Well, I'm proud of him for finally actually getting to be the real game hero last night finishing out the 12-inning game, even if it came at the expense of my Fighters. Sadly, comments seem to be disabled on his blog, so I can't go leave my "本当のヒーローインタビューをおめでとう" there.
This was actually a pretty big game for people named Tanaka, though. Rakuten rookie phenom pitcher Masahiro Tanaka went 6.2 innings, walking 5 and striking out 6. Despite that, the Fighters only had men in scoring position twice during that time period; in the first inning Hichori Morimoto was bunted to second, and in the third inning the bases were loaded after Hichori singled, Atsunori Inaba walked, and Fernando Seguignol was intentionally walked to get to catcher Shinji Takahashi, who grounded out to end the threat.
Fighters starter Ryan Glynn, who used to play for Rakuten, wasn't too bad for his 6 innings either. The Eagles scored an unearned run in the first inning by getting their first two batters, Naoto Watanabe and Yosuke Takasu, on base off of consecutive errors by Kensuke Tanaka and Ryan Glynn. Koichi Isobe flew out to right field and Watanabe advanced to third, and during Takeshi Yamazaki's at-bat, Takasu and Watanabe pulled off a double steal of second and home to score the first run of the game, but Yamazaki struck out and Rick Short grounded out after that.
Glynn ran into a jam in the 4th; with two outs after a double play, Rick Short hit a double. Kevin Witt walked and Kenshi Kawaguchi was hit by a pitch, but Motohiro Shima struck out to end the inning. In the 5th, it was back to small ball as Akihisa Makida singled, Watanabe bunted him over, and Takasu hit a line drive single to left, scoring Makida to make it 2-0.
Yukio Tanaka now needs 2 hits for the big 2000. And even more incredibly, the hit he got in this game was a home run into the left field seats! Yay! And yes, "Tanaka homered off of Tanaka" -- he led off the 7th inning with that shot, hit off a hanging slider. Masahiro Tanaka was taken out of the game a few batters later -- appropriately, right before he would have faced Kensuke Tanaka. Either way, Yukio's solo shot made the score 2-1.
In the bottom of the 8th, the Fighters caught up. Shinji Takahashi walked, and was pinch-run for by Toshimasa Konta. Makoto Kaneko hit a single to right, and Konta was running on the play and made it to third; while Isobe was throwing to third, Kaneko made it to second. A pinch-hitting Eiichi Koyano hit a sac fly to right after that; Konta tagged up and scored from third on the play, but Kaneko tagged up and got caught in a rundown between second and third on the play, and that ended the inning at 2-2, where it would stay until the 12th inning.
Hisashi Takeda pitched the 11th and 12th innings for the Fighters. In the top of the 12th, Yamazaki led off the inning with a walk, and was replaced with pinch-runner Tatsuya Shiokawa. Shiokawa stole second, and then Rick Short bunted him to third, but Takeda booted the ball and so Rick was safe at first and Shiokawa was safe at third. Even Kevin Witt could manage a sacrifice fly after that, and Shiokawa tagged up and scored. Teppei grounded into a fielder's choice after that and went to second on a wild pitch, but Akihito Fujii struck out after that.
Kazuo Fukumori was pitching the 11th and 12th innings for the Eagles, and so he just needed to hold the lead in order to get a win in the bottom of the 12th. Tomoyuki Oda pinch-hit and singled, and Naoto Inada pinch-ran for him, and Hichori bunted him to second, but that was it as Kensuke Tanaka hit a pop fly out to left and Atsunori Inaba grounded out to first and that was it as the Eagles won 3-2.
This was one of those games where the Fighters were using the Tokyo Dome as their home stadium -- they still do this for about three series per year, since moving from Tokyo up to Sapporo -- and so it's kind of sad that there were only about 16,000 people there. On the other hand, it's cool that the Tokyo Fighters fans got to see Yukio hit a home run there and get closer to the big 2000-hit mark.
Fukumori was the game hero for Rakuten, and his hero interview is up on the Eagles' site with the rest of the game details. I'm doing a half-baked quick translation here, but since I translated his "fake" hero interview I thought I should get his "real" one too --
Q: Going up to the mound in the 11th and 12th innings, what were you feeling like?
A: Eh, recently I've been disappointed in myself, so I wanted to throw some good pitches. Our team winning 5 games in a row would be awesome, I thought.
Q: And you were out there for extra innings... [not sure if they meant that he threw 2 innings or just that it was an extra-inning game]
A: Yeah, well, that's my job! I just try to be the same no matter what the situation, not tense, just pitching from the heart. I'm not a great pitcher but I just stick to it to the end.
Q: And today was your second win of the season.
A: Heh, in order for me to get a win the team is usually in a tight situation, but my job is just to fight hard and do my best like the starting pitchers do.
Q: This is the first time the team has won 5 straight in a row.
A: We have some great young players and veterans too. And tomorrow I think we'll also do our best.
Q: You think you'll continue the winning streak tomorrow?
A: Yeah, we're planning on it! (laughs)
Q: Please give a message to the fans.
A: From 5 in a row, I want to work hard so all the fans can enjoy a 6-game winning streak! Thank you!
(Thing is, I'm not really sure what the hell he meant by thinking his pitching's been bad recently or whatever -- he's been pretty damn good, with three saves and a win in the last week. I guess maybe he meant his last game on the 12th, where he hit a batter and walked a batter and still came out with the save. Hmm.)
I feel like there are a whole bunch of random things going on in Japanese baseball that I probably would have bothered writing stuff about at this point last year, but this year it feels like most things get covered either in the news feeds on japanesebaseball.com, or on Gary Garland's site, or elsewhere, so there's no point in me just linking random things unless I have something useful to say about it. Like, "Sucks to be Serafini", or "it's about time the PL got its act together", or "Damn, Nagisa Arakaki has 13 wild pitches so far this year ALREADY- that's more than he had last year total!". Huh, I didn't realize Arakaki had his own website, I'll have to go look through it more later.
Other fun things going on would be that Yokohama's actually doing really well this year, which makes me happy, because I like rooting for underdogs, and they've been in the CL cellar for quite a while. I'll be interested to see whether Hayato Terahara actually gets to pitch against the Hawks when they play the Bay Stars during interleague next month, too -- he's been doing great so far with the Stars.