Monday, September 22, 2008

Game Report: Fighters vs. Buffaloes at Osaka Dome -- Two Big Innings, One Big Win

So, yeah, I'm in Osaka now, here until Tuesday evening. Yay. Went to the Fighters-Buffaloes game yesterday afternoon -- I woke up at 6:30am in Saitama, got on a shinkansen in Tokyo around 8:30, and pretty much went straight to the Osaka Dome when I arrived in town around 11:30, for a 1pm game.

I saw some of my Tokyo Fighters friends but they didn't have space for me to sit with them, so oddly I ended up sitting with a lady I had met here at the Osaka Dome two years ago. Don't know how she remembered me, but yeah, same place, same people, even same crazy dude from Nagoya, only this time he had a USA flag instead of a Panama flag.

Yelled down to Brian Sweeney on the field, he said hi. I guess he's not angry at me for being bad luck at Seibu two weeks ago :)

I didn't keep score at this game because the Osaka Dome outfield is impossible to see the big board from, only the little boards on the side. (Before the game, actually, they had this thing where they focus on fans and ask them to hold up signs for particular players, and I guess they thought it'd be funny to focus on Fighters fans, so they had me, like "do you have any Darvish stuff?" The guy next to me said "hey, look, you're on the board!" and so I held up my big Tadano sign. So there.)

Ronald McDonald threw out the ceremonial first pitch. I'm not joking. The guy in front of me was asking me about McDonald's in America and I was like "It's just like McDonald's here, but the food is worse. Really."

The Fighters did score the first run, but then the 3rd inning sucked and the Buffaloes scored a lot more, culminating in a Mitsutaka Gotoh 3-run homer which made the score 5-2. Tadano was finished after that; Yataro Sakamoto took over on the mound for him and held down the fort until the 6th inning.

In the 6th inning, Crazy Glasses Guy was the ouendan leader and he had us yelling "OI! FIGHTERS! ORETACHI WA MADAMADA AKIRAMETENAIZO!" really loudly, which means "Hey, Fighters, WE haven't given up on you yet!" The Fighters responded with a huge rally. Kensuke got a hit, Hichori was hit by a pitch (btw, in Osaka when a guy is walked or HBP the Fighters fans yell "aho! aho! [pitcher's name]").

So first pitching change from RHP Katsuki to LHP Shimizu, for Inaba. Inaba hit what looked like a single but the secondbaseman actually made a nice snag but the throw wasn't in time at either base so the bases were loaded.

Second pitching change, to RHP Motoyanagi. We started up some chance music for the occasion. And Shinji Takahashi singled and Kensuke and Hichori scored, 5-4.

Third pitching change, to LHP Kikuchihara. Sledge struck out, and then Jason Botts pinch-hit for Yoshio Itoi, and got another hit! Inaba scored, tie game 5-5!. Takahito Kudoh pinch-ran for Botts. And Naoto Inada struck out. Kikuchihara was still in there pitching and then E-I-I-CHI Koyano hit a big fly ball to left field, and we couldn't see from where we were what happened to it, but from the crowd noise it was easy to figure out that the ball had landed, and so, double for Koyano, and everyone else (Shinji, Kudoh) scored! Gyakuten, 7-5!

Makoto Kaneko hit Kikuchihara with a grounder back to the mound and the ball went flying up, so Kaneko was safe at first, Koyano at third... and Kensuke Tanaka grounded to third to end the inning.

All in all Orix used 8 pitchers on the day. Koyano hit a home run off Yamaguchi in the 8th inning, and then the Fighters ripped into Hidetaka Kawagoe in the 9th for 2 more runs, winning the game 10-5 with 22 hits. I have only been to one other game at the Osaka Dome, and it was September 9 2006, and the Fighters ALSO murdered the Buffaloes that day, getting 10 runs and 20 hits. Funny how that works. I should go there more often?

Kazuhiro Kiyohara had a pinch-hitting appearance in the bottom of the 9th inning and it was funny because the minute he came out to take swings in the on-deck circle, you could see half of the infield RUSH over towards the dugout to try to take photos. And when he was at bat, a bazillion camera flashes went off with every pitch. And Micheal Nakamura struck him out anyway. So there.

The game hero was Yataro Sakamoto, but I thought it should have also been Eiichi Koyano for the go-ahead run and his home run later on. It's okay, though.

After the game we had a huge postgame ouendan singingfest in left field -- lots of cheers, lots of singing, and THEN we practiced EVERY player's song in uniform number order -- and I was really happy to realize that I actually know them all, EXCEPT for Sho Nakata's. Ha. Actually to be fair I had forgotten Satoshi Nakajima's since he rarely gets at-bats anymore, but today he was in the starting order and had two at-bats AND two hits so it refreshed my memory.

The Osaka ouendan leader asked who was coming to Fukuoka tomorrow, and naturally the entire Kanto gang raised their hands. I felt guilty, but... I can't really justify the expense, plus I want to go to Koshien.

A few pictures and videos from the game:

おい!ファイターズ!俺たちは!まだまだ!諦めてないぞ! (Hey Fighters, WE haven't given up on you yet!!)

北の国からより chance music for Jason Botts.

Adorable banner for Yataro Sakamoto that a lady behind me had.

Daida Kiyohara.

Outside the stadium afterwards.

Tonight I'm going to the Baystars-Tigers game at Koshien, and tomorrow I'll see the Marines vs. Buffaloes at the Osaka Dome again. Then back to Tokyo I go...

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