Saturday, June 21, 2008

Game Report: Rakuten @ Lotte Urawa -- Farm Team Fun, Extended Remix

I hadn't had nearly enough of watching Chiba Lotte slugfests after the Tigers game on Sunday, so I headed up to Lotte Urawa Stadium on Monday, and saw the Marines farm team and the Rakuten farm team slug it out to a 10-10 TIE GAME. How, uh, exciting!

The warm sunny weather (which Benny Agbayani had so astutely commented about -- "they'll be selling a LOT of beer today!") continued into Monday, so by the time I rode the 7-8 kilometers on my bike to get to the stadium, I was already ready to die. Then I sat out in the sun for another four hours for the game. I arrived around 12:30pm for a 1pm game and, despite wearing a Lotte t-shirt, decided to go sit on the visitor's side because I had a better chance to sit on the front-row bench. Plus, first base is always a more exciting place to be close to, really. (Masato Watanabe made it even more exciting, but I'll get to that in a bit.)

The starting pitcher for Rakuten was lefty Shingo Matsuzaki, and the starter for Lotte was Yoshihide Kanda. I was a little sad that Takumi Kohbe was starting in right field instead of first base, but I guess it makes sense since the aforementioned Masato was at first.

Yoshihide Kanda

Shingo Matsuzaki

Infact, I might as well type in my entire scorecard here, since I rarely see ni-gun box scores anywhere:
June 16, 2008 - Lotte Urawa Stadium

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 R H E
Eagles (ni-gun) 0 1 0 4 0 0 3 0 2 0 0 10 16 0
Marines (ni-gun) 1 6 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 10 10 3

Eagles AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Makida, cf 6 0 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 F8 .. S9 S9 .. F9 F8 .. D9 .. ..
Nishimura, ss 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 G1 .. d4 G4 .. E3 .. F8 F6 .. ..
Nakamura, lf 5 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 G6 .. .. BB KC G6 .. F7 .. G6 ..
Ohiro, 1b 6 2 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. D7 .. D7 S9 .. KC G5 .. F2 ..
Kawata, dh 5 1 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 .. G3 .. G3 S7 .. BB .. S9 KS ..
Yamashita, 2b 3 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 .. s9 .. E7 S9 .. S4 .. .. .. ..
Uchimura, pr-2b 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. E5 .. ..
Nishitani, ph-2b 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. F8
Hijirisawa, rf 3 2 2 2 0 3 0 0 0 .. BB .. S9 BB .. T7 .. G2 .. HP
Masuda, 3b 6 1 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. G4 F8 F7 .. S9 .. S9 .. KS
Ginji, c 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 .. .. S6 BB .. G3 .. .. .. .. ..
Nakatani, c 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. BB .. S7 .. ..
Moritani, pr 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Ishimine, c 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. F7

Marines AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Hayasaka, ss 5 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 G3 BB .. F8 .. S7 .. F9 .. G5 ..
Daita, cf 5 2 1 2 1 1 0 1 0 BB S7 .. G6 .. KC .. G6 .. .. G4
Sadaoka, lf 1 1 1 1 0 2 0 0 1 D7 BB .. BB .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Kakunaka, ph-lf 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. F7 .. L3 .. .. L6
Hosoya, 3b 6 1 1 4 1 0 0 0 1 G4 H7 .. G6 .. .. F8 .. KS .. G6
Shinzato, 2b 4 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 G6 BB .. .. G5 .. D7 .. G5 .. ..
M.Watanabe, 1b 4 2 2 0 0 1 0 0 1 .. S9/G6 .. .. S7 .. HP .. F8 .. ..
Kohbe, rf 5 1 2 3 1 0 0 0 0 .. F8 G6 .. S7 .. H7 .. .. KS ..
Aomatsu, c 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 .. KS F3 .. KS .. .. .. .. .. ..
Kanazawa, ph-c 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. f7 .. .. F4 ..
Ohtani, dh 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .. BB F3 .. F9 .. .. .. .. .. ..
Heiuchi, ph-dh 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. F9 .. .. S7 ..

Matsuzaki 5 27 6 1 2 6 7 7
Aikyo 4 15 3 1 3 1 3 3
Watanabe 1 4 1 0 1 0 0 0
Tobe 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0

Kanda 3.2 19 6 0 0 3 5 2
Abe 2.1 11 3 0 1 1 0 0
Furuya 0.1 2 0 0 1 1 1 1
N.Kobayashi 0.2 5 3 0 0 1 2 2
Hattori 2 10 4 0 0 0 2 2
Shimoshikiryo 2 7 0 0 2 1 0 0

As you can see, it was quite a busy game at times.

The Marines got up 1-0 pretty quickly in the first inning after Takenori Daita walked, stole second, and scored on a double to left by Takuma Sadaoka.

But then the Eagles tied it up in the top of the second. Shoji Ohiro doubled to left, went to third on Kawata's groundout, and then Katsumi Yamashita hit a sac fly to right field, scoring Ohiro. 1-1. Rookie Ryo Hijirisawa, who has yet to get his first ichi-gun hit (yet has a .278 OBP in 19 PA), walked, but then got caught trying to steal second base to end the inning.

"Hetakuso!" ("You SUCK!") yelled a woman sitting a few seats down from me.

Rakuten backup catcher Jin Nakatani, who was playing catch with Shingo Matsuzaki on the sideline, heard her and yelled back something about his running speed, and perhaps about her running speed as well. Ahh, minor league.

Jin Nakatani.

The Marines, perhaps still feeding off of the momentum from the ichi-gun's big 6-run inning on Sunday, had their own big 6-run inning. It started with Masato Watanabe singling to right, but then Kohbe and Aomatsu making quick outs. (Kohbe's fly out to center was shallow enough that Masato almost got himself doubled off first.) Ryuji Ohtani, #125, a taxi squad player, walked. And then so did Keisuke Hayasaka. So suddenly the bases were loaded with two outs, and Daita came back up there and singled to left, scoring Masato and Ohtani. 3-1. Then Sadaoka walked, and if you're keeping track, that loaded the bases again...

...for Kei Hosoya, who launched a ball over the left-field fence into the netting! Grand slam! 7-1. Ken Shinzato walked, but Masato Watanabe grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning after that. 6 runs that inning on 4 walks and 3 hits. Wow.

Sadaoka stands at first base while Hosoya is at bat.

Hosoya comes in to high-five everyone after the grand slam.

Yuta Ohmine, Lotte's hyped prospect from Ishigaki, recovers the bat.

The old guy sitting next to me, who seemed to be a Rakuten fan, got up and left at that point. So did a few other people. I suppose when the price of the game is zero yen, you're not missing out on much.

Things settled down for the third inning, but then got crazy in the fourth inning. Masato Nakamura (#126) led off with a walk, and then Ohiro doubled to left. Kawata grounded out to first base, Masato running in the ball by himself, but Nakamura scored on the play, 7-2. Yamashita hit the ball to left field, and Lotte leftfielder Sadaoka took a weird route to the ball, didn't quite get it, dropped it, then scrambled to GET it again, and Ohiro scored in the meantime. 7-3. Hijirisawa singled to right, moving Yamashita to second; Yamashita would move to third on a pop fly by Masuda. Ginji walked, and the bases were loaded again for Rakuten.

Akihisa Makida came up to bat and singled to right, and both Yamashita and Hijirisawa scored on the play. 7-5. So that was it for Lotte starter Kanda, who came out of the game, and 19-year-old Kazunari Abe came into the game, and got a groundout from Nishimura to end the 9-batter inning.

Kazunari Abe.

Abe is a beanpole, something like 6 feet tall and weighs about 155 pounds. I guess perhaps he'll fill out a bit after he gets out of his teenage years?

In the top of the 5th inning, after Nakamura struck out, the Eagles banged out three straight singles. Ohiro singled to right, Kawata singled to left (moving Ohiro to second), and then Yamashita singled to right. Rightfielder Takumi Kohbe ran in to get the ball and fired it home, and Ohiro tried to score from second and was OUT AT THE PLATE! Yay Kohbe! Ohiro, for his part, was in total disbelief. Hijirisawa walked after that, but Masuda hit a pop fly out to end the inning.

The Marines got two guys on with one out in their half of the 5th, but didn't capitalize on it.

After the 5th inning, there was a brief "5th inning stretch" of sorts, while some guys drove zamboni-like machines around the all-dirt infield, and a few other grounds crew watered the dirt again to make it less dusty.

Ohiro is shocked that he was out at the plate.

Takumi Kohbe, who made the fantastic throw to the plate, singled in the bottom half of the inning.

Dirt Zamboni!

The E3 in the top of the 6th was a grounder to first where Masato Watanabe wasn't going to be able to run the ball in in time, so he flipped it to Abe, except either Abe didn't make a clean catch or the ball just fell out of his glove; either way Nishimura was safe at first on the error.

Keisuke Hayasaka got himself caught stealing in the bottom of the 6th. Also, Hisashi Aikyo replaced Shingo Matsuzaki on the mound for Rakuten after 5 innings.

Takuya Furuya came out to pitch the top of the 7th for Lotte. Furuya is a big left-handed guy from Hokkaido, and he wears #27, and let me tell you that "FuruYA 27" looks rather odd (and I nearly did infact write down his name as Furuta). Anyway, Furuya got a strikeout from Ohiro and then walked Kawata, and then there was a loooong pause in the game and a pitching chance. I have this suspicion that maybe Furuya hurt himself somehow since his pitches to Kawata were all over the place, plus that they didn't have someone ready to replace him right when he came out.

Noriyuki Kobayashi, #123, replaced Furuya on the mound. Kobayashi went to a prefectural high school in Kawaguchi that is literally a 10-minute bike ride from where I live, and then he played on an Urawa amateur team, and then for the Shikoku Island league, and then he got drafted by Lotte in the taxi squad draft. And as it is, the very first batter he faced, Yamashita, hit a line drive right into him and knocked him over, the ball rebounding to Shinzato at second, who couldn't make a throw to first in time. A bunch of medical staff came out to see if Kobayashi was going to survive, and during the long pause, Kensuke Uchimura came in to pinch-run for Yamashita.

Uchimura also was a taxi squad draftee, but he came from the championship Ishikawa team of the Hokushinetsu League. He also happens to be about 5'4, and the women sitting to my right were all saying things like "Wow! What a little guy!"

Here's Atsuya Takuya Furuta Furuya.

Noriyuki Kobayashi before he got knocked over by a line drive.

Ken Shinzato.

Little Kensuke Uchimura. Coach Hirohashi is around 5'11.

Anyway, perhaps Kobayashi never entirely recovered from his scare, because right after that, Ryo Hijirisawa hit a monster drive into the gap in left-center, which ended up being a triple, and everyone else on base scored. 7-7. It wasn't too hard for Shintaro Masuda to single home Hijirisawa after that, to bring the score to 8-7. Jin Nakatani, who had come into the game as a catcher in the bottom of the 6th, walked after that, but Kobayashi got out of the inning on luck when a low liner to shallow center was not only caught by centerfielder Daita, but he also threw in the ball to second base and doubled off Masuda, who was already at third base by the time it landed.

The Marines, who had been coasting on a nice lead for those first few innings, suddenly found themselves behind by a point in the bottom of the 7th. With one out, Ken Shinzato hit a ball that was almost a home run -- as far as I could tell, it bounced off the top of the wall in left-center and fell back onto the field. I'm not sure why it was a double instead of a homerun, but whatever. After that, Masato Watanabe got hit by a pitch. So with two runners on, big Takumi Kohbe came to the plate. And he swung his big bat and he got a BIG hit -- a home run that went waaaay over the fence in left-center and got stuck in the netting outside Urawa Stadium! BLAM! 10-8.

Kanazawa and Heiuchi pinch-hit after that, but didn't succeed in doing much of anything, Nakamura making a fantastic sliding catch just outside left field off of Kanazawa's foul fly.

Takumi Kohbe towers over all who oppose him.

Kohbe high-fives everyone in the dugout following his 3-run homer.

Yasutaka Hattori. (See below.)

Lefty Yasutaka Hattori took the mound for Lotte in the 8th. I was really psyched about that; I saw him pitch a little last time I came to Lotte Urawa stadium; he was Lotte's first-round pick in the industrial/college draft last year. Anyway, Hattori pitched a flawless 8th, but ran into some trouble in the 9th. Kawata led off with a real single, and then Uchimura hit the ball to third, where Hosoya booted it, so instead of one out and one on, there were no outs and two on. Hijirisawa meant to sac bunt up the two runners after that, but catcher Kanazawa charged the ball, threw to third for the force out, and Hosoya threw to first to get a DP on Hijirisawa at first -- a NICE double play, especially judging that the speedy little bugger Uchimura was a lost cause at second. However, Masuda singled to right ater that, and Uchimura scored from second. 10-9.

Nakatani singled as well, moving Masuda to second, and Moritani came in as a pinch-runner at first. When Makida singled after that, Masuda scored (10-10), and despite a great throw from Kohbe, Moritani was safe at third... where he would remain as Nishimura popped out to short.

Still, the game was tied, and the Marines went down 1-2-3 in their half of the 9th. So that meant... EXTRA INNINGS! Wheeee! But first the zambonis came out again, and people took bathroom breaks for a while, and a bunch of old guys went home, and so on.

They announced the Lotte pitcher for the 10th inning and I nearly fell off my chair. Yuta Shimoshikiryo! The other submariner! Shunsuke's apprentice and perhaps next-in-command! WOW! How cool was THAT? I'd wanted to see him ever since his "best sempai EVER" comment about Shunsuke in spring camp. Awesome!

I tried a couple of times to basically photograph his entire throwing motion, because it's pretty wacky. He starts from a normal standing position and a normal leg kick, but then moves down to throw from the ground, similar to where Shunsuke ends up, and when he's finishing his motion he usually pushes forward so much and comes up with so much force that his hat comes off. Seriously. Dude needs some bobbypins or barrettes to keep it on, I think :)

Yuta Shimoshikiryo, "Sub" Marine Junior.

Anyway, he was awesome and got a quick 1-2-3 tenth inning out of Rakuten.

Rakuten had only used two pitchers up to that point -- Matsuzaki for 5 innings and Aikyo for 4, so they brought in lefty Yuki Watanabe to pitch the 10th, and he also got a relatively quick inning -- Heiuchi singled with two outs, but a fielder's choice quickly erased that runner.

Top of the 11th, Shimoshikiryo hit the other long name player, Hijirisawa, with a pitch, and then spent like five throws trying to pick him off first base. There was one time that it was a really, really close call, and when he was called safe, Masato Watanabe blew a gasket and started yelling at the umpire. It was mostly pretty funny, but I hadn't really seen that kind of thing before so I was a little surprised:

Shimoshikiryo makes a pickoff throw to first.

Masato goes mental on the umpire.

Hijirisawa takes a plunge back to the bag during a later pickoff throw.

Adventure! Excitement! A Jedi craves not these things.

Anyway, Hiroshi Tobe pitched the bottom of the 11th, also getting a 1-2-3 inning, and that was it for the game as the teams had a 10-10 tie. Apparently minor league games only go to 11 innings and that's it. Just as well, really, it was almost 5pm by that point and I was beginning to worry about sunburn.

Tobe or not Tobe.

Apparently, tying the game is just as high-five-worthy as winning it, in this case?

The scoreboard only goes to 11 anyway. Here's Daita standing out there at the start of the 11th inning.

After packing up my camera, I went back to the Lotte side of the field to see if I could take some closer-up shots of any players coming out. Some guys filtered out pretty quickly to go to the Marines training/etc building; Heiuchi and Sadaoka and Kanazawa all walked out as I was walking in. Masato Watanabe seemed distinctly kind of grumpy and I think people were avoiding him as such. Some others went by; Yuta Ohmine got stormed by a ton of women who wanted his autograph, he signed a few things and then RAN AWAY as fast as possible.

I saw some people catch Hattori and Shimoshikiryo. I didn't have anything to get signed, so I just held back and snapped some photos. I could have bought a baseball or a signboard from the goods table, but for some reason I thought that would be kind of lame of me. At the time, at least. Now, I kind of regret it. It would be cool to have something signed by a Japanese player :(

I really wanted to see Kohbe and just say something like "nice home run" to him, but he was on the field taking extra batting practice -- several players had some batting cages set up and they were still all swinging, despite that they had all just played through an 11-inning game. Wow!

Then Yuki Karakawa stepped out of the clubhouse and immediately got SWAMPED with people wanting his autograph. And so someone organized everyone to stand in line, and Karakawa just went through and signed for everyone there -- for at least 10 minutes, he was still signing when I left. I should have gotten his autograph for Lisa (who calls him Karaage-kun), but I just didn't think of it. Doh. It's so amazing how he's already accomplished a bunch in baseball and he's going to turn 19 next month.

I went to the parking lot after that. The Rakuten bus was actually parked right next to my bicycle and I had to go through some of the players who were loading stuff onto the bus to go unlock my bike! That was kind of funny, saying "sumimasen" to Ohiro and Yamashita, who must have wondered what I was doing; then the CLICK as I unlocked the bike should have made it clear. Heh.

Ohmine pretends not to be a rock star.

Hattori, a lefty pitcher, signs right-handed. Very Japanese.

I caught Shimoshikiryo signing for some people as well.

I took about 10 pictures of Karakawa; this is the only one where he was actually looking towards me. Awwwwww.

I rode the 7-8 kilometers back to my apartment. I have no idea how I survived that, honestly. I rode to the park, sat in the sun for 4 hours, rode back, and when I got home, all I wanted to do was turn on the airconditioner and lie on my floor for like 20 minutes. Which is about how long it took all the pictures to download off my camera anyway.

If I haven't mentioned it already, Takumi Kohbe is definitely my Lotte ni-gun boyfriend now that Nemoto is on the top team. Someday I'm going to meet him, hopefully. And all I'll be able to say is, "You are so tall." And he'll think I'm the most retarded foreigner on the planet.

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