Wednesday, October 11, 2006

PL Playoff Liveblogging

I am practically going nuts here waiting for the game to start.

It looks like you actually CAN watch it from outside Japan, anyway -- but you have to be using Internet Explorer and install their viewer, it doesn't seem to work with Firefox. I'll know for sure in about two hours.

Yahoo! TV Bank / Fighters (video feed)
Yahoo! Japan Gameday (webpage with game info)

It starts at about 2am Pacific time. Yu Darvish is starting for the Nippon Ham Fighters, and Toshiya Sugiuchi is starting for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. Darvish just turned 20 in August. Sugiuchi won the Sawamura last year. It should be interesting.

I'm going to try to take a nap if I can calm down enough to, and then in theory I'll sit around and liveblog the game a bit! If you're up late too, feel free to chime in.

Lineups, LL-style (but without the cool border):

Kawasaki SS Hichori LF
Ohmura CF Kensuke 2B
Shibahara RF Ogasawara 1B
Matsunaka LF Seguignol DH
Zuleta 1B Inaba RF
J. Cabrera 3B Macias 3B
Inamine "DH" Tsuruoka C
Yamazaki C Kaneko SS

---------- ----------
Sugiuchi (7-5, 3.53) Darvish (12-5, 2.89)

I have videofeed! But it's only at the tiny 160x100 screen cleanly, sigh.

Top of the first inning: Kawasaki singles legitimately to left, Ohmura singles annoyingly into the left corner. Shibahara bunts them ahead, Darvish fielding it, and now we have Matsunaka. I have to hope he gets back his normal postseason curse. Darvish seems to hope so too, as he throws the 2-2 pitch into the dirt... and the 3-2 pitch. Foul into the stands. Next pitch, foul bounce back off the plate. Next pitch... he hits it to left field. Back, back... CAUGHT by Hichori Morimoto, NICE throw in to the plate, but Kawasaki barely avoids the tag and scores on the play. 1-0 Hawks, 2 out. Zuleta's up, and he's also big and scary... and walks. Now Honda's up and... damn this small screen. They claim he was hit by a pitch, I swear he fouled it off. Bases loaded and Jolbert Cabrera is up. OH CRAP.... OH NEVERMIND! Pops out to Kensuke Tanaka. I love Kensuke Tanaka very very much. 1-0 Hawks, three outs.

Bottom of the first: Hichori Morimoto pops out to center. I am singing the Kensuke Tanaka theme song because I am a big dork. It worked! He singled to left :) And now we have Ogasawara up to bat! Yay! Kensuke steals second base, and it's clearly rattled Sugiuchi as we're up to a 3-1 count on Ogasawara... okay, make that a 4-1 count, runners on first and second with one out, and here's Seguignol. who chases a bunch of stupid pitches, then fouls off a few, and ultimately strikes out. but that's okay because Atsunori Inaba's up and he's awesome too. well, except the part where he pops to shallow center and Kawasaki catches it. oh well, 1-0 still, inning over, they're showing highlights of the Saitoh-Matsuzaka match inbetween innings :)

Top of the second: Inamine goes DOWN on three straight pitches! As I'm commenting that it's a good thing Johjima came to Seattle and the Hawks have no catchers who can hit, Yamazaki ALSO goes down on strikes! Kawasaki squares away to bunt and gets hit in the knee with a pitch (on the replay that's clear, it looked at first like he pretty much squared away to bunt and got in the way of the pitch, this small screen sucks). Fortunately, Ohmura pops up behind third in foul territory and shortstop Makoto Kaneko pulls a Betancourt and is out there to catch it. Still 1-0 Hawks.

Bottom of the second: iiiiiit's Shinjo! who hits a grounder that bounces off the pitcher, then a charging Honda doesn't get the throw to first to time, so Shinjo's aboard with an infield single! Macias grounds out, advancing Shinjo to second. While Tsuruoka's up to bat, Sugiuchi throws what the announcers call a wild pitch and Shinjo advances to third. (however, on the replay I really think Yamazaki could have blocked that ball better.) crap. Tsuruoka grounds out to Cabrera at third, which also unfortunately holds Shinjo to the bag, so it's 2 outs with a runner on third. Makoto Kaneko pops up to the infield, caught by first baseman Julio Zuleta, and that's three outs. Still 1-0 Hawks.

Top of the third: Darvish is finally settling in AND Shibahara sucks, going down on a called third strike. Or maybe not, as he walks Matsunaka on a slider that dives just a little bit too much. Or maybe he is! He strikes Zuleta out on a pitch that barely bites the low inside corner. That was a BEAUTIFUL pitch, too. It's hard to remember sometimes that Darvish just turned 20 in August. And ANOTHER beautiful pitch, he strikes Honda out on a 150km/h fastball straight down the middle. That was great. Still 1-0 Hawks.

Bottom of the third: YAKINIKU ERIKA... I mean, Hichori Morimoto singles to center. Kensuke bunts him over to second, and here comes Ogasawara! There are a LOT of people with inflatable dolphins cheering for him, heh, I should try to get a screencap. It's a 3-1 count on Ogasawara and... eek, okay, nice pitch by Sugiuchi for 3-2, but then an awful pitch by Sugiuchi and now Ogasawara's walking to first and Hichori goes to second. Seguignol's up, and... and he singles to left! and Hichori scores!!!! WOOOOOOO. Okay, now it's 1-1, Inaba's up. Seguignol looked absolutely delighted standing on first, that was pretty awesome AAAAAAAAND oh. Oh man! Inaba launched a pitch into the RF stands but barely foul. sadly, after that he popped up to short right and shortstop Kawasaki went back to catch it. And here's Shinjo... and HERE'S SHINJO SINGLING to right and Ogasawara scoring on it! woooo. Macias flies out to center but who cares? It's 2-1 and Shinjo looks like the happiest man in the world. Inning break.

Top of the fourth: Jolbert Cabrera hits a pop fly foul and Ogasawara catches it (man, the foul zone there is gigantic). Oh, hey, look at that, Inamine singled to center. Now here's Yamazaki and... whoa, what the hell just happened? OH MY GOD. Okay, Yamazaki goes to bunt and POPS OUT TO THIRD HAHAHAHA. Macias charged in and caught the ball nearly at the ground along the third base -- that was awesome -- and then like three pitches later with Kawasaki at bat, Inamine gets NAILED trying to steal second. EAT THAT, HAWKS. Nice throw by Tsuruoka and a great play by Makoto Kaneko. Still 2-1 Fighters.

Bottom of the fourth: Shintarou Yoshitake replaces Sugiuchi on the mound. Sugiuchi's line: 3 innings, 56 pitches, 1 strikeout, 2 walks, 5 hits, 2 runs.

Shinya Tsuruoka grounds to third and Jolbert Cabrera throws to first in plenty of time to get him out. Then Makoto Kaneko pops out to left field, easy catch for Nobuhiko Matsunaka. Morimoto grounds out for a quick inning. Still 2-1 Fighters.

Top of the fifth: Oh, hey, look, it's Munenori Kawasaki at bat again. He singles to left. Ohmura bunts him to second, Darvish fielding it. And... and Shibahara SUCKS and strikes out. Why the heck is he batting third? Watch, now that I've said that he's going to totally go Scutaro on us in a crucial moment. Matsunaka grounds out to second, and that's the inning. Still 2-1 Fighters.

Bottom of the fifth: Yasushi Kamiuchi replaces Yoshitake on the mound. Yoshitake's line is a 1-2-3 inning on 12 pitches.

There's a guy holding a sign in the stands that says "Nagoya e ikuzo" ("let's go to Nagoya!", a reference to the Chunichi Dragons clinching), I LOVE IT :)

Kensuke gatsu de GOGOGO, bokura wa matsuyo kagayake shunkaaaa...grounded out to second. Doh. It's Ogasawara time! Though he swings so hard at the first pitch he turns around and has to squat to recover his balance, oops. Oof, and he also grounds out to second. Seguignol strikes out, though he probably could have run on the third strike as it bounced in the dirt, ah well. Still 2-1 Fighters.

HOLY CRAP! The Fighters have dancing groundskeepers too! I actually just realized I hadn't seen a Fighters home game since 2003, as they weren't broadcasting them outside of Japan earlier this year, so I'd just see them online when they played at the Hawks or Eagles... and when I see them in Japan it's always as the visiting team. Crazy.

Anyway, top of the sixth: Darvish keeps wiping sweat off his forehead, I think he totally needs a handkerchief... and just as I type that, he strikes out Julio Zuleta on a slider. Heh. Honda walks on a high-and-outside pitch and the entire infield comes in to the mound to see how Darvish is doing; he's up to 88 pitches after that 8-pitch at-bat, so I guess we'll be seeing some of the Fighters bullpen soon. Here's Cabrera... who singles to left. Ok, runners on first and second, and Inamine at the bat... he ALMOST grounds into a double play, 6-4-3, but barely beats out the throw at first. So, two outs, runners at first and third. Minoru Honma comes in to pinch-hit for Yamazaki, and... karaburi sanshin! STRIKEOUT! That's 100 pitches or so for Darvish now. Still 2-1 Fighters.

Bottom of the sixth: Naoki Matoba comes in as catcher, batting ninth (where Honma had pinch-hit for Yamazaki).

Inaba flies out to foul territory in right field, and Jolbert Cabrera is there to make the catch. Shinjo walks. Macias strikes out. Darvish is still throwing on the sidelines and I sort of hope they don't keep him out there for the seventh. Tsuruoka flies out to right field and I think Honda made the catch, it looked like a bit of a clusterbunch for a second there. Still 2-1 Fighters.

Top of the seventh: Yuuji Iiyama is playing third in place of Jose Macias. Yu Darvish is still on the mound for the Fighters.

Kawasaki grounds out to short. And so does Ohmura. Have I mentioned that I love Makoto Kaneko? And have I mentioned that I love Yu Darvish? And that Shibahara REALLY SUCKS? That's a strikeout, ending the inning in like eight pitches. Now pardon me while I sing along to the Fighters fight song for the inning break. F-I-GHT-ERS, let's go!

Bottom of the seventh: More love for Kaneko, as he singles to center. Hichori Morimoto bunts him over to second, and I hear the oendan singing the "chance" songs, and I think it's likely Kamiuchi's coming off the mound soon, although he just struck out Kensuke Tanaka. Yeah -- conference on the mound, though it doesn't make sense to take him out right before a lefty hitting god like Ogasawara, does it? Oh... hey, that's a good way to deal with Ogasawara -- intentionally walk him. Yeah.

Earth to Softbank: Fernando Seguignol is a switch-hitter.

Oh well, they're taking out lefty Kamiuchi anyway and putting in the rookie righty Akihiro Yanase, who DID pitch pretty admirably the other night against the Lions. Kamiuchi's line: 49 pitches, 2.2 innings, 1 hit, 3 strikeouts, 2 walks (one intentional).

Gee, that helped. Seguignol walked, and now the bases are loaded, two outs, for Atsunori Inaba... who just threw a pitch that Naoki Matoba almost had to eat to keep from getting away. Except a few pitches later, Inaba pops up another one to short, caught by Munenori Kawasaki. Doh. Still 2-1 Fighters, though.

Top of the eighth: Ok, Inaba might be sucking at the plate tonight, but he just made a nice catch on a Matsunaka low liner to right -- if he doesn't catch it, that's easily a double, maybe a triple. Yeah, Darvish is still out there. Zuleta singles to left, right after hitting a foul liner to right that Inaba ALMOST catches at the wall. And then Honda hits a long fly ball to Inaba as well, which he catches, so that's two outs. Jolbert Cabrera is at the plate and.. and... and he strikes out! Wow! That's 124 pitches for Darvish and 9 strikeouts. Awesome! Still 2-1 Fighters.

I am really glad I took an hour nap earlier, because it's 5am now and I'd be falling over dead by now. Fortunately, I have some great baseball snacks to give me a sugar rush :)

Bottom of the eighth: Aww, Shinjo really hit a long one to center, but not quite far enough and Ohmura catches it on the warning track. And wow, they're actually letting Iiyama bat for himself. And wow, he walked! Yanase is not having such a great night tonight. Oo, Tsuruoka hit one into the right corner for a single, though Iiyama got from first to third on it. Wheee! Ah, and Yanase is gone. Let's see... to replace him, they brought in another rookie youngster, Yoshiaki Fujioka, who I don't think I've seen before, but he's pretty cute, and has a fun sidearm pitching motion. Yanase's line for the evening: 20 pitches, .2 innings, 2 walks, no strikeouts, one hit. (And when Iiyama scores, one run credited to Yanase as well.)

Makoto Kaneko, yay, hits a ball to shallow center which falls for a single, and Iiyama scores! WOOOOOOOOOOO! WOooo..sigh, Hichori just grounded into a double play, 5-4-3. But that's okay. Fighters are now ahead 3-1!

Top of the ninth: Darvish is STILL on the mound, and Inamine is "at bat", by which I mean, he's popping out to left field, where Hichori Morimoto makes the easy catch. Now Ryuuma Kidokoro pinch-hits for Naoki Matoba, and singles to left. Trey Hillman comes out to the mound to see how Darvish is doing... and he's still out there! The crowd's yelling "Ganbare ganbare Darvish", which is nice of them. Munenori Kawasaki's at the plate, and he... grounds into a forceout! I think it was a 3-6 but I'm not sure. Kawasaki's on at first, two outs, Ohmura at the plate. And... holy crap, Darvish is STILL throwing in the 140's and... two strikes quickly, then a ball. Ohmura fouls one backwards.


3-1 Fighters!!!!!!!

Darvish's line for the evening: 138 pitches, 9 innings, 7 hits, 1 run, 11 strikeouts, 2 hit batters, 3 walks.

It's 5:30am, I think I will stick around to hear Darvish's hero interview and then go to sleep for a few hours before work.

So, umm, if you happen to be reading this in the morning on Wednesday -- is this completely incoherent? Should I try to do this again tomorrow night? It's supposedly Kazumi Saitoh vs. Tomoya Yagi, which is going to totally break my heart either way.

(Deanna heads off to sleep, humming "susume Fighters, shouri no otoko..." happily to herself.)

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