Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Game Report: Fighters vs. Marines @ Tokyo Dome, Day 2: Kami-sama, Hotoke-sama, INABA-SAMA!

Two days at the Tokyo Dome,
Two consecutive wins,
Two home runs by Eiichi Koyano,
Three home runs in three consecutive at-bats by Inaba...
...on the same day Tomoaki "Aniki" Kanemoto accomplishes the same feat.
And the blog entry is only seven days late! (The game was on April 8th. I should backdate this later.)

Seriously, though, home run derbies aside, someone will have to explain to me what it is about guys named Inaba that makes them become absolutely and completely irresistable at the age of 35 or so. The same thing happened to me around ten years ago with vocalist Koshi Inaba of the B'z rock duo.

Anyway, much like Tuesday's game, Wednesday's also featured me running over after work and barely making it there in time for the first pitch. At least this time I had my ticket before the game (thanks to Ojisan and the Kamagaya crew), so I could just run in and take care of things quickly.

2009 Pinbadge Quest continues (6 more, 10 total): Yusuke Uemura #46, Tatsuo Kinoshita #35, Seiichi Ohira #54, Terrmel Sledge #10, Hisashi Takeda #21 (fanclub present) and Ryota Imanari #62 (I originally got another Shinji pin, and Hiromi was nice enough to trade me the Imanari pin she got!) Still haven't figured out what I'm going to do with them this year yet, though.

Yuta Ohmine started for the Marines, continuing with the young pitcher theme. Rookie pitcher Ryo Sakakibara started for the Fighters. The last time I saw Sakakibara pitch was during the preseason games, and he threw one pitch to Greg LaRocca which was grounded right back at his shin to knock him out of the game. I would have just been happy getting more than one inning out of Sakakibara, to be honest.

So getting almost four was pretty good, right?

The Fighters got out to a quick 3-0 lead after Ohmine walked both Kensuke Tanaka and Atsunori Inaba in the first inning and then Eiichi Koyano kicked off the evening's home run derby with a 110-meter shot into the left-field stands.

The Marines started to catch up a little in the third, with Shunichi Nemoto scoring their first run with an RBI single by Iguchi. Sakakibara even loaded the bases by walking Ohmatsu, but then managed to get a groundout from Satozaki to end the threat. 3-1.

The bottom of the third, however, saw Ohmine walking Yoshio Itoi, and then, amidst a bunch of us holding up Inaba signs in right field, Inaba hit a home run right over our heads! 5-1. He came back to play his position in the top of the fourth amidst a ton of applause and bowed to us.

However, in the top of the fourth the Marines continued their advance, Gary Burnham leading off with a single and Saburo following it with another single. Imae followed THAT with another single, and the bases were loaded for Daisuke Hayakawa, who promptly applied the principle of "Four Singles Equals A Run" and hit another single, this one scoring Burnham. 5-2. Sakakibara was done for the night at that point, and the Fighters switched pitchers to Hideki Sunaga. Sunaga's Biggest Fan happens to be one of my friends, and she was happy to watch as he got a 6-4-5 double play out of Shunichi Nemoto (though Saburo scored, 5-3) and then Fukuura grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

In the top of the 5th, Sunaga was replaced on the mound by his Urawa Gakuin HS sempai Yataro Sakamoto, who must not have gotten the memo about Saitama pride, and promptly gave up a double to Tadahito Iguchi and then a huuuuge homerun to Shoitsu Ohmatsu. 5-5. Somehow, despite giving up a double to Tomoya Satozaki and then hitting Imae with a pitch, he still managed to get out of the rest of the inning unscathed, mostly due to a fantastic catch by Terrmel Sledge, who has really been doing a great job in left this year so far, from what I've seen at least.

Bottom of the fifth... BLAM! Inaba hit a solo home run into the right-field stands again! And then a bit later, Eiichi Koyano ALSO hit his second home run of the night! 7-5! All of the Fighters home runs up to that point were off of Yuta Ohmine, who pitched the first 5 innings.

Since this was a Fighters home game, we got YMCA in the 5th inning. During Tuesday's game one of the groundskeepers had spontaneously gone totally crazy during the middle of it, so I guess people were expecting it on Wednesday, and apparently someone in the 1st-base field seats filmed it. It's a little hard to explain, so just watch this video -- the fun starts at 1:40 or so:

The Fighters were up going into the 7th inning, with Naoki Miyanishi on the mound for them. He'd pitched a decent 6th inning, but gave up a single to Satozaki to lead off the 7th, so Nashida pulled him. My friends were wondering who was going to the mound to replace him and as I always do at Tokyo Dome games, I had this strange feeling of deja vu as I said, "Tateyama!" And sure enough, it was Yoshinori Tateyama. And also sure enough, he gave up a game-tying 2-run homer to Saburo shortly after, bringing the score to 7-7. Ah, natsukashii.

(My first ever Fighters game at the Tokyo Dome, the Fighters were up by 2 runs and Tateyama gave up a 2-run homer to Roosevelt Brown.)

Fortunately, with Brian Sikorski on the mound pitching to Atsunori Inaba in the bottom of the 7th, Inaba decided he wasn't having any of this losing crap, and went ahead and hit his THIRD HOME RUN OF THE NIGHT, this one to the left-field stands. 8-7.

I should mention that we were all going pretty crazy over Inaba by that point. Ojisan actually has a decent video in his entry (you can see my Inaba sign in it). When Inaba came out to play right field that inning, we clapped and yelled "INABA!!!" until he took off his hat and bowed, and then we wouldn't shut up and kept yelling until he bowed AGAIN, and then several of us held up Inaba signs and waved and yelled "Inaba-sama!!!!" and various things to the effect of "We worship you!"

Tateyama managed to pull himself together for the 8th, and then Hisashi Takeda, the World's Smallest Closer, finished out the game and the Fighters won it 8-7.

I feel really bad for Eiichi Koyano, who on any other day would have easily been game hero for hitting two home runs, but well, there was no doubt in anyone's mind who was going to be up there on the stage for this one:

I mean, during the game I received a text message of "Your boyfriend Morino just hit one of his signature 3-run homers", which I answered with "OUR Inaba just hit THREE HOME RUNS!"

During the postgame festivities we did a cheer of "Kamisama, Hotokesama, INABA-SAMA!" which roughly means "God, Buddha, Inaba", most likely as a play off of the "Kamisama, Hotokesama, Bass-sama" cheer for Randy Bass back in the mid-1980's.

The only bad thing is, we did THREE Inaba Jumps during the postgame cheers as well, one for each of his home runs, and unfortunately, my Canon IXY point-and-shoot camera fell out of my pocket while I was jumping on one of those and kind of cracked open. I clicked it back together, but it was stuck in photo mode and basically wouldn't take movies or let me view photos, and it made weird noises when I did take photos. So, bleh. Since then I have gone and bought a new Canon IXY 920IS, but at the time I was feeling pretty grumpy about it. I swear this has been the worst year for me ever camera-wise, as I also broke my 18-55 lens right before the preseason started.

We also did a bunch of cheers that were something to the effect of "Ha ha, all of the Fighters wins have been in Kanto instead of Hokkaido!"

Anyway, it was a good game, and good times. I also got to visit with another group of friends for an inning or so who were sitting behind the ouendan, and one of them had gone to Sapporo for Opening Weekend. This guy usually gives me completely random stuff when I run into him at Fighters games (seriously, one time he gave me a handwritten sumo match results sheet) but this time, he gave me a Fighters 2009 schedule refrigerator magnet! How cool is that?

I still feel bad that the Marines had to lose for the Fighters to win, but I really enjoyed these games anyway. I love the Fighters. This year is going to be great. And soon we have the Seibu series, and another Tokyo Dome series, and I'm even probably heading to Kobe for the Skymark games on the 25th and 26th, if the weather forecast is favorable...

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