Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fighters Tokyo Dome Second Series: April 21-23, Humbled by Hawks

After sweeping the Marines in their first Kanto series and sweeping the Lions in their second Kanto series, the Fighters nearly got swept by the Hawks in their third Kanto series. I went to all three games, and by the end of it I was just totally exhausted. Thank god they didn't get swept, at any rate.

(I'm trying to catch up on stuff, see... it's Golden Week now!)

Tuesday, April 21: Hawks 10, Fighters 5

The Hawks got out to a pretty quick 7-2 lead after Nobuhiko Matsunaka hit 2-run homeruns in both the third AND fourth innings. Ouch. Both were off Fighters starter Kazuhito Tadano, and to his credit, during the 4th inning he threw an eephus pitch to Matsunaka with a 2-2 count, which was awesome. It didn't help as Matsunaka slammed the NEXT pitch over the wall.

The Fighters did manage to get to 7-5, chasing starter Kameron Loe in the 4th inning as well, but could never catch up. Amidst the Hawks fans screaming "3-run homerun Hidenori!", Hidenori Tanoue did infact hit a 3-run homerun in the 9th inning off Keisuke Tanimoto, which pretty much slammed the door on any chance the Fighters had of catching up.

The highlight for my friends was getting to see Hideki Sunaga pitch:

Except that Sunaga ended up walking two guys and then hitting Matsunaka with a pitch. Whoops. Not the best outing.

The highlight for the Hawks bullpen was undoubtedly monkey-like Masahiko Morifuku coming in for one inning and striking out Itoi, Inaba, and Sledge, down in order.

The highlight for everyone else was probably getting to see that groundskeeper go nuts during YMCA yet again...

(April 21 YMCA dance, complete with him getting carried off the field... thanks to Yoshizawa for the film clips!)

Right, the film clips. That's another story in the line of "crazy coincidences".

After the game I wandered around to Gate 22 to see if BB and Cubby were out there again causing mascot mayhem, and sure enough, they were. There was also a guy holding signs about not buying unofficial Fighters goods from the Fukuhachi shop in Sapporo. And well, despite some initial confusion in talking to him, and I thought he was saying something about having HIS Fighters blog, it turned out he was asking me about MY Fighters blog -- and it was the guy who filmed the YMCA groundskeeper on April 8th that I linked to in my entry then! He'd seen my blog thanks to the youtube trackback link, and recognized me from some of my photos on here. (Not that it's all THAT hard to figure out, given how many American females there are wandering around Fighters games in oldskool jerseys, but still.)

He's been a diehard Fighters fan for something like 25 years, and he even named his son Yukio. That's so awesome I can't even begin to describe it. And it turns out that, just as expected, him and my friend Sakamoto and some of my other ouendan acquaintances all go way back in their Fighters-cheering friendships, and so they spent a while telling me stories about the old days and about some not-so-old days, and whatnot. It was really interesting!

Yoshizawa was carrying a Fighty plushie with him and harrassing BB and Cubby with it (or as Sakamoto yelled, "Fighty's your SEMPAI, you have to RESPECT him!"), and since I didn't really want to push into the line of people getting photos with the current mascots, being as I already have a few, instead, I got my photo with the Fighty plushie. And just for fun, I put the photo together with the LAST time I got my photo with Fighty...

(Left: 2009, Right: 2003)

Man, I'm getting old.

Anyway, it was cool to meet new/old Fighters fans and talk about random stuff with them! Yay. So that was a nice ending to a crappy game.

Wednesday, April 22: Hawks 3, Fighters 2

So this game STARTED OUT a lot better than Tuesday's. The Fighters ouendan were mocking the Softbank ouendan by yelling a lot of "ボールをよく見ろ [player]" cheers and "選球眼!" The first one, "boru wo yoku miro" means "See the ball well", and "senkyuugan" means... er, it means batting eye, I suppose. This was really funny, especially when we yelled it a lot and then Luis Jimenez hit a home run to put the Fighters up 2-0, we were joking that he really saw the ball well.

But then the Hawks cut that lead in half on a throwing error -- Munerin tried to steal second, and was TOTALLY out, except that they got into a rundown, which I have written down as "CS, 2-4-3-6-3 E6-3", basically since either Kaneko missed or Jimenez missed, but SOMEONE didn't catch the ball and thus Munerin ended up on third and Morimoto scored. Grr.

Yagi pitched 6 great innings, and then in the 8th, my arch-nemesis Yoshinori Tateyama came in to pitch for the Fighters, and just like he is always wont to do at the Tokyo Dome, he gave up his traditional 2-run homer to Hiroki Kokubo, which put the Hawks up 3-2. The Fighters might have evened it up in their half of the 8th, except with Kensuke at second base, Inaba singled to center, and it wasn't even that far back, but third base coach Makishi sent Kensuke home, where he was out by a MILE. Grrr.

And the groundskeeper did another dance...

(April 22 YMCA dance, also thanks to Yoshizawa-san.)

...this time finishing off with a cartwheel and not getting dragged off the field.

Also, guess where I will be on May 6th...

...yup, Kamagaya! Since Yukio Tanaka will be a special guest for the pregame festivities that day. I want to see him again. I miss Yukio.

Anyway, Wednesday's game REALLY had me feeling grumpy, and I didn't even bother sticking around the Dome afterwards, but pretty much just came home and crashed.

Thursday, April 23: Fighters 7, Hawks 6


So Pau came with me to this game. This actually wasn't the first time I dragged him to a Fighters game; he came with me last year in Interleague when the Fighters played the Giants and Nishimura broke Hichori's hand and MAN that still pisses me off. But this was the first time he sat in the outfield with us, and he got to meet my crazy friends, the Kamagaya Ojisan posse. We had a huge group, actually, though a funny thing is that I usually eat dinner and then tons of people offer me food, but this particular day I didn't eat dinner and nobody offered me anything. Weird. Call it Murphy's Law, I guess.

(Heck, on Wednesday, Ojisan's friend Sasaki-san who recently retired from working for Nippon Ham came up to visit us and brought "omiyage", or, well... ham. Bunches of pork products, which the rest of our group was like "Yum! Let's eat!" and I was like "Err... is that raw?")

Anyway, this game started off crappy, with Hawks starter Kenji Ohtonari striking out the first three Fighters he faced, but it got better. Or maybe I should say that both Ohtonari and the Fighters starter Masaru Takeda both ended up being similarly mediocre, so it worked out. Whatever karma had bitten Kensuke on Wednesday when Makishi sent him, apparently reversed for Shota Ohno as he scored the first run of the game running from first base on the most impossible RBI double ever (and he'd reached first on error in the first place). Makishi had no business sending him and he had no business scoring, but at least Hichori made a funny pose when we cheered for his double.

Matsunaka had to get another 2-run homer in, but then Luis Jimenez got in a 3-run homer to balance it out, making it 4-2. Then the Hawks had a rally in the 5th inning, which started with Hiroshi Freaking Shibahara hitting a pop fly to left that fell for a double between Sledge and Kaneko, and scoring on a subsequent single. I don't blame Nashida for walking Matsunaka when there were runners at 2nd and 3rd with two outs, but well, it WAS setting up for Hiroki Kokubo to hit a 2-RBI double to put the Hawks up 5-4. Hidenori Tanoue made it 6-4 in the 6th inning with a solo shot that bounced off the top of the wall in dead center.

The Fighters managed two runs in their half of the 7th though, after the Hawks staff suddenly stopped being able to find the strike zone. Even Morifuku couldn't throw a strike to save his life. So the Fighters fans got to sing the Kanto Chitty Chitty Bang Bang chance music a whole lot (much to Pau's amusement), we got to see Kume-kun pitch for the Hawks (also to our amusement, since we saw Kume pitch back in college), and then Tomochika Tsuboi hit a 2-RBI single to tie up the game, much to EVERYONE'S amusement.

Oh, and speaking of everyone's amusement, in the 5th inning, the groundskeeper ended his routine with a headstand. Kind of.

(April 23rd crazy groundskeeper YMCA dance, again thanks to Yoshizawa-san.)

So yeah, the game was tied 6-6 during the 8th, and it was around that time that Pau mentioned he needed to go home around 9:30pm so he could make an international phone call, and Hiromi was also saying she wouldn't be able to stay if there was extra innings, and so on and so forth. So I was really, really hoping the Fighters could pull it out and win quickly.

As it is, Pau left at 9:30, in the top of the 9th.

At 9:42, Terrmel Sledge hit a home run that literally landed about 5 meters to my right! 7-6, Fighters win!

Naturally, he was the game hero.

And then a little bit later, the players came out to the stands to throw signed balls, and one of them ricocheted and pretty much landed on my foot, so I picked it up! And it was a Kensuke signed ball! WOW! I'd never even SEEN one of the balls that the players throw out after winning games, let alone gotten one! They're actually not hard baseballs, but soft slightly squishy ones, with the Fighters logo on one side and the signature on the other. Pretty neat.

Maybe Pau is just bad luck for the Fighters.

Most of my friends left fairly soon after the game ended, but I stuck around for the entire after-game cheering, because I really enjoy that. It's no fun winning if you don't get to celebrate afterwards, right?

So instead, I sang with the people to our left, since I'd seen them at almost every Tokyo Dome game this year. The teenage boy always brings signs and holds them up for every player, and we'd been cheering for Inaba and Sledge and Koyano and waving our signs together...

He's a nice kid, they're a nice group of people. Hopefully I'll run into them at some other Kanto games at some point.

I wandered out to the Gate 22 area for mascot mayhem again, hoping to run into some more of my friends, and I did see a few people I knew out there, but the craziest thing was this group of people...

See, apparently whoever wears the Cubby costume got in an accident and was in the hospital, which is why Cubby hadn't appeared at this game, nor was he out there with BB after the game. But a bunch of fans got together and made this huge "get well Cubby!!" board and were having as many people sign it as possible. It was really sweet of them.

Also, since I'm trying to track my Fighters pinbadges, I got 18 more over the three-day series...

Tuesday (6 more, 16 total): Asanuma #68, Takahiro Imanami #45, Ryan Wing #49, Kensuke Tanaka #3, Shinya Tsuruoka #64, Seiichi Ohira #54 (fan club present). Didn't trade at all, which meant I had doubles of Kensuke and Ohira. But...

Wednesday (6 more, 22 total):
What came out: Kensuke (fanclub present), Yoh #24, Matsuyama #57, Takaguchi #58, Itoh #60, Fighters Girl rare pin. Yeah, that was my THIRD Kensuke pin.
Traded Kensuke, Ohira, and Yoh to Hiromi for Sweeney #42, Ugumori #65, and Kaneko #8.
Traded Kensuke to Chizaki for Ohno #28.

Thursday (6 more, 28 total):
What came out: Naoto #5 (fanclub present), Takeda #21, Sledge #10, Kanamori #59, Inaba #41, Miyamoto #17.
Traded my second Hisashi Takeda pin to Hiromi for Yanuki #33.

Now I just have Sledge doubles. I suppose it's appropriate given what he did that day.

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