Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tokyo Big 6, Week 3 - First 5-Game Series in 20 Years

Week 3 was a non-Hosei week, so in theory I wasn't going to be all that interested in it. But you know that these things have a weird way of working out. I did go to one and a half games of Saturday, where I saw the tail end of the Keio-Rikkio game, and the entirety of the Meiji-Waseda game, though that is all I actually saw in person of this series.

The other thing about Week 3 is that rather than just being the weekend, it technically lasted for a week and a half -- it started on September 25 and ended on October 5th, thanks to some rain and to Keio and Rikkio getting into a 5-game deathmatch, the likes of which hadn't been seen in 20 years.

Keio - Rikkio: Game 1

Keio took the first game, 8-4.

It was rainy when I woke up that day and I decided to punt this game and do a double-header of Waseda-Meiji and Swallows-Giants instead.

But I saw about 10 minutes of the Keio-Rikkio game over (thanks to Ken Dick for the pointer), and apparently by dumb luck I managed to see almost all the scoring in that game anyway. I saw the 6th inning for Keio, where they got their first run when Rikkio pitcher Kenya Okabe overthrew 3rd base on Takao's at-bat and the first run came in, 1-0. Then with the bases loaded (Itoh #9, Takeuchi Kazuma #8, and Takao #7), Takayuki Matsuo hit a double and the other three guys scored, 4-0. Masahiro Nagasaki bunted Matsuo up to third, and pitcher Daisuke Takeuchi executed a perfect squeeze bunt to make it 5-0.

I got to Jingu at 1pm, and the score was 5-2 in the top of the 9th. Keio had the bases loaded, so Yamaguchi scored on a sac fly to left by Aoyama, 6-2. Then Ren Yamasaki hit a bases-clearing triple into the right-field corner with Itoh and Tamaki scoring, 8-2.

Rikkio, for their part, didn't give up, even with two outs (Yusuke Yamada pinch-hit! But he struck out!). Naoshi Hasegawa doubled to left and then Yuji Naka cranked a long fly ball to left field... that apparently hit the foul pole for a homer. 8-4. Koichiro Matsumoto got on base on an error by Fuchigami (WTF), but Okazaki flew out to left to end the game.

I was sitting in the outfield because it's free if you're female, and because I was late and because I didn't want to deal with the Saitoh crowds and the Meiji crowds. It was pretty sparse out there, so I could spread out, BUT the sun was in my eyes the entire day, and it was a lot hotter than the weather forecast would have you believe.

Waseda - Meiji: Game 1

Waseda beat Meiji 4-2.

It was not a particularly exciting game, to be honest. Yusuke Nomura started for Meiji, and Yuki Saitoh started for Waseda. Waseda's first run came in on a throwing error by Meiji shortstop Abe in the 2nd inning (grounder by Hiroki Ohno), and two more runs came in on a triple by Hiroki Ohno in the 6th inning. Nomura struck out 9 in 7 innings, but those 3 runs gave him the loss. Gota Nanba gave up the 4th run to Waseda in the 8th inning, also unearned; Shohei Habu led off with a single, was bunted to second, stole 3rd during Hiroki Ohno's at-bat and Meiji catcher Yuki Yamauchi made a bad throw to 3rd to catch him, and Habu scored on that error.

(Oddly you could say, thus, that all of the runs scored occurred on Hiroki Ohno at-bats, but he only had 2 RBI.)

Meiji's first run was off Saitoh, on an RBI single by Sho Nishi, who has been tearing up the league this semester out of nowhere (he seriously has a line of .692/.750/1.077 after 4 games). The next one came in the 9th inning off closer Ohishi; Nishi led off with a bizarre double where 3 outfielders just let the ball fall, and he came in on a double by Yamauchi a bit later.

It was a LONG game though -- Nomura threw 138 pitches in 7 innings and the game went until 4:55pm. This was a bit of a problem for a pro game starting at 6pm...

Waseda - Meiji : Game 2

Sunday was the day I went to watch hockey, so I wasn't at either game, though I followed them from afar. Meiji was beating Waseda 1-0 for most of the game, and Kazuki Nishijima was taking a 2-hit shutout into the bottom of the 9th inning, and then naturally out of nowhere I saw that suddenly Waseda had won 2-1.

What happened is, apparently, Udaka led off the bottom of the 9th with a single to left (and was replaced by Satoh as pinch-runner). Ayuki "Little Keijiro" Matsumoto bunted Satoh up to second. At this point, Nishijima was replaced on the mound by Takayuki Morita... and Kawanishi pinch-hit and walked on 4 straight pitches.

Yusuke Nomura came in to pitch. Sakuraba pinch-hit for Ichimaru and hit a fly out to center, making it two outs and runners at 1st and 2nd. Hiroki Matsunaga walked, loading the bases...

...and Shohei Habu, Nomura's teammate from Koryo, hit a double to center and that brought in two guys to score, winning the game.

By the way, Ohishi's line in 3 innings:
K, G4, K / K, D8, G3, K / K, K, L1

That's 10 batters faced and 6 strikeouts.

Just sayin'.

Keio - Rikkio: Game 2

In the afternoon, Rikkio and Keio tied their second game 0-0, with Masato Komuro and Koji Fukutani both going the distance. It was only a 9-inning game due to the league regulations for when there is a Yakult game in the evening.

Keio - Rikkio: Game 3

Well, as I also mentioned, it rained Sunday night. And continued raining into Monday, so the Big 6 games that day were rained out.

On Tuesday, Keio and Rikkio faced off again. This time, Keio was up 4-1 when I first looked at the game, on a Hayata Itoh 2-run homer, among other things. When I got back from classes and looked again, Rikkio had tied it up 4-4 on a Soichiro Tanaka solo homer in the 6th and a Ryuichi Maeda 2-RBI double in the 7th.

By the regulations, a 3rd game in the series is called a tie in 12 innings, so this ended up being a 4-4 12-inning tie. Daisuke Takeuchi and Koji Fukutani each pitched 6 innings for Keio, and Kenya Okabe came out of the game after giving up Itoh's home run; Hayato Saitoh pitched another 2 innings and then Masato Komuro pitched the last 7 innings for Rikkio.

As it turns out, this was the first time in TWENTY YEARS that big 6 had consecutive ties. How nuts is that?

Keio - Rikkio: Game 4

Tokyo Big 6 has the right to push Tohto League games out of Jingu for a day or two, so the 4th game of the Keio-Rikkio deathmatch happened on Wednesday, September 29th.

After both teams had run out of aces -- Daisuke and Fukutani had both already thrown 15 innings in this series, and Komuro had already thrown 16 (Okabe had thrown 9, but I hesitate to call him an "ace"), I wondered: Who was going to start THIS game?

The answer? Golden rookie Akihiro Hakumura for Keio, and 3rd-year Hayato Saitoh for Rikkio.

Well, needless to say, this game did not go so well for Hakumura. The first inning, both teams scored runs, an Okazaki RBI for Rikkio and an Itoh RBI for Keio.

Hakumura gave up a solo homer to catcher Yuki Maeda in the 2nd inning, walked a couple of guys, and apparently 3 unearned runs came in on an error, and that was it for Hakumura, who faced 12 batters, walked 6 of them, struck out 2, and gave up 2 RBI hits. I guess adjusting from his one pitching experience against Todai to pitching against the best power hitters in the league was a little bit of a rude awakening for him.

Though, the next pitcher was Kohei Yamagata, another freshman. He finished out through the 4th inning, only giving up one more run. Keio's catcher Kazumasa Matsumoto added an RBI single for Keio in the bottom of the 4th, making it 6-2 at that point.

Keio gave up on freshmen at that point and put in Fukutani and Daisuke to pitch the rest of the game (3 and 2 innings respectively), and the final score was 8-2 in favor of Rikkio. Rikkio's Hayato Saitoh only gave up the two runs to Keio in his 7 innings pitched, and Masato Komuro added 2 scoreless innings as well to his tally.

If you're keeping count, the series had so far gone Keio Win, Tie Game, Tie Game, Rikkio Win, and so there was no actual series winner yet, which forced the series into a 5th game for the first time in 20 years.

Interlude: 5-Game Serieses in Tokyo Big 6 League History

Most series in Big 6 are decided in 2 or 3 games. 4-game series aren't common, but they aren't rare either; I remember the last time it happened, which was Fall 2008 and Hosei had TWO 4-game serieses; one was the infamous one where Kagami struck out 26 Waseda batters in one weekend... and also threw 215 pitches in one game and lost 2-0 to Waseda in the 14th inning. The other was the last time Todai actually won a game before this season, and forced the 4th game in the series.

But in the 85-year history of the Tokyo Big 6 League, there have been exactly 12 series to go to 5 games, and there has NEVER been a 6-game series.

Because I was curious, I went and found a newspaper (like, one made of actual paper) article that listed all the 5-game series in Big 6 history:

Season Card 12345 Winner
1926 F: W-H -W-HW Waseda
1927 F: R-H R--HR Rikkio
1952 S: M-W -WM-M Meiji
1954 F: R-H R--HR Rikkio
1956 F: K-H H-K-K Keio
1958 F: K-W -W-KK Keio
1959 S: R-K --RKR Rikkio
1962 S: R-W ---RR Rikkio
1963 S: K-M -M-KK Keio
1988 S: H-M H--MH Hosei
1990 F: K-R --R-R Rikkio

2010 F: K-R K--RK Keio

Pretty nuts, huh? There's only been one time in history that there were 3 tie games in a row, and only 5 times that there were 2 ties in a row.

I also find it somewhat amusing that Keio and Rikkio are involved in these huge series more than any other schools. (For the record, the school with the most tie games in history, up through Spring 2010, is Hosei with 104. Meiji is second with 92, Rikkio is third with 87, and Keio and Waseda were tied with 81 before this season started.)

Keio - Rikkio: Game 5

After Game 5 was forced, they announced that rather than happening on Thursday, September 30th, it would happen the day after Week 4 finished up. This is because, technically, Tohto League still had to get in their ostensible 2-game series that week as well, so Toyo-Aogaku and Chuo-Kokushi had their games scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Get this, though, it rained on Thursday, so they were only able to play one game of their matchup on Friday, and will finish out that series... sometime, but we still don't know when, because of course it depends on Big 6 and the Big Weather Gods In The Sky. Tohto League is supposed to finish up right before Draft Day -- but that may not happen this year.

Anyway, Week 4 was "normal" in terms of only taking 3 days to resolve itself, although it was abnormal in that 5th place Hosei beat Keio 2 games to 0, and even MORE abnormal in that Todai beat Waseda. Hell, Todai winning a game at all is abnormal, but beating Waseda is even MORE crazy, and beating Yuki Saitoh is unheard of. More on that later.

Actually, Hosei probably beat Keio just because Keio was worn out after their ongoing battle with Rikkio; these guys don't usually play actual league matches every day for over a week and a half.

So, Game 5 started at 1pm on Tuesday, October 5th. There was a Yakult game in the evening, but that shouldn't have been an issue, assuming the game would be over by 3-3:30, right?

Well, with a bizarre series like this, one should NEVER assume ANYTHING.

Coming into this game, in addition to all the innings already logged in the Keio-Rikkio series, Daisuke Takeuchi pitched a complete game against Hosei on Saturday, and Fukutani pitched 5 innings on Sunday (Yamagata pitched one more, and Naohiko Tadano finished out the last 2 innings).

So of course, having thrown 26 innings in 5 games over the course of a week, the start for this game ALSO went to Daisuke Takeuchi. I just hope he can still raise his arm over his head by the time he turns 21 next summer.

Rikkio had a vague advantage in that their ace, Masato Komuro, was not only rested, but in his 18 innings pitched over this series so far, he had yet to give up an earned run. On the other hand, Rikkio had a vague disadvantage in that they didn't have a second ace to compliment their first one.

Anyway, what happened is: Komuro lasted 6 innings, Daisuke lasted 4, and after those first 6 innings, the game was tied 3-3. Keio's Ryuta Iba hit a 2-run homer to tie the game up in the 6th inning. So much for Komuro's spotless record.

Fukutani took over on the mound for Keio and Hayato Saitoh took over for Rikkio and neither would budge for the next 7 innings. Fukutani walked a ton of guys and yet somehow Rikkio couldn't push their runners past 2nd base. In the meantime, the time went on and on, past 5pm. It got to be the 14th inning and the game was looking likely to end in a tie and cause the first-ever 6-game series in Big 6 history, because with a pro game in the evening, they have to stop the game at whatever inning they're at when they reach 5pm...

Anyway, in the top of the 14th, it seems that Hiroshi Aoyama led off with a single to left -- and reached second on a throwing error of some sort by Rikkio left fielder Hasegawa. Ren Yamasaki then managed to get an RBI hit that brought in Aoyama to finally make the score 4-3. Yamasaki went to 2nd on a dropped pitch, and was bunted to third, and then scored on a sac fly by Yasuhiro Takao to make the score 5-3.

Rikkio loaded the bases in the bottom of the 14th on two hits and a walk, at which point Keio switched pitchers to 4th-year Hironori Tanaka, making his first appearance of the semester. He struck out Masakazu Shiina, pinch-hitting in the pitcher's slot, and got Naoshi Hasegawa to ground out to short, ending the game with Keio winning 5-3. The game lasted 4 hours and 17 minutes.

(The entire SERIES lasted 14 hours and 35 minutes.)

The craziest thing is that when I arrived at Jingu that evening for the Swallows-Tigers game, around 5:45, I ran into one of my college ball friends and a bunch of the Keio players standing outside, in a general round of "What are you doing here?" (Bizarrely, it was Fuchigami-kun who actually noticed me first and nodded hello, so I came over to him and a few other players say an overly-appropriate "otsukaresama", which literally means "You must be exhausted", but is usually just used to mean "Good job.") They all pretty much looked like they wanted nothing more than to get back to their dorm and take a nice long bath and a nice long nap. I was happy that I could see them and say hi though, since I'd missed the entire weekend of Big 6 ball while down in Nagoya. And it was also good to get to congratulate them on finally ending the series, and on winning it as well. Hooray!

Of course, now that I'm finally done writing Week 3 up, I still have Week 4, and Week 5 is about to start tomorrow (Monday) after raining out the entire weekend.


westbaystars said...

Amazing recap of an amazing series. Thanks.

Deanna said...

Thank you for actually reading it all! I always feel this stuff isn't that interesting even to NPB fans...

Steve said...

I was thinking about checking out some of the college ball next weekend (23-24) as I have nothing else planned. Are you planning on going then?

I've never actually been to the college games here :(

Deanna said...

I am infact planning to go on the 23-24, but it's kind of complicated -- I have to actually go to a school event on the 23rd, so that day I was mostly planning to come by to say hello (or more like goodbye) to some people and maybe get in some last bugging for autographs/photos. The 24th I'm going to be there all day but Hosei's game is in the morning so I'm not sure how exactly I will handle that.

Soukeisen, which is guaranteed to fill up Jingu and be exciting with tons of people cheering and yelling, is actually the week after that but I suppose the Marines might be in the Japan Series by then...