Wednesday, April 22, 2009
04/18 Orix vs Rakuten @ Tokyo Dome: Iwakuma corrals the Buffaloes
Hello once again everyone. It's Sunday April 19th and I just got back from the final game of the most amazing two game series I have ever seen. But before I go on about that, as usual I have to give you all a little back story to these games. Seriously everyone, words alone can not describe how freaking awesome both of these games were.
Ok, so in Japanese Baseball, teams sometime play what are known as 地方ゲーム or local (regional) games. These games are usually played at rural out of the way baseball stadiums in which most people probably have never heard of or even care about. But sometimes teams play these games in the major stadiums as well. The purpose of these games are twofold I feel. First, it gives the local people in these areas a chance to see games that they would not normally see and second it promotes the game of baseball in the rural areas of Japan. So, being the eccentric baseball fan that I am, I go to these games whenever I can.
Also for these games, I managed sit in the "Excite Seats" or field level seats. Now, this will probably be the only chance I will ever get to sit in these seats so that made the games even more enjoyable. These seats are practically impossible to get as they are only available to Giants fan club members. Stupid Giants, I really wish they would just go away but then, who would I take my baseball frustrations on? Hanshin perhaps? I dunno really.
The "Excite Seats" at Tokyo Dome. You can clearly see that the last two rows are raised a bit. I was sitting in the first row (Yeah!!!) and therefore got to kick the playing surface. How does it feel you may ask? It's squishy and perhaps that's the reason that whenever there's a hit, all the black stuff comes up out of the surface.
Rakuten taking batting practice.
Buffaloes Mascot Neppie posing for pictures and getting the crowd riled up before the game. Hey, at least it's not Giabbit. Anyone but Giabbit...
Orix infielders Alex Cabrera and Mitsutaka Gotoh warming up before the game.
Sometimes before a Japanese baseball game, teams receive flowers from certain people from a company or a town or whomever if a company or whomever sponsors a game. Today's special presents were 2 giant plastic Dydo water bottles. Dydo is a drink company here in Japan. Often times, I can't figure out what this place (Japan) is all about.
Rakuten infielders Norihiro Nakamura and Takeshi Yamazaki (and I use the term infielder loosely here because he is the everyday DH) warming up before the game.
The starters for the day were Hisashi Iwakuma for Rakuten and Kazuki Kondoh for Orix. The story of the day was obviously Hisashi Iwakuma and his total dominance of the Orix lineup but what didn't get a lot of coverage in my opinion was the fact that Kondoh didn't really pitch that bad either. He only gave up 2 hits in his first 5 innings of work one of which was a timely hit by Norihiro Nakamura in the 1st inning. His only other mistake in my opinion was in the 6th inning when he gave up a two run homerun to Rakuten third baseman Daisuke Kusano. Other than that, this was a classic case of a pitcher getting zero run support from his team and it costing him the match. Kondoh ended the day by going 7 and 1/3 innings while giving up 4 runs and striking out 2 and walking 4 although he did throw 118 pitches which was a little disturbing to me. Rakuten broke the game open in the 8th by adding 4 more runs on 5 hits and Marcus Gwyn pitched a scoreless ninth to end the game for Orix.
But again, the story of the day was Hisashi Iwakuma. Honestly, I'm still speechless as I finish typing this on early Wednesday morning. He retired 18 batters in a row from the 3rd to the 6th inning and only needed 97 pitches to get through his 8 innings of work. I'm still wondering why he didn't win the WBC MVP award instead of Matsuzaka, seriously. He ended the day by going 8 innings striking out 5 and giving up no runs. He didn't walk anybody either so that's bonus points in my book.
Overall, a great game by Rakuten by getting to Orix's pitchers. Needless to say, this game didn't disappoint and was worth going to. It's always fun to go to games of other teams as you never know what to expect.
Orix infleider Osamu Hamanaka playing catch during the intermission with the outfielders while Cabrera and Kondoh warmup in the background.
Orix Starter Kazuki Kondoh.
Rakuten Starter and WBC Hero Hisashi Iwakuma.
Iwakuma shot #2. Throwing to first base with Naoyuki Ohmura on first.
Iwakuma shot #3. Winding up for the pitch.
"New" Orix outfielder Naoyuki Ohmura whom Orix "traded" for in the off-season. They practically fleeced Softbank in a one-sided trade in my opinion. Ohmura also played for Orix (Kintetsu) earlier in his career as well.
THAT'S MR. BUFFALOES TO YOU!!! GET IT RIGHT!!!
Kondoh shot #2. Rakuten third baseman Daisuke Kusano is on first.
Mr. Buffaloes reacting after grounding out in the bottom of the 4th.
EDIT: I almost forgot, here's the box scores in both English and Japanese for this game. So, if you follow a certain player on either of these teams you can just click the link and get whatever you need. Stats are courtesy of the Rakuten Eagles Website in Japanese and the official NPB site for English.