Saturday, September 29, 2007



Tonight, amidst cold weather and annoying rain in Chiba, the Fighters beat up the Marines to win 9-1 and clinch the Pacific League title, along with the hosting rights for Stage 2 of the playoffs.

I couldn't go to the game tonight, because I had work (and you know, in general I'm going to miss most of the postseason games for the same reason - ugh), but watching the highlights and postgame celebrations on TV, I... I'm happy. I love these guys. I have this great fantasy in my head where the Fighters play against the Giants in the Japan Series and Micheal strikes out OCD for the final out before the Fighters become Japan champions two years running.

Only thing that sucks is, I have a ticket to tomorrow's Fighters-Marines game -- which I had hoped would be the clincher -- and it's Shunsuke Watanabe vs. Masaru Takeda -- AND they're predicting rain all day in Chiba tomorrow. :(

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Foto: Kannai South McDonald's

Welcome to the game of Getting Home Unscathed From A Baseball Game!

You are standing inside Yokohama stadium after watching a most excellent game where the Bay Stars won and one of your favorite players, Atsushi Kizuka, was a game hero. Now you have a more important mission: get out of Yokohama without getting crushed by the crowd!

There are exits from the stadium all over the place.

> leave stadium

Ok. You are surrounded by approximately 15,000 crazy Yokohama baseball fans.

> go north

You can't; there are too many people in the intersection to get anywhere near it or the subway station.

> go west

Ok. You see a McDonald's and some various yakiniku restaurants and a convenience store.

> enter Mcdonald's

You enter the Kannai south McDonald's and immediately notice that there's a whole bunch of current MLB memorabilia displayed under the counter, including a signed Mariners jersey, some Yankees caps, and various other things. It almost reminds you of the McDonald's right by Yankee Stadium up in the Bronx.

A guy behind the counter says to you in Japanese, "Welcome to McDonald's. Can I take your order?"

> order food

You order a Big Mac combo. The guy says, "Please wait a second!"

> look

To your left you can see the upstairs dining area. There are pictures on the wall of several old MLB baseball scenes and players; offhand you can spot Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Cy Young, and so on. There are some Mickey Mantle magazine cutouts, a few displays of old baseball cards, and pictures of a few old ballparks.

The server gives you your food. "Thank you for your order!" he says.

> go downstairs

The entire staircase downstairs is also covered in 8x10 photos of old American baseball stars, mostly from the 1920's and 1930's.

You reach the downstairs dining room and can't believe your eyes. There is baseball memorabilia everywhere. Above the trash cans is a mock oldskool scoreboard, with more pictures. In the main room there are several display cases of MLB stuff, with one or two of Yokohama Baystars jerseys. There are baseball cards on one wall, and models of stadiums on another. There is a mural of Red Sox players from 1950ish on another wall, although there are people sitting in front of it so you can't see it. Above the entire room is a mural that appears to be of 1980's MLB players; you can see Mike Schmidt depicted there. They also have displays of several baseball bats up there.

> get out camera

Good call.

> surreptitiously take pictures of everything around me

I don't understand "surreptitously".

Your flash goes off and everyone looks at you like you're some kind of freak photographing a McDonald's dining room.

The downstairs dining room at the Kannai McDonald's

The "Press Box" display case, which included things like 1951 New York Giants jerseys and jackets, some old Expos stuff, Mets jerseys, and so on.

Another MLB display case, with hats, figurines, tickets to big games, etc.

Yokohama memorabilia; jerseys from Kazuhiro Sasaki and Tatsuya Shindoh.

Advertisements for McGriddles and McFlurries... and more baseball memorabilia.

The scoreboard above the trash cans, and some more old MLB photos.

> eat food

Ok. It tastes suspiciously like a Big Mac and fries and a coke.

> separate garbage

You dump out your ice into one bin, put your straw and drink cap in one trash can, put your paper into another trash can, and leave your tray on the other counter.

> leave

Amidst funny stares from the people still wondering what a crazy American is doing there in a Murata #25 t-shirt taking pictures of the McDonald's, you manage to escape the restaurant.

> go east

Ok. The intersection is now free of baseball fans, aside from a few stragglers who appear to be the Saeki Fan Club and are wearing black-and-gold t-shirts. There are exits to the east, west, north, and south.

> go north

Ok. You get to Kannai station. It is relatively uncrowded. You have no problems getting onto a train back up to Saitama.

Congrats, you win the game! Your score was 19 out of 20 possible points.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

9/16: Swallows @ Yokohama - It's Always Kizuka Time

Bay Stars 8, Swallows 4

Wow, has it already been a week since last weekend? Guess so. I'd write entries about games sooner, but I usually zone out to watch Megami no Sports and other sports shows when I get home from work, and then I'm too tired to write anything. (Aside from the Giants-praising Zero Sports, most recap shows are pretty similar, but I prefer Megaspo just because Norihiro Komada cracks me up.) Besides, almost every day this week I swear I've seen clips of Matsuzaka and Okajima's rookie hazing on every single sports show.

Uh, so anyway, last Sunday I headed down to Yokohama, as I so frequently do, for a Bay Stars vs. Swallows game. I got there at about 1:15pm for a 2pm game, and... the outfield seats on the Baystars side were completely sold out. WTF. I went to buy tickets for an infield seat instead, and all of the F sections on the Baystars side were sold out; I ended up getting a B seat. I go into the stadium, buy some yakisoba and a Coke, and climb all the way up to my seat, and... I notice that the Swallows half of the stadium is nearly empty, whereas the Baystars half is nearly full. Sheesh. I could have gotten a great seat if I'd gone over to the Swallows side, but I really didn't want to be the freak in the wrong uniform/etc, having shown up in my Murata #25 Baystars t-shirt and wearing my Takuro Ishii towel around my neck. (I wasn't actually aware of Ishii's broken wrist at the time either, because I suck.) Plus, something tells me singing the Baystars songs on the Yakult side might have been sort of pointless.

Both of the starters were guys I'm relatively unfamiliar with -- Kenichi Matsuoka for the Swallows, and Naoki Mitsuhashi for the Baystars. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there was a huge gang of Mitsuhashi fans sitting a few rows behind me, who spent the first half of the game yelling random things to cheer for him.

They had a lot of opportunity to yell pretty early on, too. In the second inning, the Baystars put together some "Two outs? So what?" action after Murata and Saeki both struck out. Yuuki Yoshimura singled, then Taka Suzuki (#51) also singled, making it to second on the throw as Yuuki ran to third. With runners at second and third and the number 8 batter, catcher Kazunari Tsuruoka, at the plate, the obvious strategy was to intentionally walk Tsuruoka to get to the pitcher for the "automatic" out.

Only flaw in the plan was that pitcher Mitsuhashi wasn't having any part of that "automatic out" nonsense, and he singled to right. Yuuki scored, and as the Swallows first baseman fell over trying to get the throw from right field, Suzuki scored, bringing it to 2-0 as Toshihisa Nishi struck out to end the inning.

The Baystars cheerleader women started wandering through the stands during the third inning, handing out "Hamastar" fliers with schedules for the Searex and the Baystars and some other information; so of course that distracted fans from the game, which was a good thing, as the Swallows punched back to tie it up at 2-2 in the top half. I fortunately also finally flagged down a Coca-cola vendor girl around then; it was REALLY HOT OUTSIDE and the fact that I'm not burnt to a crisp is a testament to the amazing powers of sunscreen.

Yakult pitcher Matsuoka managed to bunt into an inning-ending double play in the top of the 4th. You know that's got to be embarrassing; heck, even striking out bunting is a better result than that.

I dunno if it was revenge for Iihara getting hit by a pitch in the 3rd, but the bottom of the 4th started off with Saeki getting plunked. Yuuki Yoshimura singled to left, and Taka Suzuki almost grounded into a 3-4 double play, but Yuuki slid into second just ahead of the throw. Tsuruoka then hit a single out to the gap in right-center; Saeki scored, Yoshimura scored, and Tsuruoka kept running until he got tagged out at third base. Oops. Mitsuhashi struck out after that, but the Baystars were up 4-2 again.

Norichika "McFly" Aoki, who was ultimately 3-for-4 with a walk for the day, led off the 5th with a double, and was driven in by a bunt and a single. There might have been even more damage in the inning if Tatsuhiko Kinjoh hadn't made two spectacular catches out in centerfield. Mitsuhashi came out of the game just shy of pitching 5 innings, and Yokoyama came in to hold the score to 4-3. In the bottom of the 5th, Kinjoh singled with two outs, Murata followed that up with a double, and then with runners at second and third, Saeki singled to right-center... Kinjoh scored, Murata scored, and Saeki got himself thrown out in a brief rundown at second which I wrote down as an 8-2-6-4 play. You might notice that semi-stupid baserunning is a general theme for the Baystars -- they also got thrown out trying to steal second twice.

Yokoyama spent the top of the 6th reminding everyone why he comes out to "Wild Thing" besides the obvious number 99 connection; after a strikeout, he gave up two singles, a wild pitch, and walked Aoki, loading the bases. That was bad. But the good news was that with a situation like that, IT CAN HAS BE KIZUKA TIME! As usual, Atsushi Kizuka came out and was awesome. He threw two pitches and Iihara grounded into a double play. Good times.

Aaron Guiel hit a home run off Matt White in the 7th, and the Baystars punched two runs off of Masao Kida in the 8th, and that's about where things stood when the dust cleared to end the game at 8-4.

The game heroes for Yokohama were Kizuka (!!!) and Tsuruoka (???). Kizuka I can understand -- he came in to pitch at what could have been a major turning point in the game; 6-3 with the bases loaded and one out and the heart of the order coming up next if something big didn't happen, and he got a huge double play. But Tsuruoka? I guess he had the RBI single in the 4th which put the team ahead for good, but he was a dumbass and got himself thrown out running to third on that play. I would have made Yoshimura the hero if I had to choose a hitter; he was 3-for-4, scored 3 runs, including the first and last ones, and knocked in one.

Eh, whatever. I thought it was pretty cool seeing Kizuka as game hero. He was all like "Dude, this is really cool. I don't usually get to be game hero, for obvious reasons, you know, being just some random middle reliever who throws funny. So, uh, awesome! Yeah! Everyone should come tomorrow and watch us pound Hiroshima!"

Kizuka and Tsuruoka signed a whole bunch of baseballs and threw them out into the crowd, which was pretty cool, and I left after that. It turned out there was another "hero interview" outside the stadium, this time with the winning pitcher, Takeharu Katoh.

He also answered interview questions for a few minutes while a huge crowd watched and cheered. Yokohama really does a pretty good job of doing little extras for the fans, I think. I always like seeing a game there; everyone's usually really happy regardless of whether the Stars actually win.

The only downside for me was afterwards, I was walking out of the stadium area and I heard a loud voice in English yelling "LET'S GO BAY STARS [clap clap clap-clap-clap]" in a singsong. I spotted the offender, a tall blonde military-looking guy, and I made my way through the crowd and said "Hey there. Don't tell me, you're from Boston?" and he basically replied something fairly rude, and I replied back something appropriately rude, and kept walking. I'm a little sad, because I had sort of hoped I had escaped most American baseball fan crap by coming here.

But other than that, it was a great day. I went to McDonald's to wait out the rush so I wouldn't have to get on a packed train at Kannai, and I discovered the coolest McDonald's on the face of the planet, or at least the coolest one in Japan. More on that later.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Watching the sports news is funny

1. Atsuya Furuta is resigning as manager of Yakult to take responsibility for the Swallows sucking this year. They responded by losing a game to the Dragons.
2. Apparently, tonight was just a bad night for pitchers named Yokoyama pitching in Yokohama (though Yokohama's Yokoyama definitely had an easier time of things than Hiroshima's Yokoyama).
3. The only thing funnier than the Tigers beating the Giants at the Tokyo Dome is the Giants kicking Hanshin's butt in Koshien.
4. Hideaki Wakui is much cuter than that other dude who used to be Seibu's ace.
5. Shunsuke Watanabe, who really needs to shave, actually pitched in relief today for the first time in four years. I don't entirely understand why, but it worked, and Naruse notched another win for a 15-1 record this year.
6. Tanaka was owned by Tanaka. That is, Yukio got a pinch hit off Masahiro, and Kensuke hit an inside-the-park 3-run homer immediately after Ma-kun left the game, as the Fighters beat up the Eagles 6-0.

There was a ceremony for Yukio after the game where he addressed the Fighters fans at the Tokyo Dome to tell them how much he's enjoyed playing for the Fighters for the last 22 years, and to thank them for putting up with the team for all of that time (and fans, of course, held up signs thanking him for 22 years of hard work). I would be lying if I said I didn't start crying when I saw them play part of the speech on TV -- Yukio Tanaka actually holds a fair amount of responsibility for me becoming a Fighters fan way back when. I am sad he's retiring, but glad that he'll hopefully be staying with the team as a coach.

(photos: Tanaka high-fives Tanaka, Yukio gives his speech, Kaneko presents him with flowers.)

In sadder news, Shigeo Nagashima's wife Akiko died yesterday. She was only 64. From all accounts, she was a wonderful person, very beautiful and intelligent.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

9/15, Carp @ Giants - OCD

(You can judge whether I'm talking about obsessive-compulsive disorder, or Ogasawara's Cleanshaven Doppleganger, or a combination of both)

Giants 3, Carp 0

This is a 3-day weekend in Japan for most people, and this was my last Saturday of being done with work at 5:15pm (from now on I'll be done at 7 or 8pm), so I decided to experiment and see if I could actually get into the 6pm Giants-Carp game! I took the Saikyo line down from Akabane to Ikebukuro, limped as fast I could to the Marunouchi line platform and took a train to Korakuen, and I got off the train at about 5:53! I bought a single B-seat ticket for 3700 yen; that was the cheapest they had left. I found my gate and went into the stadium and didn't even bother getting food or drink or anything (to be fair, I had a raisin roll and an iced tea in my bag), and I got to my seat for the second or third pitch of the game, right before Hiroshima leadoff hitter and high-socks-wearing cutie Eishin Soyogi hit a pop fly out to short.

My seat was actually pretty awesome considering I bought it 5 minutes before game time. I was in the 13th row pretty much right behind third base. I guess despite the Giants tickets selling really well these days, you can still get a decent expensive single seat with no problems, at least for non-Tigers games. It's mostly the outfield seats that sell out really quickly, because people want to cheer and want to buy cheap seats.

This would have been the best seat ever if Ogasawara wasn't playing third base.

Despite being on the 3rd base side, I had two screaming Giants fangirls on my left and two Giants fanguys on my right. I cheered for Hiroshima, and the Giants won, of course.

Infact, even in just the first inning, when Ogasawara's cleanshaven doppleganger came up to bat, I started muttering his old Fighters cheer under my breath. I was barely up to "この世のために" when he launched -- and I mean LAUNCHED -- a home run way the hell back into the Giants cheering section in right field, off the first or second pitch he saw. I'm not kidding, they had this homer measured at 125 meters, which if you can do math, you'll know is around 410 feet. I think it practically hit the back wall behind the outfield seats.

I texted a friend of mine in Japanese: "I'm at the Tokyo Dome and BOY DO I FUCKING HATE OGASAWARA."

Then to add injury to insult, Shinnosuke Abe led off the second inning for the Giants by hitting another home run to left-center, although this one only landed in the first few rows of seats.

I should say, though, that aside from giving up those two home runs, I was actually fairly impressed with Hiroshima starter Michito Miyazaki, who I had been interested in last year when he came out of the industrial draft, and I was really happy I got to see him pitch. He throws a sort of weird 3/4ths motion and seems to have a decent variety of pitches.

On the other hand, the starter for the Giants was Hisanori Takahashi, who, ironically, started and won the very first Giants game I ever went to, in 2004. I seem to bring him good luck, but to be fair, he's one of the best pitchers in Japan this year, and he only allowed four runners over seven innings, all on hits, no walks, six strikeouts. Takahiro Arai had a monster shot in the 4th that was unfortunately hit straight to center and caught by a jumping Damon Hollins against the wall; if it's just 10 meters left or right of where it went, that's a home run.

I was sad I didn't get to see Tomonori Maeda (the Hiroshima hitter who just got his 2000th hit recently) play, but that's ok, I guess. At least I got to see Kenta Kurihara, who was injured when I was in Hiroshima last fall, although I also got to see him boot a play at first base, sadly.

Speaking of milestones, in the 6th inning, Ogasawara's cleanshaven doppleganger hit a fly ball out to right field, which Shigenobu Shima almost caught, but instead slipped and fell over and by the time he recovered the ball and threw it in, the doppleganger had run to second base. Rather than calling it an error on Shima, they called it Ogasawara's 1500th career hit. They stopped the game and put an announcement up on the big screen, and someone ran out there to give him flowers and all, and everyone was cheering. I felt like screaming "YOU STUPID GIANTS FANS, HE GOT HIS FIRST 1335 WITH THE FIGHTERS, GRRRRR" but whatever.

The Giants fans sitting to my right were reasonably nice and I spent some time talking to one of the guys, about retired numbers and stuff. The two guys were discussing "Who is number 34 retired for?" so I said "I think it's for Kaneda?" "Oh yeah, Kaneda Masaichi," and then I was looking through the numbers... "Oh, Nagashima, Kawakami, Sawamura, Kaneda... er... who is #4 retired for?" "WOW, you really know a lot... I think #4 is retired because it's an unlucky number?" I later looked it up, and it turns out it's for Toshio Kurosawa, who wore #4 and died in mid-season at the age of 33 or something.

(#4 is unlucky because it sounds like the word for death, "shi". The guy told me #42 is also unlucky because it's "shi-ni", which also means death, so usually foreigners wear it.)

I also got sort of freaked out when late in the game they were playing Louie Louie over the loudspeakers between innings -- this is after they had been playing Zombie Nation a little while earlier, so I was just like "joudan jaNAI yo!" "Eh? Nani ka?" and I explained I moved here from Seattle, and Louie Louie is the song they play at EVERY MARINERS GAME.

Koji Uehara came in to close out the 9th inning without too much effort, and that was the game. It was over at 8:23pm, which is CRAZY EARLY for a Japanese game, I swear.

Also, I hate how every time I see a Giants game with Takayuki Shimizu playing in it, I have "Go West" by the Pet Shop Boys going through my head for the next few days. Ugh.

Apparently Hiroki Kokubo also got his 1500th career hit on Saturday night. It was kind of crazy listening to the sports news.

As it turns out, I went to Yokohama for the Sunday game against Yakult, and am skipping Rakuten-Lions today -- going to Dragons-Swallows in the evening. I'm watching the Fighters-Hawks game right now over the internet, but the Fighters are losing, sadly. (I just realized Inaba isn't playing -- he was hit in the knee by a pitch from Mahara yesterday and it looked really painful, I hope he's okay. I'm really freaked out now since learning about Takuro Ishii having his wrist broken by a pitch a few weeks ago.) I'll write up the Yokohama game later -- I have to make a separate entry about the Kannai south McDonald's, too -- it's full of MLB artifacts and absolutely amazing.

9/9, Yakult @ Chunichi - One Fifty

Dragons 4, Swallows 1

Last Sunday I went down to Nagoya, even though I had been hit by a truck on Saturday. Why? Because I'm stupid, that's why. Even better, it turned out that my friend Jeff hadn't ACTUALLY gotten us tickets, and somehow a Swallows-Dragons game actually sold out, so I found myself standing there at the Nagoya Dome an hour or two before the game trying to chat up a few scalpers... I did get us tickets, but it cost 4000 yen per ticket for seats somewhere in the vicinity of Gifu:

Even Tyrone Woods isn't going to hit a ball all the way up here.

Jeff actually made a pretty nifty panorama of our view; I think that was the only thing he managed to get a decent picture of, though.

Anyway, I was a bit nervous about this game because Seth Greisinger was starting for Yakult, and he's probably the best starting pitcher in the Central League right now (the guy's 15-6 on a team that's something like 50-75), but... whatever magic he normally has, I guess he didn't have it for this game, because the Dragons exploded on him for four runs in the first inning, batting around the order, the first SIX batters getting a hit: Ibata double, Araki single, Nori Nakamura single (RBI), Woods double (RBI), Morino single (RBI), Byung-Kyu Lee single (RBI). With the score already 4-0, runners on first and second with no outs, Hidenori sac bunted them to second and third, but then Motonobu Tanishige struck out and pitcher Kenichi Nakata grounded out.

Good thing they got those runs then, too, because between Greisinger, and Brian Sikorski, and Yuuya Kamada, and Masao Kida (how many of Yakult's current pitchers played a game in Tacoma at some point?) the Dragons were shut down for the rest of the game, only managing four more runners total.

They might have had a chance to do something in the 6th inning, when Morino led off with a single, but then got himself caught in a pretty funny rundown immediately after. I wrote it down as 4-3-6-3-6-4-3 because it was really a 4-3 groundout by Lee, but Morino got himself caught off base. Immediately after that, Hidenori walked and should have gotten thrown out stealing second, but Tanaka bobbled the ball and instead Hidenori was at third base for Tanishige to strike out -- and that was really it for the Dragons' post-first-inning offense.

The Swallows were mostly shut down because "K is for Kenichi and that's good enough for me" Nakata managed to get 9 strikeouts... and 7 of those were of Alex Ramirez and Aaron Guiel, 4 and 3 respectively. Maybe Guiel was thrown off by the Swallows oendan playing Oh Canada as his fanfare? The team did manage one run in the 5th inning; Tyrone Woods missed a throw from Ibata, putting Shinya Miyamoto on base; Miyamoto advanced on a wild pitch during Iihara's at-bat; didn't advance on what should have been a groundout by Kawamoto but the ball was bobbled, and both of them advanced when Mitsuru "Short and Fat" Manaka got a pinch-hit walk to load the bases. Aoki hit a sac fly to right which scored Miyamoto, but that was it for the inning, Ibata snagging another grounder to get the force out at second.

I need to take a second just to say something - in case you don't already know this, Hirokazu Ibata is the best shortstop in Japan, hands down (well, or hands up as the case may be most of the time). He just wins at baseball - fielding, hitting, etc. But watching him field is just amazing -- it's almost like he knows where the ball is going to go, and he's positioned to make the plays all look super-easy. Maybe that's why nobody outside of Nagoya seems to realize how damn good he is.

I was also happy to see Morino make some sweet plays at third base, after switching in from left field in the 6th inning.

Hitoki Iwase came in to pitch the 9th inning and got the save, which, as it turned out, was his 150th career save; he's the 6th player in Japanese history to achieve that number. He and Nakata were the game heroes; as it turns out, Nakata's 9 strikeouts had put him in the Central League strikeout lead, though they didn't mention at the time that his total was 150 strikeouts. 150 saves, 150 strikeouts. Pretty cool.

Iwase's hero interview, with the final score.

After the game, we went and got some yummy Nagoya food for dinner -- ie, miso katsu and tebasaki -- and then I took the train back up to Tokyo. Yeah, it wasn't a very long trip; hopefully I'll go down there again at some point, we'll see. I like Nagoya in general.

I'm going to see the Dragons at Jingu tomorrow (9/17), and then at the Tokyo Dome on 9/24, and then maybe in Yokohama on 10/7. So buying a Morino replica jersey wasn't entirely a waste :)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Foto: Yokohama vs. Yomiuri, 9/2/07

I guess I'm pretty late with pictures and the game report at this time, but hey, now that I can actually upload these, here's a set of 36 shots from the Yokohama game I went to with IcebreakerX last Sunday, complete with witty captions. Better late than never.

"Hosshey, where do we go when we die?"
"You mean if we're good or if we're bad?"

Yuuki Yoshimura, line driven like the snow

Can it has be Kizuka tiem plz?

Giants 7, Bay Stars 4

I think the Stars didn't actually have a starting pitcher and just threw out random guys every inning or two to the mound. Or maybe Oya-kantoku just got distracted after starting pitcher Doi managed to load the bases by walking two guys and hitting one guy in the first inning (which somehow still came to no runs scored for the Giants).

A pretty funny moment ocurred in the 4th inning where Murata made a spectacular play to catch a foul ball practically in the stands... and then when he threw it back around the infield -- just as a catch-ball around-the-horn type of thing, not to get any other plays -- Toshihisa Nishi MISSED THE THROW and the ball went rolling into the outfield.

Saeki ran over Kimura at second base in the bottom of the 4th, and was out, but in the meantime the Stars scored their second run.

In this game, pitchers batted for themselves several times despite all being relievers. Yokoyama, who comes out to "Wild Thing" because he wears #99, successfully bunted over the runners, but Nasuno actually struck out bunting. I even wrote it down as "Kb" because I haven't seen that in so long. Finally, in the 10th inning, closer Koji Uehara batted for himself and pretty much struck out boring.

With the Stars ahead 2-0 in the 5th, Yoshimura almost pulled off a sweet double play that would have ended the inning, but instead, on the very next batter, just as Ice and I were saying something like "Man, has there been anyone that came out of Keio recently that's anywhere near as good as Yoshinobu Takahashi?", he had to take us up on that by launching a two-run game-tying homer into the Giants cheering section in left field. I have since started referring to him as "You-know-bu" instead.

Seiichi Uchikawa, who has been ON FIRE, put the Stars ahead again with a 2-run homer in the 6th, making it 4-2. After pulling off a 1-2-3 inning in the 6th, Yokohama's pitcher Nasuno, who had just struck out bunting, started off the 7th inning by giving up a home run to pinch-hitter Kenji Yano pretty much on the first pitch he saw... and a minute later, Nasuno completely misfielded a bunt, which eventually led to another run scoring, tying it at 4-4, and the person who replaced Nasuno on the mound was, of all people... Matt White! The rich guy! Whee!

In the 8th, they brought in ATSUSHI KIZUKA!!! to face Kenji Yano, and Kizuka promptly beaned Yano in the side. And three throws later, he picked off Yano at first. Now that's style...

The Baystars managed to get two runners on in the 9th, and with two outs, and Murata at the plate -- usually a force to be reckoned with -- the Giants called out Uehara, who got Murata to hit a foul popup that Abe fielded easily. Murata was sadly 0-for-5 in this game. I like Murata. That sucked.

Kroon imploded, the Giants won 7-4 in the top of the 10th. That's life, I suppose. I had fun hanging out with IceX nonetheless (if nothing else, it's fun having someone around who actually UNDERSTANDS when you make a comment like "Takahiro Saeki IS Raul Ibanez's wonder twin. Watch him field this one..."), and I think Yokohama is actually a pretty great place to see a ball game, all things considered. I'll be going back there at least once (on 10/1) and probably twice more before the season ends, if I can help it. Besides, I still have to see Takuro Ishii actually play a game, dammit.

I'll talk about the 9/9 Nagoya game sometime soon too. In the meantime, it's almost the weekend again! I'm definitely going to try to see one of the Rakuten @ Lions games sometime, and Dragons @ Jingu on Monday night.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Liveblogging Fighters vs. Marines

Normally I would be down at Chiba Marine Stadium for this game, but alas, I got hit by a truck while riding my bike on Saturday night (no, I'm really not making that up, and yes, I really went to Nagoya yesterday anyway, I didn't want to waste the train tickets, and no, my bike didn't survive, but yes, I'm mostly okay, aside from a bunch of bruises and scrapes and cuts and soreness, as far as I know, at least, I need to go back to the hospital sometime), so I'm sitting at home tonight watching the game over the internet. It breaks my heart not to be there, but given the fact that I can barely walk without pain, I think it'd break my legs more. I think my next-door neighbor has already moved away anyway, so it's ok if I sing along to the cheer songs...

I'm sort of stunned by two big pieces of Fighters news though -- Yukio Tanaka is retiring after this year since the team doesn't want him back as a player next year, and... and... and manager Trey Hillman is quitting and coming back to America :( I have absolutely no idea who they can get to replace him (and if you suggest Shinjo, I'll smack you).

If you're wondering why I think this is such a big deal -- take a look at the standings right now. Fighters are in 1st place, 67 wins, 53 losses, 4 ties, .558 Win%... with 429 runs scored and 423 runs allowed. Anyone who knows the Pythagorean win equations knows THAT is insane, and I can't think of any reason why a team that isn't outscoring or outhomering or outANYTHINGing the rest of the league is winning so many games, aside from the manager doing a good job with the closer games. Wait... I just realized the Hanshin Tigers are also in first place with only 461 runs scored and 456 runs allowed and are 67-52-4. Maybe Okada isn't quite as big an idiot as everyone thinks.

Anyway, here's what's going on:

1st: Hichori pops out to right, Kensuke Tanaka grounded out to second, Inaba was hit by a pitch on his elbow, and Koyano grounded out to short.

bottom - Nishioka hits a high fly ball out to left, where Kudoh catches it right by the wall. Hayakawa also pops out to left, Kudoh catching it on the run just outside the foul line. Satozaki walks, and Saburo strikes out. Whee.

2nd: Seguignol grounds out to second, Shinji also grounds out, and... Itoi? hits a pop out to right. Fast inning.

bottom - they still use the battle hymn of the republic for jose ortiz, who eventually pops out to first base (Seguignol, whoa). Ohmatsu reaches far out for a ball and grounds out to Kaneko at short, and Julio Zuleta, who has grown a LOT of hair this year, grounds out to third, where Koyano dives for the ball and makes a nice stop and throws the ball to first.

(Koyano canNOT stand still at third though, it's pretty funny)

3rd: Kaneko hits a long fly ball out to right, Saburo making the catch in foul territory. And Kudoh gets a single to right! Yay Kudoh!! Hichori also gets a single to right!!! Yay Hichori! Kudoh runs to third on the play, he had already taken off on the pitch. And HAHAHAHAHA. Ok, so Kensuke Tanaka just barely got the ball and his bat went flying on the play, and he fell over, and then he got up and ran to first... the rest of the Marines were stunned so by the time Zuleta fielded it, Shimizu wasn't there to cover first and Kensuke was safe at first and Kudoh scored and Hichori got to second! 1-0! Then Inaba hit a double to right!!! Hichori scores and Kensuke stops at third... 2-0 and now Koyano ALSO hit a double, hitting the centerfield wall behind Hayakawa, clearing the bases for 4-0. Seguignol comes up to the plate and THE SKIES OPEN.

Whee, rain delay. I think it's time to go cook my moyashi soba cup noodles :)

(oh man, I can hear the Fighters oendan playing songs in the rain and cheering and singing Susume Fighters and all that. I wish I was there!!)

Ok, that was a pretty short rain delay, only like 5-10 minutes. Seguignol comes back up to bat and... walks. Ok, so Koyano is at second, Seguignol's at first, and here's catcher Shinji Takahashi... who hits the ball up the left field line and it somehow gets away from Imae (too wet?), so that's another single, Koyano scoring, 5-0. Looks like they're taking Shimizu out of the game, too. Ok, Takagi comes in to pitch (and the Fighters fans are singing the fight song again, wheeeeeee).

Itoi strikes out and Kaneko hits a shallow fly ball to centerfield which Daisuke Hayakawa runs and makes a long slip-and-slide sliding catch on the outfield turf, for three outs. Man, poor Makoto, both starting and ending the inning with pop flies :(

bottom - Benny gets a hit to left, through Kaneko. Sweeney can't seem to find the strikezone for a while but then Imae finally ends up hitting into a double play, 4-6-3.. and Tsuyoshi Nishioka strikes out looking. Whee!

4th Kudoh starts out by grounding out to short, but then Hichori hits a fly ball to right field which actually lands for a single near the line. Kensuke! Whee! Single to shallow center! Hichori, being himself, runs off to third, and the rain is falling again a little bit, and... Inaba hits a long fly ball to center, and Hichori tags up and scores on the play, 6-0. Oi, oi, Hokkaido, oi! Koyano hits the ball right to Imae, who throws it to second to get Kensuke on the forceout, three outs.

bottom - Hayakawa starts off the inning by hitting a fly ball out to left. Satozaki hits a really high fly ball out to center and Hichori Morimoto runs in to catch it (and after he catches it he has this really retardedly goofy look on his face and is laughing. I guess these are the things you can't see from the outfield stands). Saburo grounds out to second and that's the inning.

The announcers are talking about how unfortunate the Fighters are, losing Shinjo and Ogasawara, and now Hillman. Yikes. Something really funny also is that you can actually see how the camera angle is from behind an infield fence, the lines are there. Also funny is watching Brian Sweeney high-fiving the fielders as they all walk to the dugout. Well, not funny, that's actually pretty cool!

5th: ok, so in reality i missed Seguignol and Takahashi's at-bats but they both somehow grounded out, and then Itoi singled and stole second during Kaneko's at-bat, and Kaneko doubled!!! so Itoi scored, 7-0. Here's Kudoh... who hits a "Woods homer", that is, a double off the back wall that's literally like inches from being a real home run, so Kaneko scores, 8-0. Bobby Valentine comes out and Takagi also comes out. New pitcher wheeee.

Ok, now pitching for Chiba... SATORU KOMIYAMA? WOW! Well, hey, it could be worse, it could be Satoru Kanemura also pitching for the Fighters, and then Gary Garland would never be able to figure out what was going on.

Anyway here's Hichori Morimoto, who grounds out to short, and that's the inning. Good going, Old Man Komiyama.

bottom - Jose Ortiz grounds to short, where Kaneko runs deep back in the hole and gets the ball but the throw isn't quite in time, so Ortiz is safe at first. Ohmatsu hits a pop fly out to short. A wild pitch in the dirt through the catcher's legs advances Ortiz to second, but Julio Zuleta hits a long fly ball out to right. Benny -- who, by the way, Chiba fans, has TWO SYLLABLES in his name -- hits a pop fly out to center, and that's it.

6th: They must always do fireworks at the start of the 6th at Chiba Marine stadium, since they're doing them now.

Anyway, Kensuke Tanaka walks, and Inaba singles to right. Koyano hits a ball up the left side and Imae makes a fantastic diving stop, and sadly for him the throw doesn't get to first in time, so the bases are loaded with Seguignol up to bat... and after a few balls, Seguignol strikes out on a checked swing which wasn't quite checked (yeah, the replay is pretty clear, it crossed his body). And then... and then... Takahashi walks. Which walks in a run. 9-0 and HEY HERE'S YUKIO TANAKA!!!!!! dammit, that makes me sad, I wanted to be there to get to see him play one last time. Alas, Yukio, pinch-hitting for Itoi, hits a long fly ball out to right and it doesn't even score anyone. Poor guy. Kaneko also hits a pop fly out to end the inning, and that's one run out of a bases loaded situation, but whatever.

bottom - Imae hits a fly ball out to shallow center, which actually gets caught by Kaneko. Nishioka slices one through the middle for a single. And then Hayakawa hits a chopping grounder up the right side past Kensuke Tanaka and it goes into the gap between Hichori and Inaba, so while they're chasing it down, everyone else runs a lot and Nishioka scores and Hayakawa gets a triple out of the deal. 9-1. Satozaki grounds out to short but that brings Hayakawa in -- 9-2. Saburo hits a fly ball out and that's the inning.

Oooh, runs. Remember those, Marines?

7th Kudoh hits a pop fly out to left, so does Hichori, Kensuke hits one as well and it's short enough that Tsuyoshi Nishioka catches it near short, and that's three outs.

bottom - Oh hey, Konta came in for Inaba in right. Interesting.

Jose Ortiz hits a single to left field. Ohmatsu hits one to right field. And uhh... oh man, that was almost a home run but no, Kudoh caught the ball like maybe 10 feet in front of the fence. Even BETTER, you can clearly see Julio Zuleta shouting "FUCK!" as he's walking off the field. Teehee. And yeah... that's it for Sweeney, I think. Yeah, it is. Takayuki Kanamori comes in to pitch. Pretty good outing for Sweeney, honestly.

Kanamori starts off by striking out Benny Agbayani swinging on a high and inside pitch. Whoosh. Imae singles, but Ortiz just advances to third and Ohmatsu to second. Oddly, Nishioka strikes out after that on a checked swing that wasn't quite checked. Takahashi tags him and it's funny, Nishioka's actually pretty much laughing, like "Yeah, I look like a dumbass, don't I?"

8th: And Heiuchi comes in to play shortstop for Chiba? Eh. Konta is up to bat to lead off the 8th and they show Inaba in the dugout. Wait a minute, so Konta flew out to left and the guy who caught the ball was Takehara... and Hashimoto also came in to catch instead of Satozaki, and... and Koyano also hits a pop fly out, and the next batter is Naoto Inada, who is playing first instead of Seguignol. Wheeeeeee changes. Oh, Naoto actually gets a single to left. Lalalalala Naoto! Shinji Takahashi grounds into a fielder's choice after that and it's the inning.

bottom - hey, ok, Tsuruoka is in catching for the Fighters, Iiyama is playing third, and Hayakawa is leading off for the Marines by getting a single to left. Hashimoto hits a high fly ball, caught by Kensuke Tanaka near first base. Takehara hits a fly ball out foul and Naoto gets it. Ortiz hits a shallow pop and one of the fielders catches it and nearly trips over the other fielder.

9th: Hmm.. Komiyama turns 42 next week and he's pitching to Yukio who turns 40 in December, and... and Yukio strikes out. Aww :( Kaneko grounds out, and Kudoh hits a shallow fly out behind second, and that's three.

bottom - ok, well, Hashimoto is pitching for the Fighters, and Ohmatsu leads off for the Marines by hitting a double into the gap in right field. Zuleta strikes out swinging. Benny hits a liner to center which Hichori catches, and... one more! one more! It's Imae, who... who... who hits a double to left, scoring Ohmatsu. 9-3. Whee. Heiuchi unceremoniously grounds out to first and that's the game!


Huh, Koyano is game hero. That is pretty bizarre.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Yomiuri fans piss me off

I went to the Baystars-Giants game on Sunday with IcebreakerX. I'll post a more detailed game report in a bit, but for now, man, Giants fans really annoy me. It was bad enough seeing Ogasawara's clean-shaven doppleganger playing baseball, but even worse was seeing that the Giants fans can't even make up their own goofy player gags, they have to steal someone else's:

See, in the past, Fighters fans waved these blue inflatable dolphins when cheering for Ogasawara due to a commercial he did for the Ogasawara islands that had a jingle that basically translated to "Come see the dolphins on Ogasawara island..." (aka, "iruka ga iru"). Then Ogasawara signed with the Giants, and...

Yeah, this is just my standard dose of bitterness, mostly because I've been to four games since moving to Japan and haven't seen the team I was cheering for win one yet. This one was particularly sad because the Baystars kept getting the lead and just choking it up. At least I got to see Kizuka. And Kroon! Except Kroon also choked up 3 runs in the 10th. Sigh. I hate the Giants.

On the other hand, today is the 30th anniversary of Sadaharu Oh hitting his 756th home run. They had a TV special about it this afternoon around 1pm, which I watched while arguing with my laundry. Exciting.