The Fighters got a run in the 2nd inning off of two Giants errors, and held the 1-0 lead for most of the game, which became tied 1-1 in the 8th off Takahiro Suzuki's clever baserunning and Noriyoshi Ohmichi's pinch-hit single. Shinji Takahashi hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the 9th to make it 2-1, and then closer Hisashi Takeda gave up two home runs to the Giants in the 9th, the second one being a walkoff shot by Shinnosuke Abe, and the Giants won 3-2.
Because seriously, I don't really want to think about this game any more. The entire game really did come down to that totally devastating last 20 minutes where the Fighters were suddenly not winning, then winning, then completely not winning.
Both starters were really good -- Shugo Fujii and Dicky Gonzalez both went 7 innings and didn't give up an earned run.
I was sitting in the second row of the Fighters cheering section in the outfield for this game, actually, thanks to a friend of a friend scoring excellent tickets and being nice enough to offer one to me.
And you know what the crazy thing is?
It honestly didn't feel any different from any other game this year, aside from being more crowded.
I mean, back in June, I also sat in the second row of the visitor's cheering section for the Fighters-Giants games in interleague, and for the most part, this felt exactly the same -- lots of people who all love the Fighters and hate the Giants united in the purpose of yelling and screaming and singing cheer songs until our team won or lost. I'm really not sure there was any big change in atmosphere between this game and the other ones. Maybe we were slightly louder than usual.
I guess the only main difference is, back on June 5th when last we saw Fujii vs. Gonzalez as a pitching matchup, Shugo Fujii gave up 4 runs in the first inning and it was pretty clear we were unlikely to come back from that, so it was a slightly different mood.
I'm not sure how to explain it, but when you're behind for the entire game and lose, that has a completely different feeling than being ahead for the entire game and then to suddenly have it all yanked out from under you at the last moment.
The worst thing was, I think, having this happen at my last Fighters game of 2009. (For real. I know I've had four "last game of 2009" games this year, but this is REALLY the last one.) Afterwards, outside Gate 11, there was just a huge congregation of Fighters fans, and everyone's mood was some combination of:
- "I really wanted them to win their final game in Kanto..."
- "It's not over yet! Are you going to Sapporo for Games 6 and 7?"
- "I can't go to Sapporo."
- "I hate the Giants so very very much."
- "I hate Shinnosuke Abe so very very much."
- "I hate the long long winter with no baseball so very very much."
- "It's been a great year anyway, hasn't it? We'll all be back next year together, right?"
(And a little bit of "Why do you have 嫌 on your t-shirt?" to which I'd turn around and display the "俺はジャイアンツが大っ嫌いだぁ！" ("I HATE the Giants!") message, generally to laughs.)
So there were a lot of goodbyes, a lot of people exchanging contact info to maybe get together over the winter, a lot of "see you next year", some "see you in Sapporo", things like that. Some of us already have a plan to get together for dinner in a few weeks. (And a whole gang of us headed to an izakaya together afterwards anyway.)
I mean, that's the thing: this really HAS been an amazing year. Running around before Game 3 saying hello to a bazillion people really knocked that into my head. I went to 60 Fighters games this year, counting minor league, and all over the country. Everywhere I went, I met amazing new people and had a great time cheering and hanging out and being a Fighters fan.
Win or lose, the bottom line is still that this was a great year for the fans. It would have been a great year even if we'd finished in last place, I think, but finishing in first certainly made it that much better.
On that note, I'm going to Kamagaya today for their "public viewing" of Game 6. It's going to be pretty chilly this evening, and Kamagaya's pretty far from where I live, but I figure that it'll be a good place to be watching with everyone.