Sunday, March 28, 2010

Game Report: Marines vs. Fighters @ Chiba Marine - Wherefore Art Thou, Hisashi Takeda?

TLDR Version: The Fighters managed to get a nice cushy 3-1 lead behind starter Yu Darvish, and then handed the ball off to their bullpen, and closer Hisashi Takeda gave up two runs in the bottom of the 9th to bring the game into extra innings, where it would end up being tied 3-3.

I don't really know what to say about this game either. At least now I know that the reason Makoto Kaneko hasn't been playing is because he hurt his left oblique muscle or something like that, so he got taken off the roster to recover for a bit. Hence Iiyama starting at short on Friday and Masayoshi Katoh starting on Saturday.

Quite frankly, I'd rather have Kaneko out there, but failing that, Katoh seems a better choice than Iiyama.

On the other hand, I got the good news that Ryota Imanari, after hitting himself in the head with his bat on Friday (apparently it was windy/wet and he lost his grip), came out of it bruised but none the worse for the wear, so he should be okay.

Saturday was a lot more crowded than Friday in the Fighters cheering section, though the Marines cheering section had shrunk, being as Friday night the left-field seats were full of jersey-wearing screamers, but Saturday it was full of people not standing up at all.

The ceremonial first pitch was replaced by, oddly, a "Ceremonial First Catch". The catcher was Isoyama Sayaka, a model/"talent"/whatever, who has apparently been a huge baseball fan her whole life and used to want to become the next incarnation of Minami from the manga "Touch" and was a manager of her high school baseball team, before becoming an announcer for the Swallows and other such things. The pitcher was Takashi "The New" Ogino. And the batter was none other than new manager Norifumi Nishimura. It was quite weird. Sayaka came in dressed as a bride, with a huge dress and veil and big white glove, and she crouched behind home plate and CAUGHT a pitch thrown by Ogino. The loudspeaker even yelled "Nice catch!" as opposed to the normal "Nice Pitch!"

She also wrote about it on her blog.


Darvish was pitching against Shunsuke Watanabe, but I wasn't really all that excited about it being Shunsuke Day, for obvious reasons. This year is weird.

Darvish got off to a rocky start in the first inning and loaded the bases, but then struck out two guys to end it, which made it a 3-strikeout inning. And the second inning was also 3 strikeouts and a hit. It wasn't until the 3rd inning where Lotte got a run, after The New Ogino singled, stole second while Iguchi was at bat (Iguchi struck out to make it 7 K's), stole THIRD while Tae-Kyun Kim was at bat, and then scored when Kim hit a fly ball out to center which became a sac fly. 1-0. The Marines fans were yelling Kim's name after the inning to take a bow for the RBI, but we were all like "WHY THE HELL AREN'T YOU CHEERING FOR OGINO? HE'S THE ONE WHO STOLE TWO BASES IN A ROW, WITHOUT HIM YOU HAVE NO POINTS, YOU MORONS."

Toshimasa Konta hit a solo home run in the 4th to tie it up at 1-1. One of the women in the group I was hanging out with is nicknamed "Kon-chan" because her last name is Kondoh and she loves Konta, so she was holding up her Konta sign and jumping up and down like crazy.

Tsuboi led off the top of the 5th with a single to left, and Tsuruoka bunted him up, and then we got to see Masayoshi Katoh's FIRST PROFESSIONAL HIT!!! Hooray!! And he hit this beautiful line drive out to center, it banged against the back wall for a double and Tsuboi scored, 2-1. Amidst our CCBB chance music, Toshimasa Konta came through with ANOTHER RBI hit, a single to center, and Katoh scored! 3-1! I could just imagine Konta and Darvish as the game heroes at that point, which would be pretty awesome.

And well, it sure looked like it would be that way for a while. Got to see my boy Yasutaka Hattori pitch for Lotte, and also Yoshihiro Itoh. And on the Fighters' side, Darvish lasted 6 innings and 11 strikeouts, and then Yoshinori Tateyama came in for him. I put a towel over my head and he went K-K-8 for a quick inning! Brian Wolfe also pitched a scoreless inning although it was really close, he lucked out in Iiyama managed to make a great play by jumping for a liner and doubling Saburo off 2nd base. (My friends were calling him "ELF-CHAN!" because Wolfe becomes "U-RU-FU" in katakana, which is like "E-RU-FU".)

We were also singing the Nishioka new song along with the Lotte ouendan, or more like, every time it got up to where they yell "SPEEDO-SUTAAAA" we would yell that and all giggle. This was amusing until the 9th inning when said speed star tied the damn game. The other thing was that the Kim Tae-Kyun cheer has the Korean for "kattobase" and "get a hit", except the latter seems to be "Anta", which is Japanese for "You". (Thanks to Steve, I saw this on the Marines' site.) So while the Marines fans were yelling "ANTA KIM TAE-KYUN", which is like "HEY YOU KIM TAE-KYUN", we were all yelling each others' names at each other, like "ANTA DEANNA!" which would mean "HEY YOU DEANNA!" It was pretty silly.

So anyway, that bottom of the 9th inning featured our closer Hisashi Takeda coming in and getting the first our by striking out a pinch-hitting Hisao Heiuchi. (Sigh.) Then Speed Star Nishioka got a ingle and went to second on a passed ball, and The New Ogino bunted up the first-base line but the play was late and so both runners were safe at the corners. Iguchi was hit by a pitch, dead on... so the bases were loaded for HEY YOU KIM TAE-KYUN, who singled to center and drove in Nishioka and Ogino and arrrrrrrrrrrgh 3-3. Hisashi intentionally walked Shoitsu Ohmatsu then to load the bases again, which DID work out in that Saburo grounded to short, Iiyama threw the ball home and started a 6-2-3 double play to end the inning.

There was a major WTF in the bottom of the 10th, with Miyanishi pitching for the Fighters. Nishioka singled, and then Ogino bunted again, except this time the ball was popped up in the air, so I guess Nishioka stayed at first, only the ball landed and Miyanishi threw it to first, so both Ogino AND Nishioka were doubled off the base, AND Nishioka had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. REALLY crazy.

And then to make it even CRAZIER, Tadahito Iguchi hit a SHOT out to left field, right towards us. I mean, it looked like it was going to be a home run for sure... for sure... and then it hit the left-field wall like 6 inches below the yellow line to only be a double. Thank you, Ridiculous Chiba Winds! The entire Fighters cheering section pretty much breathed a collective sigh of relief.

And that's really all there was to say about this game. Yabuta pitched two perfect extra innings and then Bill Murphy pitched a third so the Fighters couldn't win, and Masao Kida managed to get the hell out of the game without the Marines scoring too, and by the time the game ended it was already past 6pm and dark and ABSOLUTELY FREEZING OUTSIDE.

I ran into Steve of the We Love Marines blog when getting in line to take the bus to Kaihin-Makuhari station, and he was with a Japanese coworker who spoke perfect English, so the three of us ended up going to an izakaya after the game and hung out and talked baseball and other crap for a few hours. Good times. It was also really good to see Steve again, and maybe I'll take him up on his offer to do a picnic table night sometime at Chiba Marine!

I didn't go to the third game of the Marines-Fighters series today, as I have some other important things to do, but it seems to be 4-2 in the 5th inning as I finish this up, so for the love of god, Fighters, WIN A DAMN GAME ALREADY!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Random Bits Between Posts (HS and College, mostly)

Just finished my Friday Chiba game post, still have to make my Saturday Chiba game post (and I have something much more important to do on Sunday that will most likely keep me from posting for most of this week). But in the meantime...

Koshien-wise, there was a major upset today when Jiyuugaoka managed to beat Tokaidai Sagami and their ace pitcher Shinta Hifumi, who was basically the Poster Boy for this Senbatsu tournament. He's the kid in the "Tokai" uniform you can see on the cover of most Senbatsu magazines, and is like 185cm tall and throws 150km/h. He basically lost something like one game in the past year. I didn't see the game, since I was in Chiba, but it was a little surprising to see the results afterwards.

In less surprising results, Toin trampled Tokaidai Boyo and Ogaki Nichidai won their game against first-appearing 21st-century Kawashima. And the other day, Yosuke Shimabukuro and Konan HS finally got past the first round of a tournament when they beat Kanzei 4-1. Shimabukuro had 14 strikeouts. (I had bet on 15 K's and losing 2-0, shows what I know.)

Teikyo fortunately won their match against Kobe Kokusai, although it was a tight game and Teikyo didn't start scoring runs until the late innings. 2nd-year Takuro Itoh, my current favorite player, pitched a complete game despite getting hit in the leg with a pitch during his first at-bat. The other Teikyo "ace pitcher", Shota Suzuki, played first base for the game and hit a home run that tied the game up 2-2 before a passed ball got the go-ahead run in. Pretty crazy.

I already mentioned I joined the Yakult Fan Club because it's one of the best deals in baseball, right? Well, it even gets better -- they just sent me my first fan club pack, which has a quarterly magazine, "Ondo", but it also has the "2010 Fan Book", which is essentially almost exactly the same as the yearbooks/guides that most teams are selling for 1000 yen or more. So, so far, for my 5000 yen, I've gotten a bag and a ticketholder, a yearbook, a magazine, free tickets to the preseason games, and I'll still get 5 free tickets upcoming as well as discounts for the year. I know it's odd for a Fighters fan to be plugging another team's fan club, but this is a seriously good deal if you live in Tokyo and plan to go to Jingu more than 4 times this year.

Speaking of Jingu, the Big 6 Team Rosters have finally been updated on the official league site. Of note:

Waseda: Saitoh is number 10 now because he's the captain, but Ohishi changed from #15 to #1. Not sure what else is interesting. Keijiro's Little Brother seems to have made the cut, as he's listed with a uniform number #7 (which he had before).

Keio: This team is pretty heavy on 4th-year players and 2nd-year players, which shouldn't be too surprising when you realize the 2nd-year kids are the Koshien squad from two years ago. But there are like 4 numbered 3rd-years and the rest are all 4th- or 2nd-. Kei Tamura has #18 and Naohiko Tadano has #35, so it's promising that I'll finally get to see them play this year as the team has VERY little pitching left, almost all of it graduated last year. Note: Akihiro Hakumura is NOT numbered. This is not weird as Keio rarely puts 1st-years on the official squad.

Meiji: Not much surprising here. Ikenaga is numbered! Hooray! But since the captain Yamauchi is also a catcher it's unlikely my favorite bespectacled catcher will get much playing time. Fumiya Araki is still registered as a shortstop despite that I think he'll be playing CF. Only two guys below 3rd-year are numbered. One is Takashi Uemoto, aka Hiroki's Little Brother, and the other is outfielder Masahiro Tohgi, who I can't remember if I've seen or not.

Hosei: It's so sad to see all the seniors gone. Ryo Imai seems to have changed numbers from #1 to #24. A kid named Miyagaki took #1, but I don't think he's ever appeared in an official game. Fumiya Kitayama took #18, I've never seen him pitch either. Kanji Kawai, the kid I was psyched to see go to Hosei from Chukyodai Chukyo, has #26, so maybe we will actually see him get some game action after all! I'm not sure who the 3rd baseman will be anyway with Waizumi gone, so if Kawai can put up a better bat than Kameda or Hasegawa...

Rikkio: Nihira took #18. Hirahara isn't numbered. Neither is Yamada Yusuke, weirdly. I have no further comment.

Tokyo: comment here either.

There's actually a series at Jingu this weekend going on between Big 6 teams and Industrial League teams. Today, Saginomiya trampled Tokyo University 6-0, and Rikkio played NTT Higashinihon out to a 5-5 tie.

Sunday the 28th, Waseda takes on Sumitomo Metals Kashima at 11am and Meiji takes on Kazusa Magic at 1:30pm. Monday, Keio takes on Mitsubishi Yokohama at 11am and Hosei takes on ENEOS at 1:30pm. I'm not going to any of them, but if I could only go to one, I'd go to the Hosei one, and not just because I'm a Kagami fangirl -- I honestly think it'll be the most interesting matchup. Meiji's game should be interesting too.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Game Report: Marines vs. Fighters @ Chiba -- When There's A Wind, There's A Way

TLDR Version: Friday night was FREEZING COLD in Chiba and the Marines beat the crap out of the Fighters, 9-1, with Tomoya Yagi giving up three 2-run home runs.

I don't know what possessed me to go to the game in Chiba tonight, besides that I pretty much always go to Fighters games if at all possible. It was raining and windy and about 5 degrees Celsius out there, which is in the low 40's, plus the windchill. Gah. I should have just stayed home and continued watching Koshien, though to be fair I had very little interest in the third game anyway. On the other hand, GO TEIKYO! A stupid win is still a win! (They basically got their go-ahead run on a passed ball. I still worry that Takuro Itoh was hurt by a pitch during his first at-bat, though.)

When I arrived, I was also informed by Ojisan and some other Kamagaya faithful that Ryota Imanari (I wear an Imanari #62 jersey most of the time) had gotten hit in the head with a bat during the game earlier that day in Kamagaya and was in the hospital getting checked out. Argh.

It was the first home game in Chiba (not Opening Day per se, as that was last weekend), so there was a pretty big crowd. They also had a ton of festivities for opening day. What was weird about them, to me at least, is that it seemed like they were set on being distinctly Japanese, as if to distinguish this year's Marines from not having any pesky Americans in control anymore.

After all, the slogan for this year's team is "Wa", which basically is the Japanese symbol meaning something to the effect of balance/peace/harmony/whatever. I guess it refers to the team being a finely balanced Japanese machine again. So rather than seeing people with "Bobby 2010" banners out, instead this year you saw the M-Splash girls wearing ridiculously little given how cold it was, and carrying "Wa" banners:

And the other pre-game ceremonies featured things like a taiko drum performance and some Japanese swordplay, and an actual performance of Kimigayo, the national anthem, which I don't remember ever hearing in Chiba before.

They had all the players on both teams come out and stand on the lines and announced the starting lineup that way, too.

The ceremonial first pitch was actress Nana Eikura. She wore #7 (because her name is Nana, which is also the number 7 in Japanese) and rode out in the bullpen car and actually managed to throw the ball to home plate! It was a Tadano-eephus-like throw, but it made it there, which is better than most non-athlete women seem to manage.

And then there was a game. Yagi started for the Fighters, and Yoshihisa "The Boy Who Can't Lose" Naruse started for the Marines.

Makoto Kaneko was not in the starting lineup and I'm not really sure why.

I should mention, yet again, that it was COLD and WINDY and RAINING, which may account for a whole bunch of the events in the game. It may also explain why I spent most of the game huddled up in my jacket feeling absolutely miserable. People kept going back to the food stands to get hot curry or soup or coffee, I saw several people drop their cheer sticks due to wearing thick gloves, and you could even see the players kind of jumping up and down to keep warm. But I also have to wonder if the cold didn't affect their gloves and such somehow -- a stiff glove and a cold wet baseball has got to be different than a soft glove and a normal baseball.

Anyway, things started off promisingly when Tomohiro Nioka lofted a ball to right field. We were all expecting it to go foul and/or get caught then suddenly it was a home run, which was crazy. 1-0, but that was the only run the Fighters would score.

Takashi "The New" Ogino evened things up in the bottom of the 1st with a home run that landed like 3 rows in front of me, after a Nishioka triple. 2-1.

In the 3rd, Nishioka got on base on a fielder's choice, stole second, advanced on an Ogino groundout and scored on an Iguchi single to make it 3-1.

Then the 4th was pretty awful. With one out, DH Imaoka walked, and Satozaki hit a home run right into the Fighters ouendan leaders. 5-1. Imae followed that with a walk and then Nishioka scored for the third time that day by ALSO hitting a 2-run homer that went over a jumping Itoi in dead center to make it 7-1.

Yagi stayed in, and in the 5th, Tae-Kyun Kim led off with a single, and then an out later, Saburo hit a grounder to short, only Iiyama dropped the ball, and it went into LF, AND when Sho threw the ball to third, it was a bit off and so Kim was safe there. Imaoka hit a bases-clearing double after that to make it 9-1.

I might also point out that Imaoka had a perfect 1.000 batting average after opening weekend, and after a walk and two hits here, he STILL had a 1.000 batting average:

So yeah, Yagi gave up 9 runs, although only 8 were earned, I believe.

Takahiro Matsuka (yay!) pitched two innings and managed to do his normal thing, by which I mean he struck out 2 guys and walked 3 guys and gave up no hits. I wonder how long it'll take for him to strike out more and walk less. Takayuki Kanamori also pitched two innings and walked 2 and struck out 2.

As for Boy Wonder Naruse, he lasted 8 innings and only gave up that one run to Nioka. Bill Murphy closed out the game with a 1-2-3 inning and two strikeouts.

I really wish the Fighters would stop playing Iiyama. He keeps screwing up. In addition to his poor fielding, he also ran us out of the inning in the 3rd by trying to score from second on a passed ball, although maybe I should blame that on third base coach Makishi as I usually do.

What's also embarrassing is that the Marines made two errors in the 7th inning -- one was Nishioka simply dropping the ball (again, like a Kensuke error earlier on it looked like a stiff glove) and the second was the team failing to get Dai-kan Yoh out on a rundown between 3rd and home because they missed the base throwing back to 3rd -- and either way, the Fighters didn't get a single run out of it. Sheesh.

Kazuya Murata grounded out to end the game, which is notable mostly because his father was sitting in the outfield with us (apparently it is drier and more interesting than the infield, at least that's what he said). Murata is from Chiba, so his parents used to come to Kamagaya all the time to see him play.

Anyway, I pretty much BOLTED from the stadium the second the game ended. I was freezing cold, quite tired, and grumpy because the Fighters lost, and I figured if I dashed out, I could buy a ticket for Saturday and still get in line quickly for the shuttle bus back to the station, so I did exactly that. Never have I been so glad to be sitting on a train with heaters under the seat as I was the minute I got on the Keiyo train back towards Tokyo.

I found out on the train that the game heroes were Naruse and Ogino, which I guess makes sense.

I have to admit that it's really weird for me to come to Chiba Marine Stadium with the change in administration, and not just because I have to pay for my tickets now. I think that for most people the experience is completely the same -- the Fighters fans, some of us know the Marines cheers better than others, so they were saying how weird some of the new changed cheers are, but some people totally didn't notice, except that "hey, they don't have all of their normal banners and signs up, WTF?" and I was like "Last year's ouendan completely quit and took all their stuff with them." The thing is, the RF stands were still completely full of people cheering and jumping in unison. On the surface, nothing has changed. But if you really look, it has.

Plus, quite frankly, a Tae-Kyun Kim kimchee burger is simply not as good as a Bobby Burger. End of line.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Went To Koshien And All I Got Was This Mudslide

Sat through three games at Koshien yesterday after all. It was lightly sprinkling rain from the start of the Kochi-Shinko game, then was pretty much raining through Morioka-Chukyo, and it became a total rainfest and mudslide for Chiben-Takaoka. Shini and I were right behind the 1st-base dugout until the 4th inning or so of the second game, then moved back to dry seats under the infield roof at that point through the end of the third game. In short, Shinko won 6-5 on a sayonara hit after Kochi tied it up in the 9th; Chukyo won 5-4 in another surprisingly close game, but Chiben pretty much clobbered Takaoka 6-1; it would probably have been more without the rain (there were a few balls hit where I swear, without the wind and rain, they'd have been way out of the park).

After the game we went to the new Koshien History Museum, which was pretty neat, and I may have to make a separate post about it eventally.

Anyway, Koshien got cancelled for today (Wednesday) due to all the rain, which sucks, but at least it means I can catch up a bit later tonight, maybe. As for now, here are just a sprinkling of photos that I cropped so far..

Shinko Gakuen pitcher Maenaka. He is actually the ONLY pitcher the school has and threw like 2398043289328 innings during the qualifying tournaments.

Kochi captain Daishi Sakamoto. This is in the top of the 9th -- he had just scored the tying run to make it 5-5 and was obviously ecstatic.

Junpei Morimoto, pitcher for Chukyodai Chukyo. Bizarrely, the last Chukyo game I saw in the summer, he also started.

Yuji Takatoh, pitcher for Morioka Daifu. (Not their ace, that was Shiraishi.) Takatoh seems to have taken a leaf from the school of Ma-kun and was yelling before and after every pitch.

You have no idea how impressive the Chiben Wakayama cheering group is until you see it in person. They make this gigantic C in the stands and pretty much take over the entire alps and are LOUD. I think the cheering group is almost as impressive as the team.

The Takaoka Shogyo boys coming back to their dugout after the game ended. Look at how shiny the ground is and how muddy the nice white uniforms have become. It was ridiculous by the end, watching a guy headslide through that or take a dive for a ball and end up splattered all over the place.

And on another, non-game note...

Finally got a photo with the Colonel Sanders inside Koshien. Cute, huh?

Here's the schedule of the teams and which side they're on posted outside the stadium, kind of a "proof that I was at Koshien on this day" kind of photo.

Okay, more later. For now going to try to come up with things to do in Osaka that don't involve baseball.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm in Osaka!

I'll be going to Koshien (the Spring Invitational High School Baseball Tournament, aka Senbatsu) on Tuesday, Wednesday, and the morning part of Thursday. Well, assuming there isn't a ton of rain, which there is supposed to be, and which will suck.

If you want real indepth coverage of Koshien, you should, as always, read this Kokoyaku blog rather than mine or anyone else's. But I do hope to take some decent shots while I'm there, weather and seating permitting.

Something I find amusing is that the way the draw worked, yesterday, Yamagata Chuo, one of the three "21st-century teams", came to Koshien and immediately got POUNDED 14-4 by perennial powerhouse Nichidai Sanko (aka Nihon University #3 HS). "Welcome to Koshien, Yamagata Chuo, now it's time to meet your worst nightmare, Nichidai San..."

Today, Koyo HS from Wakayama, another 21st-century team, managed to beat Kaisei from Shimane. Guess who they're playing next? "Welcome to Koshien, Koyo. Meet Nichidai San."

Our plan is to hit Koshien by 8am tomorrow, since the games start at 9, and the rain is supposed to start around 2pm. We should hopefully get at least one rain-free game in... sadly the first one is Shinko Gakuen vs. Kochi, which isn't nearly as interesting as Morioka Daifu vs. summer defending champions Chukyodai Chukyo, the second match of the day. The third is Takaoka Shogyo against perennial contestants Chiben Wakayama.

Wednesday's matches should include Kansei vs. Konan, Teikyo vs. Kobe Kokusai, and Imabari Nishi vs. Mie, all interesting ones. Sadly, by the time that Hifumi kid and Tokaidai Sagamihara starts, I should be on a train going back to Tokyo. Alas. This is, of course, assuming no games get pushed back due to rain. Really, as long as I get to see Teikyo and Itoh-kun again, I won't be too sad.

By the way, get a load of today's Fighters game! They were up 14-1 by the time I left to go to Tokyo station in the 2nd or 3rd inning, and eventually won 16-2. Crazy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Liveblogging: Fighters vs. Hawks @ Sapporo Dome

I almost missed the start of this game because of Koshien -- Tsuruga Kehi just beat Tenri after a pretty nailbiting end. I was cheering for Kehi because I've actually been to Tsuruga, plus I saw them play last year at Koshien. (Unfortunately, they played against Teikyo, so I was cheering against them then, but I really liked their ace Yamada, who now plays for Orix.)

BS1 came into this game late, so I'm starting from the bottom of the first. I'll fill in the plays before this and the lineups in a bit. Trying to do this in a slightly more "sokuhou" style and less of a liveblog this time.

As always, feel free to ping me on IM/email/comments. I'm also in the Koshien chatroom today.


Honda 2b Kensuke 2b
Kawasaki ss Nioka dh
Ortiz lf Inaba rf
Kokubo 1b Shinji 1b
Tamura rf Itoi cf
Lee Bum-ho dh Koyano 3b
"Wall" Hasegawa cf NAKATA SHO OMG lf
Matsuda 3b Ohno c
Tanoue c Kaneko! ss

---------- ----------
Kenji Ohtonari Masaru Takeda

Top of the first (F 0, H 0)
Groundout to third, single to right, 6-4-3 double play. I didn't see it.

Bottom of the first (F 0, H 0)
Kensuke hits a pop fly to center. (empty, 1 out)
Nioka grounds out to short. (empty, 2 out)
Inaba singles to right! (1st, 2 out)
Shinji strikes out. (3 out)

Top of the second (F 0, H 0)
Kokubo grounds out to short. (empty, 1 out)
Tamura also grounds out to short. (empty, 2 out)
Lee strikes out swinging. (3 out)

Bottom of the second (F 0, H 0)
Itoi strikes out. (empty, 1 out)
Koyano hits a pop fly to right. (empty, 2 out)
Nakata strikes out. (3 out)

Top of the third (F 0, H 0)
Hasegawa grounds out to short. (empty, 1 out)
Matsuda fouls off a ton before striking out. (empty, 2 out)
Tanoue grounds out to short. (3 out)

Wow, this game is going really fast -- it's only 1:39pm. Second Koshien game hasn't even started yet.

Bottom of the third (F 1, H 0)
Ohno hits a pop fly to center. (empty, 1 out)
Kensuke grounds to second, but it's deep and the play isn't in time!!! SAFE! (1st, 1 out)
Kensuke steals second during Nioka's at-bat when Tanoue drops the ball : (2nd, 1 out)
Nioka hits a sharp liner to 1st, which Kokubo dives for and runs back to the bag in time. Kensuke to third. (3rd, 2 out)
Inaba walks on four straight pitches!!! (1st and 3rd, 2 out)
Shinji... unfortunately, pops out foul and Tanoue makes the catch. (3 out)

Still, Kaneko!!! Hooray!!!

Top of the fourth (F 1, H 0)
Honda hits a low pop fly to center. (empty, 1 out)
Kawasaki grounds out to second. (empty, 2 out)
Ortiz grounds out to third. (3 out)

Bottom of the fourth (F 1, H 0)
Itoi golfs one up to center. (empty, 1 out)
Koyano singles to right!! (1st, 1 out)
Nakata hits a pop fly out to second. (1st, 2 out)
Ohno hits a pop fly to right. (3 out)


Top of the fifth (F 1, H 0)
Kokubo lines out to third, GREAT grab by Koyano! (empty, 1 out)
Tamura hits a pop fly, caught by Kensuke. (empty, 2 out)
Lee hits a pop fly out to Inaba. (3 out)
(Lee first hit this one HUGE shot that fortunately was JUST foul. Whew.)

Bottom of the fifth (F 1, H 0)
Kaneko strikes out :( (empty, 1 out)
Kensuke hits a pop fly out to left. (empty, 2 out)
Nioka hits a foul and... it's caught. (3 out)

Top of the sixth (F 1, H 0)
Hasegawa grounds out to short. (empty, 1 out)
Matsuda grounds out to short too. (empty, 2 out)
Tanoue ALSO grounds out to short! (3 out)

Bottom of the sixth (F 1, H 0)
Inaba hits a pop fly out to right. (empty, 1 out)
Shinji hits a grounder to second and Honda makes a nice play on it. (empty, 2 out)
Itoi hits a foul fly caught by Matsuda. (3 out)

Is it REALLY already time for Izayuke Wakataka Gundan? 2:34pm...

Top of the seventh (F 1, H 1)
Honda ...bunts? to the pitcher and is out. (empty, 1 out)
Kawasaki grounds right to first, unassisted. (empty, 2 out)

Pitcher switch: Shintaro Ejiri replaces Masaru Takeda on the mound. Not really sure why as Masaru only threw 74 pitches, but...

Ortiz... singles to left on a full count after Ejiri throws like 3 pitches way the hell outside. Doh. (1st, 2 out)
Kokubo doubles to right and.... and... and Ortiz scores oh crap. 1-1.
Tamura grounds out to Kaneko. (3 out)

Sigh. Ejiri, you make me sad. :(
8 groundouts to Kaneko today, pretty crazy.

Bottom of the seventh (F 1, H 1)
Koyano hits a pop fly out to center. (empty, 1 out)
Nakata strikes out swinging. (empty, 2 out)
Ohno singles to left!!!! (1st, 2 out)
Kaneko grounds out. Doh. (3 out)

Top of the eighth (F 1, H 1)

Lee walks. (1st, no out)
Pinch-runner - Kenji Akashi replaces Bum-Ho Lee at first.
Hasegawa comes up bunting and is successful eventually, Tateyama making the play. (2nd, 1 out)
Matsuda strikes out. (2nd, 2 out)
Tanoue strikes out too! (3 out)

Thank you, Tateyama :)
(Uh, why is the stadium organ playing "Do the Hustle"?)

Bottom of the eighth (F 1, H 1)
Kensuke hits a pop fly out to left. (empty, 1 out)
Nioka doubles into the gap in left-center!!!! (2nd, 1 out)
Pinch-runner - Toshimasa Konta replaces Tomohiro Nioka at 2nd.

Pitching change: Tadashi Settsu replaces Kenji Ohtonari on the mound.
"Kita no kuni kara" chance music for Inaba. Let's see what he can do with it...

Inaba strikes out :( (2nd, 2 out)
Shinji grounds out to the mound. (3 out)

Grr. This is what I get for saying the game is fast. Koshien's second game finished, Hanasaki won 4-0. Next up is Nichidai-san...

Top of the ninth (F 1, H 1)
Pitching change: Naoki Miyanishi replaces Tateyama on the mound.

Honda strikes out. (empty, 1 out)
Kawasaki also strikes out! (empty, 2 out)
Ortiz hits the ball to center and OMG ITOI ITOI ITOI AMAZING BUCKET CATCH!!!!! (3 out)

Come on Fighters -- let's end this game!

Bottom of the ninth (F 1, H 1)
Player changes: Ryuma Kidokoro takes over in center and Hasegawa moves to left. Settsu is still pitching.

Itoi grounds out to second. (empty, 1 out)
Koyano walks on four straight pitches. (1st, 1 out)
Nakata gets up to a full count and walks on a pitch that nearly hits him in the head. (1st and 2nd, 1 out)
Pinch-runner: Kazuya Murata runs at 1st for Sho Nakata.
Tsuboi pinch-hits for Ohno... and gets hit in the leg! Runners advance! (Bases loaded, 1 out)
Kaneko ... oh the suspense. Gets up to 2-0, then a few fouls later is 2-2, then a waaaay outside pitch for 3-2... come on!



4-2-3 DOUBLE PLAY. Inning over.

Oh geez. This SUCKS.

Top of the tenth (F 1, H 1)
Player changes: Murata in left, Tsuruoka catching, and Brian Wolfe is going to pitch.

Kokubo hits a long fly ball to Itoi. (empty, 1 out)
Tamura hits a fly ball to right. (empty, 2 out)
Akashi grounds out to short. (3 out)

Brian Wolfe hit 151 km/h and they got excited about it.
Also I am amused that Hitoshi Tamura changed his name spelling so now it's the same as Toshihisa Nishi's last name (仁志).

Bottom of the tenth (F 1, H 1)
Brian Falkenborg takes over pitching for Tadashi Settsu.

Kensuke strikes out. (empty, 1 out)
Konta singles to right!! (1st, 1 out)
Konta steals second during Inaba's at-bat. (2nd, 1 out)
Inaba hits a pop fly out to left. (2nd, 2 out)
Shinji strikes out. (3 out)

Top of the eleventh (F 1, H 2)
Pitching change: Hisashi Takeda takes over for Brian Wolfe.

Hasegawa hits a pop fly out to Itoi. (empty, 1 out)
Matsuda hits a home run to straightaway centerfield, it goes "thunk" in the aisle between Fighters fans and bounces back onto the field. Argh, 2-0
Tanoue grounds out to second. (empty, 2 out)
Honda grounds out too. Whatever.

Bottom of the eleventh (F 1, H 2)
Uh, Mahara is in for the Hawks.

Itoi grounds out to second. (1 out)
Koyano hits a pop fly to center. (2 out)
Murata groundout to second, game over.

Screw this, I'm going to watch Koshien for a bit. No, that means I'm not watching the hero interview or anything else.

Photopost: Fighters vs. Dragons @ Kamagaya -- The Nakata Show, Take Two

This post is not actually heavy on Sho Nakata photos, but I was down at Kamagaya on Tuesday the 16th for the final Fighters preseason game, which was against the Chunichi Dragons. Or should I say, it was against the Chunichi Dragons' minor-league team. After all, these were the starting lineups:

Chunichi Fighters
-------- --------
Ohshima rf Kensuke 2b
Cesar cf Nioka dh
Nomoto dh Inaba rf
Blanco 1b Shinji 1b
Arai 3b Itoi cf
Fujii lf Koyano 3b
Tani 3b Nakata lf
Maeda c Tsuruoka c
Iwasaki ss Kaneko ss

Itoh p Keppel p

Notice anything odd about that? The Fighters' lineup is the exact same as their Opening Day lineup, but the Dragons lineup is basically a bunch of guys who have very little chance of making the opening day lineup, aside from Blanco. So I was pretty pissed off, as were a whole bunch of other people, since this is a great chance to see the top players close up. I know that at least Wada and Morino were there, even though they didn't appear in the game, as I saw them hanging out in the dugout in the later innings, but Araki and Ibata were nowhere to be seen, nor was Tanishige. I guess Ochiai figures a minor-league park is meant for minor-leaguers. Or something.

At least they brought Doala with them.

Anyway, this was a fairly boring landslide of a game, combined with a sky that threatened to open rain upon us at any moment. Bobby Keppel forgot his jersey and had to borrow one from Brian Wolfe, but apparently that was lucky for him as he pitched 5 no-hit no-run innings against the Dragonbutts.

The big story of the day was when Sho Nakata managed to hit two home runs in two consecutive at bats ("Of course he did, we're at Kamagaya," said one of my friends) off Edward Valdez, but the second one was this GIGANTIC shot that actually completely went out of the stadium and hit the drink machine across the street and outside the building used as a dorm and training facility. I mean, like, the minute the ball left the bat, you knew it was GONE. It might be one of the biggest home runs I've ever seen someone hit in Japan.

You know what the craziest thing is? I was watching him being swamped by reporters afterwards, but rather than acting like "I'm Sho Nakata and I'm a badass and I deserve to be at ichi-gun, did you SEE that shot?" he was more like "I'm still kinda worried whether I'll make the opening day roster, but I'm going to do my best this year and work hard to help the team -- wish me luck."

Anyway, the Fighters won 6-1 in a pretty dumb matchup, so rather than talking about the game, here are some of the photos I took that day, in no particular order:

Doala during the pre-game ceremonies. Cubby had been throwing balls out of a basket, but Doala missed the point and tried to throw the basket instead.

Fighters' starter Bobby Keppel. Notice the uniform he's wearing. No, it really is Keppel, not Wolfe. Really.

Dragons starter Junki Itoh, who went one inning and gave up a bunch of runs and was taken out.

Inaba is still adorable.

This is Yoshio Itoi hitting his 2-RBI double in the first inning.

Nioka and Kensuke scored on the Itoi double.

Edward Valdez took over on the mound.

The mascots were supposed to go sell popcorn to the fans. Cubby and BB sold all of theirs but Doala came back with half a box and got scolded.

This is one of my favorite pictures, oddly -- Kaneko ran up to Keppel with a huge grin and went to high-five punch him on the way back from the mound. It was cute. I ♥ Kaneko.

This is after Nakata's second home run. Takayuki Takaguchi gave him such a hard congratulatory smack on the back of the head that his helmet started falling off.

Masayoshi Katoh! He's the only kid from this year's draft class to make the opening day roster.

Masao Kida has this funky follow-through where he looks like he's flying.

Kida comes off the mound and high-gloves Shota Ohno.

Masanori Hayashi.

Chunichi boy band member Takuya Asao.

Yuji Iiyama slides into home ahead of the tag (or lunge or whatever).

Ohno catches a Nomoto foul fly for the final out of the game. Hey, you can see Kazuki "YOU SUCK!!" Inoue standing in the front of the dugout, now that he's a coach.

Team high-fives after winning the game.

It's neat to be only a few feet away from these wonderful guys :)
(Atsunori Inaba and Makoto Kaneko, if you're not familiar with the team.)

Final scoreboard.

Nashida-kantoku holds court with reporters afterwards.

The Nakata Show, as it were. (I have been informed you can see the other side of this on Youtube.)

This was the crowd of people watching the Chunichi players escape into their bus.

Which is why I ended up just walking back to Kamagaya station afterwards. The line to take a shuttle bus back to the station was ridiculously long, and the crowds of people waiting around the Dragons bus and around the Fighters' exit was just crazy. I like Kamagaya after a normal game, where there'll be like 50 fans or so hanging out by the dormitory hoping to get autographs or photos. 3000 people is a little more than I can deal with.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Liveblogging: Opening Day! Fighters vs. Hawks @ Sapporo Dome

The game's on BS1, so I don't have to figure out the new pay-to-view streaming video thing!

Getting this up to speed in a moment. The pregame is already on, with some elementary school choir girls singing the national anthem...


Honda 2b Kensuke 2b
Kawasaki ss Nioka dh
Ortiz lf Inaba rf
Kokubo 1b Shinji 1b
Tamura?! rf Itoi cf
Lee Bum-ho dh Koyano 3b
"Wall" Hasegawa cf NAKATA SHO OMG lf
Matsuda 3b Tsuruoka c
Tanoue c Kaneko! ss

---------- ----------
Sugiuchi (15-5, 2.36) Darvish (15-5, 1.73)

Feel free to ping me in comments or on email/IM if you want to chat about the game!

Wow, didn't realize Darvish and Sugiuchi had the same W/L record last year. It's funny given that Sugiuchi is barely bigger than me.

Weird to see an opening day lineup for the Hawks without Nobuhiko Matsunaka on it, but he's still recovering from knee surgery and working out in the minors. Poor guy.

Top of the first (F 0, H 0)
Honda strikes out swinging. Kawasaki catches an outside pitch on his bat and lines out to short. Ortiz strikes out swinging too!

Nice start for Darvish!

Bottom of the first (F 0, H 0)
Kensuke grounds out to second. Nioka hits a pop fly out to right (caught at second). Inaba fouls a few off before striking out.

(It's nice to see that the crowd still does the clapping to Sky High for Nioka.)

Top of the second (F 0, H 2)
Kokubo leads off with a single to right... and Tamura follows it up with a single to center past a diving Kaneko, Kokubo going to second. Lee bunts up the right side, advancing the runners. Hasegawa grounds to first and... and Shinji can't get ahold of the ball, and by the time he's got it under control, all runners are safe, Kokubo scoring on the error. 1-0. Matsuda grounds to short -- Kaneko to Kensuke is an out at second but Matsuda slides in headfirst at first base ahead of the tag (ugh, I hate headfirst slides, though at least his, he slid onto his stomach instead of just reaching out with his fingers). Tamura scores, 2-0. Tanoue... well, the first pitch bounces in the dirt and Tsuruoka can't block it, so Matsuda is off to second base. Anyway, Tanoue eventually hits a high pop fly that is caught by Kensuke Tanaka to end the inning.


It's 1:30pm and I just put in my laundry, so I have to remember to go add fabric softener at 2:10pm.

Bottom of the second (F 0, H 2)
Shinji leads off with a single to center. Itoi grounds one up the middle, off Sugiuchi's glove, and Kawasaki dives to get it and, while still on the ground, without even transferring the ball out of his glove, flicks the ball to Honda at 2nd to get Shinji on a fielder's choice. Koyano... well, during Koyano's at-bat Sugiuchi makes a pickoff throw and totally catches Itoi with a huge lead, so a rundown ensues and Itoi is out. Anyway, Koyano eventually grounds out to second to end the inning.

Top of the third (F 0, H 3)
Honda strikes out swinging, dropped third pitch thrown to first. Kawasaki singles to center. Ortiz... watches Kawasaki steal second, and then strikes out swinging. Kokubo singles to left and Nakata throws the ball in but it's way over the plate, so Kawasaki scores and Kokubo makes it to second. 3-0. Tamura strikes out swinging to end the inning.

I don't really blame Sho Nakata for that one -- Kawasaki was already off running on the hit, it would have probly been pretty hard for most people actually make that an out at the plate.

Wow, look at Kokubo strutting around with that big "C" on his uniform.

Bottom of the third (F 1, H 3)
Sho Nakata strikes out swinging. Tsuruoka grounds out to third. Kaneko singles to center! Yay! Kensuke walks, so there are two on. Nioka singles to left! Kaneko scores!! 3-1 Two runners on still! Inaba JUMP! lines out to third :(

Still, we got a run! Hooray.

Top of the fourth (F 1, H 3)
Lee got hit by a pitch but I was putting in fabric softener so I didn't see where. Hasegawa bunted him up. Matsuda strikes out. Tanoue hits a pop fly out to center.

They keep showing flashbacks to Akiyama and Nashida as players, it's kinda wacky.

Bottom of the fourth (F 1, H 3)
Shinji strikes out. Itoi singles to right! Koyano doubles to center, and Itoi goes to third! Nakata Sho walks, and the bases are loaded! Tsuruoka strikes out, sadly. Kaneko... grounds out up the first-base line, Sugiuchi throwing the ball to first. Argh. :(

Top of the fifth (F 1, H 4)
Honda hits a pop fly out to center, but Kawasaki singles to center. Kawasaki steals second AGAIN during Ortiz's atbat. Ortiz strikes out, whew. Kokubo doubles to center, over Itoi and hitting the back wall, and Kawasaki scores easily. 4-1. Tamura strikes out! Whew.

It has just been brought to my attention that the Giants are CLOBBERING the Baystars over at the Tokyo Dome right now -- it's the 6th inning and the Giants are already up 15-1 -- Daisuke "Hama no Bancho" Miura started for Yokohama and gave up 14 runs (9 earned) in 4 innings. Holy crap. That's two home runs apiece for Sakamoto and Ogasawara and Yoshinobu, as well as one each for Edgar Gonzalez and Shinnosuke Abe.

On the other hand, I will point out that Bancho has one terrible game EVERY pre-season IIRC -- I was there when he was down 10-1 after 4 innings at Jingu last year, but he came back to have a reasonable year. Good to get it out of his system before it counts, right?

Bottom of the fifth (F 1, H 4)
Kensuke hits a pop fly out to center. Nioka singles to left! Inaba hits a pop fly out to left. Shinji grounds out to second to end the inning. Doh.

Time for YMCA! Hey, it's actually English words instead of Hideki Saijo's "Youngman"... wacky.

Top of the sixth (F 1, H 4)
Lee strikes out. Hasegawa grounds out to third. Matsuda grounds out.

Great, it's time for La La La Fighters, the Fukuhara Miho pop song that was really grating on me last year, but after a winter of getting semi-decent at singing it at karaoke, I don't hate it nearly as much (but still vastly prefer Hayami Kentaro's "Fighters Spirits", the Kamagaya song). Fortunately, BS1 saves us from the song by showing highlights of the game.

Bottom of the sixth (F 3, H 4)
Itoi walks and Koyano singles to center! Sho Nakata almost gets hit in the foot with a pitch, the pitch bounces in the dirt and both runners advance on it. Anyway, NAKATA SINGLES TO LEFT!!! and both runners score and the organ plays Popeye the Sailor Man for some reason and whatever, I'll take it. 4-3! Kazuya Murata pinch-runs for Sho Nakata at first base. Tsuruoka comes up bunting and is successful, Murata to second! And finally some Genghis Khan chance music! Hooray. Kaneko hits a grounder up the first-base line, and Kokubo makes a nice dive to get it and back to the base in time for the out, Murata advancing to third. Kensuke... grounds out to short :(

Time for Izayuke Wakataka Gundan, the Hawks theme, except again, BS1 cuts away from it. Teehee.

I would like to say right now that seriously -- you know how I spent two years making fun of Sho Nakata and all -- but if he's going to actually continue working his butt off and stop being such a jackass this year, I will support him. It's nice to see him grow up, basically.

Top of the seventh (F 3, H 4)
Tanoue strikes out. Honda also strikes out. Kawasaki barely misses a grounder to right that goes just foul, and then hits a grounder to third instead that Koyano snags and gets to first just in time. Three down!

Bottom of the seventh (F 3, H 4)
Pitching change: Sugiuchi out, Tadashi Settsu in.

Nioka singles to center! Inaba JUMP!!! shakes the centerfield cameras -- and Inaba himself strikes out :( Shinji sadly hits into a 4-6-3 double play and that ends the inning.

Oh, I forgot to mention this, but during the earlier innings, finalized plans to go to Koshien next week for Senbatsu! (with Shinigami from the forums.) We'll be there on Tuesday and Wednesday and part of Thursday! If you're going or live in the Osaka area and want to hang out and chat baseball, drop me a line!

Top of the eighth (F 3, H 4)
Darvish is up to 118 pitches but is apparently continuing to pitch... 11 strikeouts already!

Ortiz hits a pop fly out to right. Kokubo strikes out! That's 12! Tamura grounds to short, Kaneko throws the ball to first, but it bounces in the ground and Shinji can't get it and hold onto it for the out, so Tamura is safe. Not sure if that's a shortstop error or a first baseman error (probly the former). Lee hits a high pop fly and Kensuke makes the catch to end the inning.

Anyone want to take bets on when Tamura gets injured for the first time this season, by the way?

And the other PL games are OVER:
Seibu beats Lotte 2-1. Naruse had a no-no into the 6th inning, lost it and lost the game (two solo homers by Hiroyuki Nakajima and Dee Brown, apparently), and even BETTER, Brian Sikorski made the save against his former team. Eat THAT, Lotte front office!
The Buffaloes beat Rakuten 1-0. Man, that's harsh. Poor Iwakuma. He and Chihiro Kaneko both went the distance, Iwakuma throwing 107 pitches and Kaneko 106; the only RBI was on a Keiji Ohbiki hit. Hosei pride, yo.

Bottom of the eighth (F 3, H 4)
Brian Falkenborg takes over on the mound for the Hawks.

Itoi hits a grounder up the first base line. Kokubo throws it to Falkenborg, but Falk and Itoi both reach the bag at the same time and the tie seems to go to Itoi for an infield hit. Koyano sadly strikes out. Kazuya Murata! comes up to bat and scoops one out of nowhere, loops it to third, where it JUST bounces out of Matsuda's glove, for a hit. And here's pinch-hitting Tsuboi, who we saw in the on-deck circle a bit ago!!! But rather than the Tsuboi fanfare they're playing the Kita no Kuni Kara chance theme. Anyway, Tsuboi... grounds up the right-field line. Kokubo gets the ball and throws to second in time to get Murata, but the relay back to first is not in time to catch Tsuboi (Falkenborg comes in to cover, and collides with Kokubo). So, runners at the corners for Kaneko... who unfortunately hits a pop fly out to right. Doh.

Top of the ninth (F 3, H 5)
Darvish is still out there pitching. Shota Ohno has taken over the catching duties for the Fighters.

Hasegawa strikes out (there's number 13). Matsuda hits a biiiiiig one out there to the gap in right-center and makes it all the way around to third for a triple, yikes. Tanoue hits a pop fly to right but the relay is not in time... so it's a sacrifice and Matsuda scores, 5-3. Honda hits a fly out to left to end the inning.

Last chance... it'll be pretty sad if Darvish throws a complete game and strikes out 13 and still loses, really.

Bottom of the ninth (F 3, H 5)
Closer Takahiro Mahara is in for the Hawks.

Kensuke hits a pop fly to short. Nioka grounds out to second. So it's down to Inaba... Inaba strikes out and that's the game, Hawks win it 5-3.

How sad.

Kokubo is the game hero. "How do you feel right now? Good opening game?" "Well... uhh... there are 143 more games after this, but sure, it's nice to win the opener. Getting 5 runs off of Darvish is pretty damn good for us, too."

Two screenshots (well, camera shots of the TV...)

Hello, Mr. Captain, sir.

Final score, with the Kokubo banner in the Hawks stands.

I would like to humbly submit that Kawasaki is equally responsible for Kokubo being game hero, as Kokubo doesn't get those RBIs if Kawasaki doesn't get on base, steal second, and run his butt off to home on the Kokubo hits. I mean, yeah, Kokubo did score the first Hawks run of the game, I'm just saying.

Tomorrow's game is on BS1 again, but I'm not sure whether I'll live blog or not.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Game Report: Baystars vs. Tigers @ Yokohama - Hashimoto!

Went down to Yokohama today for a preseason game of the Baystars taking on the Hanshin Tigers. I really only had two goals for the day: 1) meet up with Mr. Westbay and with a guy who goes by Shinigami in our Koshien chats, and 2) wish Terrmel Sledge a happy birthday.

I was successful on both counts. I got to the park around 11:30, which was just a little bit too late for Baystars batting practice, but as the Tigers started to clear out and the Baystars started to do their pre-game jogging circles, I saw Sledge and I ran to the front and I held up a sign that was actually a combination of two signs made in the past, but were convenient for today:

(You've actually possibly seen these signs both before if you've been on this blog a while, as I made the Sledge one a while ago and the Birthday one last year for a certain Chunichi player.)


He looked out, saw the sign and me and laughed and waved hello and thanks.

The other people around me were all like "Whoa, it's his birthday today?" and I said yeah, and that I was really a Fighters fan, but would cheer him here too. So a guy standing next to me held up the sign and HE yelled happy birthday the next time Sledge jogged around in his circle, and then the lady with her young son ALSO took a turn holding the sign and yelling happy birthday. I took photos, but for some reason couldn't get a good one of the birthday boy:

Other than that, batting and fielding practice was pretty boring for me, really. I didn't feel like battling crowds to get to the front to see the Hanshin Tigers for the most part, especially since Futagami got injured and wasn't around supposedly, and as for the Baystars the most interesting thing to me was watching Yuki Takamori work out at first base alongside Uchikawa and Saeki.

Something stupid, though: the birthday boy Sledge wasn't actually IN the starting lineup! I was looking forward to recording the ouendan singing happy birthday to him, but I guess it's a Baystars thing -- I remember trying to go to the game on Takuro Ishii's birthday a few years back only to see him benched.

On the other hand, Kenji Johjima was in the starting lineup for Hanshin, and that had a lot of people excited on both sides of the stands.

Westbay finally showed up around 12:45pm, and he found me (wearing my Takuro Ishii jersey), and then he called Shini, and then the three of us got ready to watch the game. So, both goals accomplished. I also continued the Pau tradition of bringing Calbee Yakyu chips and opening them in a group and trading (I came out with a Tsuruoka and a Fighters team stats card)

Yuya Kubo started for the Tigers and Stephen Randolph for the Baystars, and at first things didn't look so good as Randolph gave up a home run to the very first batter of the game, Matt Murton, to make it 1-0. It was a big shot too, right over the wall in dead center.

But then the Baystars struck back with a vengeance. Ishikawa doubled, Shimozono bunted him up, and Uchikawa hit a double too! 1-1. Then Shuichi Murata came up and did what he does best -- a home run to left! BOOM! 3-1. Jose Castillo continued with a single, moved up on a Yoshimura grounder, and then Tasuku Hashimoto ALSO doubled to bring Castillo home, making it 4-1.

By the end of the inning we'd stood up to high-five and sing the Baystars song so many times that even Westbay was like "This is really weird, all of this run-scoring going on by the Baystars!" and I said "Yeah, I thought they rarely score 4 runs in a WEEK, let alone in one game, let alone in one INNING..."

I was also super-excited that Hashimoto is still using the same theme he did with Lotte as his at-bat music (the theme music of the late wrestler Shinya Hashimoto), and I even started doing the chop and yelling "HA-SHI-MOTO! HA-SHI-MOTO!" to it :)

More home runs in the second inning: Takahiro Arai in the top (4-2) and Tatsuya Shimozono in the bottom (5-2). Shimozono's was also followed up by another Uchikawa double and Murata single to score him, 6-2.

Things quieted down a bit after that. Shini and I tried to get onto the big screen holding up my Murata signs, but to no avail. Westbay had to actually go to the concourse to get Cokes for us all, as the only vendors we saw were carrying beer -- very odd that there wasn't a single cola girl given that there were so many kids at the park. He came back just in time to see Tasuku HA-SHI-MOTO! hit a 2-run homer into the right-field stands to make it 8-2!

Randolph gave up one more run to Hanshin (8-3), and he came out in the top of the 7th with the bases loaded. The guy replacing him on the mound was Shigeru Kaga -- I was like "Hey, that's a new drafted guy, right?" And sure enough, it was -- and even crazier, he came out and struck out Sekimoto and Murton! For whatever reason, Obana took him out at that point and put in Takayuki Shinohara to get the last out of the inning, which he did.

Hashimoto had another double in the 8th ("These former Lotte guys are working out pretty well for us, huh?" said Westbay) and a pinch-running Shingo Nonaka (!!!) scored on pop flies by Kinjoh and Saeki. 9-3. Hashimoto was 3-for-4 on the day with two doubles and a home run and 3 RBI. Not too bad -- let's hope he can keep it up this season.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh came out to play third base in the 8th and 9th innings, and Westbay was all like "Tsutsugoh is NOT Hama No Nakata -- he's a lot more humble than that!" and I said "I know, but he's a high school prospect hyped for hitting home runs," and I mentioned how Nakata Sho has actually lost weight and started running like a baseball player instead of a wounded gorilla, and then a little bit later Tsutsugoh managed to lose a fly ball in the sun. Whoops. "I didn't jinx him, did I?"

Whatever. Baystars win!

I think Westbay expected a postgame hero interview, and the fans expected the players to come throw their hats out into the stands or whatever, but instead, the game just unceremoniously ended and the ushers started telling people to get out.

The ouendan did some postgame cheers, including singing Happy Birthday to Sledge, who was already long gone, and they practiced some other songs (oddly, I still remember all of the cheer songs from when I used to cheer Yokohama up through the 2008 season, but I don't know any of the new ones, obviously), and I got a kick out of yelling "KATSUZO! YOKOHAMA! TAOSE! YOMIURI!"

I made the guys pose for a few photos with me:

(I should note, btw, that Murata hit his home run right after we started holding those signs up in the first inning. So there!)

And then we started getting out of the stadium.

We walked around towards the train station, and GUESS WHO WE SAW OUTSIDE THE HOME PLATE ENTRANCE? SIGN GUY!!!

So I made him pose for photos with his latest signs (the top one is awesome, he made a mock newspaper layout with the results of the Baystars beating Chunichi yesterday):

And then chatted for a bit. Just mostly "long time no see! Are you going to every game again this year?" and so on, he asked whether I was still teaching, etc. Even Westbay knows him now from the Searex fan fests. Shini was like "WTF?" But as we walked on, I explained how basically, Sign Guy is one of the few things that has actually been consistent about the Baystars the last few years, besides losing. He's just a fixture in the stands and it was good to see him again -- he even came up to say goodbye to us again when we were all standing in the Kannai train station chatting a bit before splitting up for our respective trains. He's so cute! I don't miss all that much about cheering for Yokohama, but I definitely miss Sign Guy. Sigh.

Anyway, good times! It's always fun to hang out with Westbay and always fun to meet new people, and I'm heading to Koshien next week with Shini to watch some of Senbatsu, rather than just talking about it in the chatroom. Hooray!

(I took a whole bunch of photos today, but I'll try to get around to cropping them and my Kamagaya photos soon -- wanted to write an entry first instead.)