

Anyway, we went off to Makuhari, the area near the Chiba Marine Stadium, and hung out there for the afternoon, which included me finally getting to play Baseball Heroes, this Konami arcade game where you use actual cards to make and manage your baseball team, and can win more cards. Sam helped me by translating stuff that would take me way too long to read on the fly, and we played a game, me as the Nippon Ham Fighters, and apparently I was playing against a guy in Hiroshima who was calling his team the Lotte Marines, but his team featured players like Kosuke Fukudome and Kenji Johjima, so he obviously had some pretty good cards to work with there! My team had Carlos Mirabal pitching (so it's obvious they were using 2005 data), and he ended up going a complete game and winning, which was pretty funny. The players in the game really look scarily like their real-life counterparts -- they had Shinjo down to every last detail, and it was pretty frightening.

I won my game and got two cards -- Ohmura from the Hawks, who's pretty good, and Kimura from the Carp, who isn't. And now I feel like I need to go play again to try to get more cards, and I bet that's EXACTLY what I'm supposed to feel like. Stupid companies with their money-extorting strategies!

After that, Sam and I went to the stadium, and it was drizzling out. We checked out the Marines Museum, which is pretty silly, but a good place to go if you like taking pictures of yourself with funny baseball things. You have the option of getting yourself in a picture as the manager on top of a doage (when they throw you in the air), or sitting in a replica dugout, or sitting in a replica of Satozaki's WBC locker, or being at bat behind a replica home plate, or pitching in a fake bullpen, or sitting in a bullpen car, or standing out by a fake outfield fence, or you can be a scoreboard operator and tally balls/strikes/outs. There's also some actual historical team stuff upstairs in the museum, though it's all in Japanese, so I basically read about half of it, getting Sam to help me with some of it as well, and we admired how ugly the old Lotte uniforms were.

Well, by the time we got out of there, and through the big team store in that building, there were lines of people waiting to buy tickets and/or get into the stadium, so we decided to go ahead and get tickets, and we got pretty good ones, and then got in line to get into the stadium, and all the while, it was drizzling rain.

But, the game happened. I watched fielding practice, and watched them take off the tarps and fix up the field. Toshiaki Imae (that punk!) was out signing autographs over the Marines dugout, but we were sadly on the other side of the infield, though it's just as well, I dunno what I would get him to sign anyway.

The game started, and the rain continued. I kept score despite being in the rain, and after about three innings, we moved up to the last row of the infield seats, which was covered by a tiny overhang from the upper deck, so that was good. I'm sure if I write a long game summary nobody's really going to bother reading it, so I'm not going to bother. You can go look at the game info here. The Marines won 7-0.

In short, Shingo Ono pitched a complete game shutout in 108 pitches, but because he did so against the Rakuten Golden Eagles in a nonstop drizzling rain, I'm not sure whether it's that great a feat or not. Kanehisa Arime, the left-hander best known for going the whole way in a 17-strikeout, 12-inning tie against Lotte a few weeks ago, started the game for Rakuten, but was chased after two innings since the Marines batted around the order in the second inning and scored four runs off him. To be fair, some of Arime's trouble was with his fielders being unable to deal with the wet baseball and turf, especially when Saburo Ohmura hit the ball to third baseman Hisanori Nishitani -- whose first big-league game was just last week -- and Nishitani not only fumbled the ball once, but twice, and thus Saburo was safe at first and Benny Agbayani also scored a run on the play.

The Eagles also made another spectacular error later on, in the 8th inning, when Val Pascucci hit a fly ball way out to left field, near the line, and the leftfielder, third baseman, and shortstop all ran out there. Standing in a triangle where any one of the three could have and should have caught it, the ball pretty much just fell right in front of the left fielder, and Pascucci found himself on second base instead of back in the dugout.

Though to be fair, early on, a ball was hit foul towards the Marines' dugout by Eagles' DH Yuuji Yoshioka, and both first baseman Kazuya Fukuura and catcher Tomoya Satozaki made a run to catch it -- and they did get there in time, but unfortunately, they also both slipped and fell on the wet turf. I was more concerned about someone getting hurt than them not getting the ball, in all honesty.

Aside from the fielding mishaps on both sides, the Marines hitting was pretty good. Tomoya Satozaki, who may be the only catcher in the NPB currently batting cleanup, went 3-for-4 with a double, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. He also seemed to have a penchant for breaking bats, as he broke two and threw another one onto the field when he swung. (I'm betting that it was hard to get a grip on the bats in the rain, honestly.) I was wearing a Satozaki #22 t-shirt, so it was good to see it bring good luck! Everyone in the lineup got a hit except Saburo, and he's excused because of the above error. Even Masato Watanabe, who's sort of like a Japanese Willie Bloomquist, got two hits, scoring a run, and that's saying something.

Also, Katsunori Nomura sucks ass. I realize it's got to be pretty difficult being the son of one of the greatest players in Japanese baseball history, and even worse, following your dad around as he moves from managing one club to another, but still, he's simply not a good catcher or a good player. At least Kazushige Nagashima had the sense to quit baseball and go into acting and other media personality stuff, which I think he's actually respectably good at (heck, I saw him star in the movie "Mr. Rookie" before actually realizing he was Shigeo Nagashima's son!).

So, yeah. Rain sucks. It never DID stop raining the entire time, but the game was played out in full, and Shingo Ono did get the complete-game shutout, which I think is only the third one in his entire career, so good for him. I had fun hanging out with Sam, and he knows a lot about the things I tend to geek out about lately, namely baseball and digital SLR cameras, so that was good. Also, I got to experience the craziness of Tokyo highways, and that was new and different.

I should probably venture back out into the rain now. If it ever stops, I'll be going to a game at Jingu on Thursday or Friday. Unfortunately, freaking Daisuke Goddamn Matsuzaka had to go and shut out the Fighters tonight up in Sapporo, so he won't be pitching in Tokorozawa this weekend, so I doubt I'm going to bother going back to a Lions game unless this stupid rain continues, since my only stadiums left to visit are Yokohama and Jingu, both outdoors.

(Oh, one last note: outside Marines Stadium before the game they were playing a ton of American oldies/classic rock, all rain-themed, like CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain?" and the Carpenters' "Rainy Days and Mondays" and so on. The funny part to me is that they were all in English, so I'm not even sure whether most people there got the theme. I appreciated it, at least.)

EDIT 1/9/2007> Pictures from this day are now up here!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Game Report: Marines vs. Eagles - Too many Yamazakis

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!