Sunday, September 03, 2006

Game Report: Lions vs. Fighters - Kanemoron

So, for those who were curious about it, today I was both at the Tokyo Dome and the Seibu Dome and didn't see a Matsuzaka jersey at either one (and I even asked the salesclerks at the Seibu Dome). Hrm. Did some other baka gaijin come to Tokyo and buy up all the Matsuzaka gear or something? They did have t-shirts from when he got his 100th win, but I wasn't sure anyone would want one of those.

Yeah, so I saw Mariners number t-shirts at a store in the Tokyo Dome for like 4500 yen (about $40) each. That's insane, considering you can get them for $20 at Safeco. You wonder why Japanese tourists seem to drop so much money at Safeco... well, because it's seriously so much cheaper.

I digress. After spending some time making myself NOT spend money at the Tokyo Dome shop, I met up with a friend and we took the train out to Tokorozawa for the Seibu Lions vs. Nippon Ham Fighters game at the Seibu Invoice Dome.

I've been a Fighters fan for several years now -- ever since a fateful day when I was in a subway station in Tokyo with a friend of mine and we saw coupons for discounted outfield seating to Fighters games at the Tokyo Dome. We accidentally sat in the middle of the Fighters cheering section; they taught us the ropes, and from then on, the Fighters were my team -- but of course, then they had to go move to Sapporo in the 2003-2004 offseason. (In terms of geography, this is almost like if the Mariners went and moved to Alaska.) So now, every time I go see them, I sit in the visiting section, and it's usually not that crowded.

But today, oh, today, oh man! The outfield unreserved seats are... well, they're not seats, to begin with. There are a few benches at the back, but for the most part it's just this huge slanted turf floor. So I guess it's like lawn seats, kind of, but weirder. Also, we got there an hour early and the turf was FULL of people -- as my friend said, "Wow, there are a ton of people as crazy as you here!" It was almost like being at an outdoor concert or something. So we found a small patch of turf and sat down on it. The people around us were pretty nice -- they got over the "whoa, a gaijin" factor pretty quickly, especially once I started singing along to the songs and all. One set of people behind us had a bunch of inflatable dolphins they were using to cheer with, and they gave me one! So I blew mine up and wrote "がんばれファイターズ" on it with a sharpie and they all thought that was pretty funny.

Yeah, so um, the game. Unfortunately, Satoru Kanemura, who's been one of the few keystones of the Fighters pitching staff these last few years, well, he has his good days, and he has his bad days, and this was really one of his bad days, culminating in him giving up a grand slam to Toru Hosokawa which pretty much sealed things as the Lions eventually won the game 6-2.

The Lions started off their half of the first by Shogo Akada singling to center, and then Kataoka bunted him ahead; Ishii popped out, but Alex Cabrera walked and then Kazuhiro Wada singled. Akada beat the throw home and scored, but Cabrera actually got himself thrown out trying to get from first to third on a 9-2-5 play.

Things were calm for a few innings, and then in the 4th, Kanemura just sort of imploded. Ishii led off with a single, Cabrera followed it with a single, and this time Wada popped out, but then Jeff Liefer walked the bases loaded, and you could tell things were just bad. Kanemura actually got up to a 3-1 count on third baseman Takeya Nakamura before he generously popped out to right field. Then, with two outs and the bases still loaded... Hosokawa cranked the ball back, back, back, past a running Toshimasa Konta, into the Fighters cheering section in left field. Grand slam. Grumble grumble mumble. That made it 5-0, as Fumiya Nishiguchi was having very little trouble dispatching the Fighters batters in general.

Takeda The Older (Masaru, that is; Hisashi is three months younger) came out and pitched a few innings for the Fighters. The bottom of the 5th was almost as big a disaster, as he hit Kataoka with a pitch, then walked Ishii, and they had been trying like hell for a hit-and-run with Cabrera up and eventually settled for a double steal before Cabrera struck out. With two outs they intentionally walked Wada to get to Liefer, who fortunately was accomodating in grounding out.

The Fighters finally tagged Nishiguchi for a run in the 7th, when Jose Macias doubled to right -- well, really, he singled, and just kept running and barely beat the throw to second -- and Konta struck out, but then Tsuruoka singled Macias to third, and Kaneko sacrificed him home. Hichori Morimoto singled after that too, but Kensuke Tanaka struck out, ending the threat, sadly.

Brad Thomas came out to pitch the 7th for the Fighters and promptly struck out Akada, Kataoka, and a pinch-hitting Akira Etoh, in order. That was cool.

Atsunori Inaba hit a solo home run off Tomoki Hoshino into the Lions' cheering section in the 8th, but that was it for the Fighters scoring. After the Lions pushed ahead another run in their half of the 8th, on a ground rule double by Jeff Liefer which was caught by the guy LITERALLY sitting next to me -- I mean, the ball bounced over the wall towards us, bounced again, and the guy stood up and BOOM, the ball landed in his hand. It was nuts. That's two days in a row now. Errrr, anyway, so Lions closer Chikara Onodera came out to finish off the 8th inning (after Yukio Tanaka came to pinch-hit for Konta, Onodera came in to pitch for Hoshino. I swear, EVERY Fighters game I've ever been at has had Yukio Tanaka come in to pinch-hit) and then also struck out a pinch-hitting Naoto Inada and Tomoyuki Oda, and got Hichori to ground out to short, and that was the game.

I don't really have a lot of game notes because quite frankly, for the entire time the Fighters were at bat, I was standing up and cheering and singing my lungs out with the rest of the people in my part of the stadium. I swear, there's nothing like seriously following a Japanese team and being part of the cheering section. It's just so goddamn much fun I can't even begin to describe it. And this was for the AWAY team! Our whole section was just filled with people in Fighters gear, tons of people, whole families, etc. It's so loud and so awesome. Anyway, I figured that I could do two out out of three things -- where the three were 1) cheer 2) take pictures 3) keep score -- and so I ended up cheering and keeping score, and didn't take many pictures because it had terrible lighting in the dome anyway, as it's more of an outside stadium that happens to have a domed roof on it. But, like, I'd be standing up singing something about "Kensuke, guts, go go go! We're waiting for your shining moment!" (no joke, that's really about what Kensuke Tanaka's cheer translates to) one second, and then have to quickly grab my scorecard, write what happened after the play... and then get up to immediately start singing the Ogasawara cheer song. And so on. At one point I completely failed to note that Inaba walked, and ended up off-by-one on my scorecard for an inning or so.

(in the past, I've never tried to keep score at Japanese games, but I thought it would be a fun experiment this trip. What I've learned is that it's quite possible to do... provided you aren't in a cheering section.)

Oh yeah, and a bunch of the Lions come out to somewhat wacky choices of songs. Offhand I noticed Kazuki Fukuchi came out to Long Train Runnin', and Yasuyuki Kataoka comes out to "Catch The Wave" by Def Tech, among others.

And for my own reference... they didn't do the normal Yukio Tanaka cheer when he was up due to the "chance" situation, apparently. It was still loud and cheery, but I wanted to do the song I remembered.

Right, so I just noticed I've spent over an hour in the internet cafe now, so I should probably leave. I'm heading down to Kansai for a week, and don't know what my internet situation will be like there... not sure what my next game will be either -- I intend to go to a Tigers-Giants game in Osaka and a Dragons-Swallows game in Nagoya during the week, and then a Carp-Dragons game in Hiroshima and a Buffaloes-Fighters game in Osaka during the weekend, interspersed with sightseeing with my best friend, who's dragging me to Nara and some other places. Fun fun!

EDIT 11/29/06> Photo set for this game is now available here!

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