Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Game Report: Lions @ Baystars - Wood beats Rock

Monday night, I headed down to Yokohama Stadium and got to see the Baystars absolutely CRUSH the Seibu Lions. It was a thoroughly satisfying experience, despite the light rain that was falling for about 70% of the game (see photos/movie below). And it brought their winning streak to THREE GAMES for the first time this year! Wow!

This was actually a make-up game for Sunday, when it rained so hard they cancelled the game a good hour before it was going to start. But on Monday, the skies were gray but dry as 6pm approached. A tiny bit of rain fell as we were cheering the opening lineups, but it wasn't even worth getting out umbrellas for. The starting batteries were Kazuhisa Ishii and Toru Hosokawa for the Lions, and Mike Wood and Ryoji Aikawa for the Baystars.

I don't know the official attendance for the game yet, but I'm guessing it was around 5000 people, maybe. This is what the infield looked like in the middle of the first inning:

(EDIT> It was 8251 people. I think about 5000 of them were in the rightfield bleachers and infield unreserved seats, though!)

If anything, it almost reminded me of my first baseball game in Japan, cheering the Fighters at the Tokyo Dome in the old days -- nobody at all in the infield, but plenty of wackos in the outfield.

I went up to the ouendan folks and asked for a ouenka sheet, because I didn't know Ohnishi's song, and one or two others of this year's new ones, like Bigbie. I ought to make a Baystars ouenka post sometime. It's kind of funny because the sheet still has Koike and Tsuruoka on it. (After the game when I went to get some pinbadges from the capsule machine, I got a Koike pin, too.)

Anyway, at first it seemed like this was going to be a typical Baystars game. Kataoka hit a pop out, but then Kuriyama singled... and Nakajima singled... and Brazell was hit by a pitch, so there we were, 5 minutes into the game, and the bases were already loaded. Sheesh. GG Satoh grounded into a fielder's choice (not quick enough for a double play) and that scored Kuriyama. 1-0. Takeya "Norihiro Wannabe" Nakamura struck out after that to end the inning.

There were these two guys sitting a row or two behind me in their late teens or early 20's who literally spent the entire freaking game yelling "キモチィー!!!! GG佐藤!!! キモチィー!!!!" (I'm not even sure what the English equivalent would be. "GG Satoh! Awesome!!!!" or something like that. I think it comes from something he said in a hero interview, but I don't really know.) Since GG was playing right field, they just kept on yelling it.

Tatsuhiko Kinjoh led off the Baystars' half of the first by striking out, and it seriously seemed like it was going to be just another one of THOSE days... but then Toshihisa Nishi slammed a looooong fly ball to centerfield which hit the wall a meter or so over a jumping Kuriyama. Woo! Nishi ended up getting all the way around to third base on the play for a triple. Cool. Seiichi Uchikawa then hit a line drive to left field, which was caught, but Nishi scored on the play. 1-1.

Shuuichi Murata, The Man, came up to bat after that, and he BLASTED the ball to left field. I mean, it literally almost left the stadium. It bounced against the wall all the way in back of the last row of seats. They measured it as being 135 meters, which is about 443 feet. That made it 2-1.

Hiroaki Ohnishi walked, and then Yuuki Yoshimura came up to bat. Yoshimura has a decent amount of power too (his 16 HR are second in the league behind the 19-HR triumvirate of Murata, Ramirez, and Tyrone right now), and so after we cheered "Two-run homerun Yoshimura!", he obliged by sending the ball into the right-field stands! It even landed literally about 3 meters away from me -- about 6 seats over and two rows up. I had been thinking that I was sitting in a fairly good place to catch a home run; I just didn't expect it to come from a Yokohama batter if it happened. So, 4-1.

I got up to cheer wildly for Takuro Ishii, which is always fun. Takuro hit a grounder to first, which went through DH first baseman Brazell into left field, and was considered an error. Aikawa hit a pop fly out to right ater that, but the Baystars were off to a pretty good start!

Seibu's catcher Toru Hosokawa, who ALWAYS hits a home run whenever I see the Lions, hit a solo home run in the second inning. It was a long fly ball to center which bounced off the top of the fence and fell back onto the field. Kinjoh actually threw the ball into the left-field stands but nobody was there to get it, heh. 4-2.

The Baystars had another big dose of Two Out Magic in the bottom of the 3rd. Murata walked, but when Yoshimura came up to bat there were already two outs anyway. But Ishii hit him in the shin with a pitch. He seemed okay though. Takuro Ishii came up to bat after that; he grounded to first yet again, and this time Brazell started to run the ball in, realized he wasn't going to get there, tried to get the ball to a covering Ishii, the ball arrived around the same time as Takuro, they all tripped over each other, but he was safe. So, bases loaded for Ryoji Aikawa, who singled to left, and the Mura pair both scored! 6-2. Then, wonder of wonders, Mike Wood -- the pitcher -- came up to bat, and he ALSO managed an RBI single to left. Ha! 7-2.

That was it for Kazuhisa Ishii, in what was arguably his worst start of the year, and the second start in a row where he didn't last 3 innings. Ming-Chieh Hsu replaced him on the mound and got a popout from Kinjoh.

Rain started falling for real in the top of the 4th. At Yokohama Stadium, there is no such thing as "cover" -- if you want to get out of the rain, you have to go under the stands, basically. But, since most people know that, and the team even sells ponchos, we were all prepared. Even from the minute the first droplets of rain started, people got out plastic bags to cover their belongings, and started putting on raincoats and opening umbrellas. I had brought all of the above as well, although I still haven't come up with a system where I can still keep score and not get a book wet. Shoving it in and out of the plastic bag mostly works though.

As it is, rain just makes us cheer harder, I think. I took a short movie of Murata's at-bat in the midst of medium-strength rain:

Shuuichi Murata's at-bat in the fourth inning, viewed from the rightfield stands as rain pours upon us all.

Or, here is a photo of the stands as well. Insane in the rain!

I left my scorecard in a plastic bag for the entire inning, but it wasn't hard to keep track in my head of what happened. Nishi walked, Uchikawa hit a fly to shallow center caught by Nakajima, Murata singled to right, moving Uchi to 3rd, and then Ohnishi hit a sac fly which scored him. 8-2. Yoshimura hit a pop fly out to center after that.

I'm not entirely sure why, but Takehiro Ishikawa replaced Takuro Ishii at shortstop in the top of the 5th inning. I didn't really notice until he made a fine stop of a Nakajima grounder -- not in time to make the out, but good enough that the ball didn't get into left field and move Kuriyama up to third. And I was thinking, "Nice play Takuro!" except I noticed the shortstop was wearing #52, which also meant it wasn't Shingo Nonaka. Hrm. (My best guess is, Nonaka hasn't been hitting that well, and Ishikawa is a switch-hitter. As for why Takuro came out, I was worried he might have gotten injured on that wacky play at first. But he doesn't say anything about it in his blog, just mentions being happy about the win, so...)

That took half the fun out of the bottom of the 5th for me; I like getting up and yelling "TAKUROOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!", but he was out of the game. Oh well. Instead, I kind of got to yell a lot when Takahiro Saeki came in to pinch-hit for Mike Wood. Saeki wheeeeee! We literally got about one line into his cheer song when he hit a long fly ball to center, which again bounced against the wall just over the centerfielder for a double. Cool! Kinjoh grounded out again though, to pitcher Shotsu, who was in the game by then.

I went out to get food at that point, because I hadn't eaten since the early afternoon. I got the chicken karaage and fries basket, which comes with the little star-shaped potato cakes as well. They're so cute (but I unfortunately cannot see the word karaage now without thinking of Lotte pitcher Karakawa. Argh). Tasty, too. Anyway, pitcher Kentaro Kuwahara beat down the Lions pretty quickly in the 6th but then ran into some speedbumps in the 7th.

Hosokawa led off the 7th with a single to left, and then the third Ishii of the game entered when Yoshihito Ishii came in as a pinch-hitter. He used to play for Yokohama (and he's from Urawa Gakuin, heh), so people around me actually were cheering when he was announced, but they weren't so happy when he also singled to left. Kataoka hit a pop fly out, but then Kuriyama doubled to center and that scored Ishii as well as pinch-runner Ginjiro Sumitani. 8-4.

Kuwahara came out and Matt White came in. (Yes, Mr. Billionnaire Matt White.) White struck out Hiroyuki Nakajima, no small feat, but then Craig Brazell singled up the middle over the shortstop's head and Kuriyama scored. 8-5. GG Satoh also singled ("Kimochiiiiii!!!!!" those guys kept yelling), and then, thankfully, Nakamura grounded out to end the inning.

I want to stop for a second to mention that despite all the crap Murata gets for being a big homerun-hitter, he really is a pretty decent third baseman.

It stopped raining by the middle of the 7th inning, so we got up and sang a whole bunch of songs, and started the "lucky 7", which was more like the "Wacky 7". Koji Ohnuma came in to pitch for Seibu.

It took ten pitches to strike out Yoshimura, and then Ishikawa singled to center. Aikawa came up and sac bunted Ishikawa over to second base, and then we got a pinch-hitting Larry Bigbie! Ohnuma got up to a 3-1 count on Bigbie and then threw a wild pitch that somehow ended up rolling towards the Seibu dugout, and Ishikawa ran and ran and ran and ended up scoring from second on the wild pitch, by the time anyone got to it and threw it in. 9-5. Ohnuma was covering home on the play though, and it was kind of close, and I think Ishikawa slid into him, and so all of a sudden there was a big long pause in the game and they told us there would be an injury delay and another pitcher change.

(So we sang some more stuff while waiting, including "Winning Ball" and one of the chance themes. For some reason we didn't really sing any chance music during the game itself; not sure why.)

Koji Mitsui replaced Koji Ohnuma on the mound and went from a 3-1 count to striking out Bigbie. Oh well.

Michiomi Yoshihara pitched a scoreless top of the 8th, with two strikeouts even. The Baystars added another run in the bottom of the 8th by Nishi and Uchikawa hitting two consecutive doubles. 10-5.

People around me had been cheering to bring out Terahara for a while, but I don't think they understood that this wasn't a save situation, so he was unlikely to come out. And infact, the guy who came out to pitch the top of the 9th was Yuya Ishii, recently brought to Yokohama when they traded Masaaki Koike to Chunichi. Yuya was also the FOURTH Ishii to enter the game, if you're counting.

He got off to a rocky start -- walked Kuriyama and then Nakajima got a single. But, then Uchikawa made a smart play at first -- Brazell grounded to first and Uchikawa threw it to second, then Ishikawa relayed it back to Ishii covering first for the double play.

"Ganbare Yuya!!!" some people shouted. When he got up to two strikes on GG Satoh, we also added a cheer of "Ato ikkyu! Ato ikkyu!" ("One more pitch!") GG grounded out to third and the BAYSTARS ACTUALLY WON A GAME!!!! 10-5!!


Mike Wood and Shuuichi Murata were the game heroes; Wood because it was his first victory, and Murata because he's THE MAN. Seriously, can you believe Wood has pitched 14 games and this was his first win? Takumi Nasuno, who I pick on endlessly, is leading the staff in both wins (4) and losses (8). Wow, that's pathetic.

Mike Wood, game hero.

The team lined up to throw their hats to the fans sitting in Field A and Field B seating, and then Wood and Murata came out to throw a few baseballs into our section in right field as well, after the hero interviews. It started raining again during the hero interviews, but that didn't stop everyone from hanging out another 10 minutes in the stands to sing songs/cheers. I did the 1-9 and Winning and then decided to leave because it was almost 10pm and I knew I had an hour and a half train ride ahead of me to get home.

One of the guys who had been sitting down the row from me and high-fiving a lot on all of those runs came by to say goodbye. "Baystars, very happy," he said in broken English. We ended up having a short conversation in Japanese, where he said I should come back and be good luck for the team again, heh. Maybe I am -- I didn't mention it, but I have come and cheered for Yokohama three times this year and they have won all three of those games.

Stopped in the team store to pick up a ticket holder to put my pinbadges on. I keep getting a few from the capsule machines each time I'm down there, and now I have Miura and Kizuka and Nishi and Murata and Yoshimura, among others. I also got a few more. Still not sure what to do with that Koike one.

I'm planning to head back to Yokohama next Sunday to see the Dragons-Baystars game. I had originally thought I would go cheer for Chunichi, but I'm actually still kind of annoyed at their ouendan or lack thereof, plus there's still no Morino, and plus I think the Baystars could use my karma. So, we'll see.

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