Sunday, May 17, 2009

On The Road In Matsuyama 5/09: Tokyo Yakult vs. Hiroshima @ Botchan Stadium Part 1

Hello everyone. On Saturday May 9th, I went on a little road trip to Matsuyama City in Ehime Prefecture, which is on the island of Shikoku, to catch a few local games. The Tokyo Yakult Swallows hosted a 2 game series against the Hiroshima Toyo Carp at Botchan Stadium in Matsuyama. So naturally, these being “local” games, I just had to go. Right off the bat, this trip was worth it just because of the pitching match up in the first game, which was Colby Lewis of the Carp going against Ryo Kawashima of the Swallows. But before I talk about the game, I’d like to write a little bit about the stadium itself.

I was really surprised by Botchan Stadium. Not only is it really huge but it’s also very clean as well. Plus, there was a wide variety of food to choose from inside the stadium and outside as well. Sometimes these local stadiums leave much to be desired in terms of location, concessions, and overall enjoyment. But, Botchan delivered and I would highly recommend going to this stadium if you are ever in the area. And also, outside of the stadium there was a little memorial to commemorate Japan’s victory in the WBC this year. It was really cool and awe-inspiring at the same time.

Now for those of you who don’t know, this is Norichika Aoki. He’s probably one of Japan’s best hitters and an all around cheerful guy in my opinion.

This is Aoki's WBC Medal. Seriously, What!? This thing looks so cheesy to be completely honest. I mean come on Bud Selig, with all that revenue you pulled in from the WBC, could you have at least tried to make a more elegant design or something? But it is a gold medal after all...

Here's the WBC display outside of Botchan Stadium. On the very left you have Aoki's profile with his personal stats from each game he played in during the WBC and to the right of that you have a display of Team Japan's WBC uniforms (Home and Away). These are actual jerseys that Aoki himself wore and the white one has signatures from everyone that was on Team Japan. Right next to that you have Aoki's gold medal and right next to that you have the box scores from all of Team Japan's games during the WBC. This display was totally cool IMHO.

I also have to say that at this game I got to meet an “old friend” of mine named Ishii Takuro for the first time this year. Now for those of you who don’t know, Takuro used to be the face of the Yokohama BayStars for many years and had spent his entire 20+ year career with the until he was released last off-season when Yokohama decided not to give him a new contract (which is something I still have not forgiven Yokohama for and am still pissed at). But, I’m not going to rant about that issue and stir the pot because I still love and support Takuro wherever he may be at. He looks happy with the Carp this season and I’m happy for him. Although, I believe that Takuro is starting to show his age a little bit as he couldn’t convert a couple of plays on defense that he might’ve been able to do a few years ago. But despite that, he is still THE MAN and I’m happy I got to see him play.

Takuro taking his swings in the batting cage.

Takuro practicing his base running before the game.

Takuro sizing up his bat .

Takuro getting ready to start his hitting routine. Honestly, I'd never thought that I'd see that batting stane again.

Norichika Aoki, Kenta Kurihara and Yoshiyuki Ishihara all being honored for being a part of Team Japan before the game.

The game started off as a pitchers duel between Lewis and Kawashima, Ryo. Neither pitched seemed to budge as the outs just kept on coming. But, Yakult would strike first in the bottom of the 4th as left fielder Kazuki Fukuchi would double to start things off for Yakult. Aaron Guiel would later drive Fukuchi in with a double to right after working a great at bat against Lewis (something like 10+ pitches as I lost count). Unfortunately for the Birds, this was all that they managed and Hiroshima would end up making them pay for this in the next few innings (with the help of some errors from Yakult).

Up until this point, Swallows pitcher Ryo Kawashima had pitched a no-hitter through 4 innings but in the top of the 5th, Hiroshima put a stop to that. Newly signed Carp Scott McClain walked to start off the inning. After that, he advanced to second on a Scott Seabol groundout and then Takuro came up to the plate. Takuro hit a single to left shattering Ryo Kawashima’s no-hitter and advancing McClain to third. Then, Hiroshima catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara hit a grounder to Yakult shortstop Keizoh Kawashima that he misplayed for an error and this allowed McClain to score from third and make it a tie game. I also noticed that Ryo Kawashima was starting to lose his control as he walked 2 batters in this inning and one of the batters was pitcher Colby Lewis.

Hiroshima struck again in the top of the 6th and this time they made it really count. Masato Akamatsu lead of the inning with a single to left center field and then Sohichiro Amaya (who is having a pretty good season so far in my view) doubled to right center to move Akamatsu over to 3rd. Takada-kantoku decided that Ryo Kawashima’s night was over and brought in Kenichi Matsuoka to relieve him. It didn’t really matter who was pitching at that point as the next batter, Kentaro “Smoking Gun” Kurihara as I like to call him, promptly singled to right, which scored Akamatsu and Amaya to make it 3-1 Yakult. Kurihara advanced to second during the throw home also. Scott McClain struck out, as did Scott Seabol to give Yakult a quick 2 outs but right after Sebol struck out, Yakult catcher Ryoji Aikawa attempted to pick off Kurihara, who had a big lead at second. This didn’t work out as the ball totally went over Hiroyasu Tanaka’s head and allowed Kurihara to advance to 3rd. Then, Takuro Ishii a.k.a. THE MAN singled to right to bring in Kurihara to make it 4-1 Hiroshima and that’s where the score would end up for this game.

Colby Lewis was amazing as he went 7 innings and scattered 4 hits in that timeframe while striking out seven and giving up 1 run while picking up the win. Ryo Kawashima took the loss for Yakult. I had hoped for a better performance from him but I guess things don’t always work out. But, he did carry a no-hitter into the 5th inning so I was glad to be able to see that. Hiroshima closer Katsuhiro Nagakawa also picked up his 10th save of the year in this game as well.

All in all, a great game for Hiroshima on what was a beautiful sunny day in Matsuyama. I’m expecting Marty Brown (Hiroshima’s manager) and his crew to do great things this year and they didn’t disappoint me today. Plus, I was really happy that I got to see Takuro again as it’s still so strange not seeing him in a Yokohama uniform. But again, I can see that Takuro is happy this season and is contributing to the team and I’m all for that.

Yakult starter Ryo Kawashima.

Hiroshima starter Colby Lewis.

The final score for the day.

And because this was a local game, here's a random bonus picture from my album:

Yakult first baseman Jamie D'Antona warming up before the game.


  1. I have been at Botchan Stadium a couple of times and I think it is a magnificent place to go!
    This local game seems to be very interesting because of the skills on both teams are very similar.
    All I want to do now is Buy Viagra in order to have a nice time with my wife