Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Game Report: Fighters vs. Marines @ Chiba Marine - Blowout on a Windy Day

Tuesday night's game in Chiba was kind of crazy for several reasons.

One of the most notable things was that the stadium was pretty much EMPTY. The reported attendance for the 9-2 win by the Marines was 10,134 people.

That is the SECOND LOWEST HOME ATTENDANCE this year for the Marines, at least according to this page.

I figure the poor attendance can be written off to it being a weekday and the day after a huge typhoon hit Tokyo, as well as the week after summer vacation ended for most school kids, but really? 10k people against the #1 team in the Pacific League? That's pretty sad.

On the other hand, at least they didn't sell out of Bobby Burgers this time, so I was able to get one before heading to the outfield.

This was the first Kanto-area Fighters game since August 13th, and a lot of people went on trips for the Obon holiday in mid-August, so I spent a good 20 minutes chatting with people about that, and trading omiyage (souvenir snacks). I brought a loaf of sliced castella cake from Nagasaki to share with people, and in return I got a Doala cracker from a friend who spent Obon in Nagoya watching the Dragons-Swallows series, a few chocolate bars from a friend who spent Obon in Hokkaido watching the Fighters, a grape butter cookie from a friend who went to Yamanashi, and various other sweets.

The other neat thing was that, for a few innings later on in the game, I got to hang out with Lisa, who is in Japan for two weeks! We had a bit of a snafu where they wouldn't let her come into the outfield, so I just came in to hang out in the infield with her and her friends for a few innings. Seriously, if someone has an SS ticket, and the stadium is only 1/3 full, what's the harm in letting them go into the cheapo outfield unreserved seating bleacher area? I can understand it on a weekend where the place might be a bit more full, but this time it made absolutely no sense to me. Either way, it was great to see Lisa again, and I know she's happy to see the Chiba Bobby Marines one last time.

As for the game itself, the weather was windy and it seemed to be helping the Chiba bats a lot more than the Fighters bats, as Marines players Nishioka, Iguchi, Saburo, and Satozaki all hit home runs -- those account for 5 of the Marines' 9 runs scored. Another two are from the 4th inning when Fighters starter Keisaku Itokazu walked the bases loaded and then the Marines DH Tasuku Hashimoto hit a 3-1 count pitch into the right-center gap for a 2-RBI double; the other two runs came in off Fighters reliever Ryo Sakakibara in the 6th inning, when the Marines loaded the bases on three consecutive singles and then Shoitsu Ohmatsu hit a 2-RBI single.

Satozaki's homerun was probably the biggest -- the other three were all off starter Itokazu, but Satozaki's was off Sakakibara and it was GONE the instant it left the bat -- just the kind of shot that fielders don't even bother chasing down. It bounced off the back wall of the left-field cheering area, behind the Fighters ouendan, just a big ol' shot of BLAM.

The Fighters' two runs came in the 2nd inning, and they were on "WTF do you mean that ball is fair" kinds of hits. Eiichi Koyano slammed a shot to center that Keisuke Hayasaka managed to jump to get his glove on, but it bounced out. Itoi hit a double that barely landed fair in right, and Kaneko hit one to the same exact spot, and between them they brought in two runs, and that was it.

One bright spot in the game is that I got to see Takahiro Imanami's first appearance in an ichi-gun game this year, and second appearance in an ichi-gun game ever, AND his first career ichi-gun hit! We actually thought it was his debut, but it turns out that he appeared in one game last year, also against the Marines. Funny thing is, in his one at-bat last year he grounded out to second. This time, he hit a grounder to second, and Iguchi made a diving catch and threw it to first, but it was far and awkward and Imanami did a headfirst slide into first base (grr) but he was safe (yay!) and Fukuura couldn't get ahold of the ball anyway. I believe it was ruled as an infield single to second, but also as an error on Iguchi.

Sho Nakata managed to end the game by being an dumbass, which would be funny if it wasn't so painful to watch. Itoi hit a double with one out, and then Sho was up to bat. He hit a pop fly to right that somehow actually managed to drop; Itoi had been waiting to see if it was caught and only made it to third. Fine. So we have runners at the corners and one out, and Takahiro Imanami at bat again. The Fighters ouendan are playing the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang chance music, we're all jumping up and down, and Imanami hits a high fly ball to right field, pretty much right to Takumi Kohbe. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it can be a sacrifice fly and Itoi can tag up and score from third, right? Except that the ball is in the air and... and... and Sho Nakata is RUNNING? WTF? I'm not clear if he meant to tag up to second and missed the beat, or if he started running late and couldn't get back, but either way, in comes the ball to first base from right field and a flailing Nakata is the last out of the game.

Not that the Fighters really had any chance at that point, but still.

(Since I'm writing this up on Wednesday afternoon I can add the note that Sho Nakata, down on the farm team in Kamagaya today, hit his minor-league 27th and 28th home runs off the SeaRex's Futoshi Kobayashi. See, that is precisely what Sho is good at -- hitting home runs on the farm team. He can't really play defense and he can't really run, but when he gets ahold of a pitch, look out left field!)

On one final note, one of my friends finally pointed out why Takumi Kohbe's ouenka sounded familiar -- it's the same tune they used for Matt Franco's ouenka was, 4-5 years ago. Now it's "Go Kohbe, go Kohbe, oretachi no Kohbe" rather than "Go Matty, go Matty, oretachi no Franco".

It didn't rain at all during the game, though it was pretty windy. Forecasts say we're supposed to get hit by another avalanche of rain over Wednesday-Thursday though -- go figure, Brian Sweeney is supposed to get the start Wednesday night -- this is his fourth start in Chiba this year, and most likely will be the third one to be rainy. For some reason it only rains in Chiba Marine Stadium when the Fighters are playing there.

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