Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Watching Like A Hawk

Or should that be "Watching, like, a Hawk"?

I really wanted to have my scripts working for translating box scores before talking about the NPB games from this past weekend, but alas. The bad news is that Yahoo is screwed up in two ways right now -- first, it's had REALLY spotty connectivity for the last day or two, making it hard to get through to it to work on translating the box scores; second, they're not broadcasting video of games outside of Japan, which is very sad.

On the other hand, on the japanesebaseball.com forums, someone discovered a low quality Softbank Hawks videostream that still works outside of Japan, which you can get to from this page. So, for the next half hour before I go to sleep, I'm happily watching the Softbank-Rakuten game going on now in Japan. Hawks starter Nagisa Arakaki just struck out Daisuke Kusano (no big surprise there... huh, Teppei's batting third in the order now?) and the Rakuten starter is lefty Kanehisa Arime, who I am a vague fan of, so I'm looking forward to watching him pitch an inning too.

The upshot of the weekend is that all of the predictions I made on Friday night were totally wrong. Fumiya Nishiguchi managed to get a 5-2 win for the Lions after all, and while Kawagoe did sort of suck for Orix, Kazumi Saitoh was not as wonderful as he usually is, and then the Hawks bullpen imploded for Orix to win 8-5 (though it was a nice homecoming for Hiroki Kokubo nonetheless). And while Darvish was impeccable in the Fighters-Marines game for five innings, then the weather got bad and so did he, culminating in a Julio Zuleta grand slam which tied it at 4-4 before the game got stopped. Hichori Morimoto tried to get fans to stay through the rain, but it didn't work and thus the game ended in a tie.

So, oops.

The next night I found out about the video feed working and watched Tsuyoshi Wada and the Softbank Hawks totally kill Masato Yoshii and the Orix Buffaloes 2-0, which was somewhat satisfying. Oddly, the highlight of the evening for me, besides just getting to *see* it, was a really sweet play Nobuhiko Matsunaka made in the fourth inning, diving to snag a hard liner by Tomotaka Sakaguchi. It's been a few years since Matsunaka's been a first baseman, as he mostly played left field or DH'ed while Zuleta played first for the Hawks, so it was kind of cool seeing him making what I thought of as an Ogasawara-style play. Nikkan Sports has a picture up of Matsunaka getting a band-aid put on his nose after taking a faceful of turf making said sweet diving play.

After the Hawks game ended (the game heroes were Wada and Tamura), I loaded up the Gameday page of the Fighters-Marines game to see how it was going -- it had been a 0-0 tie last time I checked, in the fourth inning... and sure enough, it was going into the TENTH inning and was STILL a tie! Starters Ryan Glynn and Hiroyuki Kobayashi both pitched the first nine scoreless innings, Glynn throwing 118 pitches, walking 1, striking out 5, and giving up 4 hits, while Kobayashi was fantastic, throwing 117 pitches, walking none, giving up 4 hits, and striking out 11! The Marines and Fighters both put out their typical bullpens, who actually performed up to their typical excellence -- Yabuta/Fujita to Masahide Kobayashi for Lotte, and Oshimoto for the Fighters before giving way to the Takeda tandem of Masaru and Hisashi. And nobody would let up, so the gigantic BATTLE OF THE FOREIGN MANAGERS ended up resulting in TWO TIES. Yes, the Fighters and Marines faced off in an epic battle for the entire weekend and nobody won. Gotta love Japanese baseball that way. Gary Garland says that it was the first time since 1974 that two PL teams opened the season in a series with two ties, also involving Lotte.

In the meantime, Jason Johnson got handed his first loss in Japan with Seibu, though to be fair, he wasn't bad, Rakuten's Koji Aoyama was just better. Poor Kazuo Fukumori was robbed of a save opportunity when the Eagles managed to score *six runs* in the top of the 9th inning. He wasn't complaining... well, not that much, anyway, just that he was tossing for 30 minutes in the bullpen before coming out thanks to the long inning :)

(Heh, as the Hawks catcher Katsuki Yamazaki popped out to left, the announcers started going on about how the Hawks have been doomed with feeble catcher bats since Kenji Johjima left. Also, Arime just struck out Buchanan and Tsuji. He really does have a beauty of a slider, in all honesty, but he seems to be having problems with the heart of the Hawks order though. Given that it's Munenori Kawasaki, Hitoshi Tamura, Nobuhiko Matsunaka, and Hiroki Kokubo, you can't really blame him.

Of course, to get back at Arime, Arakaki went and struck out the side. Infact, he's pitched three perfect innings so far. But I really, really, really can't stay up all night to watch this, sadly. EDIT: okay, I admit it, I stayed up until Koichi Isobe broke up Arakaki's perfect game in the 5th with a double that barely went past centerfielder Naoyuki Ohmura's glove.)

Oh, and in other Hawks news, if you're a big Saitoh fan, Kazumi Saitoh Day is May 19th. The game going on right now is actually Hiroki Kokubo Day, which may explain all of the Kokubo signs people are holding up. Or maybe they're seriously happy to see him back. If your third baseman last year was Jolbert Cabrera, you'd probably be happy to see Hiroki Kokubo too.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll hopefully do some more work on the boxscore translation stuff, and maybe the internet will cooperate with me there, too.

EDIT> From the japanesebaseball.com forums -- check out the awesomeness of this Hawks commercial, with Saitoh and Matsunaka baseball-boxing each other. It's fantastic! (There are a few others on there as well.)

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