So, first off, today was the birthday of Yoshinobu Takahashi (Giants, 33) and Koji Uehara (Giants, 33) and Iron Man Tomoaki "Aniki" Kanemoto (Hanshin, 40). Strangely, I've known Yoshinobu's birthday for a long time and Kanemoto's, but somehow I had never made the connection that Uehara and Yoshinobu were born on the exact same day. Crazy, since they are both kind of the "Face of the Giants" sorts of players.
Chunichi's Kenshin Kawakami was handling the Giants just fine tonight until Yoshinobu remembered it was his birthday, sometime around the middle of the 7th inning, and he said "Wait a minute, today is my birthday, I'm not supposed to be grounding out!" And so he hit a home run into the first few rows of Dragons fans in the left field stands. Yoshiyuki Kamei followed that up with another home run into the right field stands, and to add insult to insults, Ogasawara's clean-shaven doppleganger, who had already hit a home run in the 4th inning, ALSO followed that up with a home run into the right field stands. Back to back to back. Kenshin was just like "WTF?" That made it 6-5 and thus the Giants won their first game of the year.
I'm also a bit saddened by Wednesday's Giants-Dragons game. Masa Yamamoto was the starting pitcher for Chunichi, leading many Dragons fans to say, "Masa ka?" But the 43-year-old lefty was actually doing just fine... until he threw his back out in the second inning. Wei-yin Chen did pretty well in long relief, and despite Tetsuya I-Love-You-Please-Switch-Teams Utsumi striking out half of the people in the Tokyo Dome, the Dragons still won 3-0. But I'm worried about Masa. This is supposed to be one of his GOOD years.
On a Dragonbutt note, I don't know which I want more: Ochiai to move Morino up in the lineup to 3rd where he's supposed to be (watch, now when the Moeyo Dragons 2008 CD comes out next week it'll have "Nana-ban Morino" and I'll cry), or for Kazuhiro Wada to wake up his bat enough so I don't mind. Today was a nice start, I suppose. And, as an aside, Morino was a crossword puzzle answer in last week's Shube: 中日の背番号31.なぜかマスコットのドアラに似ていると言われる--将彦選手. ("Chunichi #31. Some people say he looks like the mascot Doala. Masahiko _____.") I was working on the puzzle on the train and nearly fell out of my seat when I saw that :)
Darvish was the starting pitcher tonight for the Fighters, and he got 9 strikeouts in 7 innings. Some guys on the Fighters even decided it'd be a cool idea to hit the baseball with their bat a few times and thus they won 6-2 but I am hugely, hugely, hugely worried about Makoto Kaneko. Usually our fearless leader has all glove and no bat, but in this case I'm SERIOUSLY wondering where he left his bat, being as he has gotten all of ONE HIT this year so far, in 28 plate appearances. I hope he figures things out soon. We seriously had Shinji Takahashi playing first base tonight, and given that I'm not sure he's done that before in his career, makes me wonder what the heck's going on. I mean, I know we need the SHINJI SMASH!!!! bat in the lineup, and in all fairness Tsuruoka is a better defensive catcher and he is also fortunately ON FIRE these days, but really, Shinji's a better option at first base than Terrmel Sledge? Really? That's kind of frightening.
Speaking of SMASH, Takeshi Yamasaki smashed his 300th career home run today in a 9-1 whipping of the Chiba Lotte Marines by the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Hisashi Iwakuma is finally getting some good karma, which he really deserves after all the crap he's been through, particularly that heartbreaker when Domingo Guzman chewed up and spit out his win on Opening Day. After starting out the season 0-4, Rakuten won their next 7 games straight for a club-best winning streak AND they are now in first place for the first time ever. Nomura-kantoku always comes out and says some bizarre quotes after the game, but today when they interviewed him on the news, he just stepped out and said "どうもすみません.また勝っちゃった." ("I'm sorry. Unfortunately, we won again.")