Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On The Road In Matsuyama 5/10: Tokyo Yakult vs. Hiroshima @ Botchan Stadium Part 2

Hello once again everyone. So, a few weeks back as you all know, I went to Matsuyama to see the Yakult Swallows take on the Hiroshima Toyo-Carp at Botchan Stadium. These days, whenever I go see the Birds play, there’s one thing or rather one person I’d like to see at each game. That player is Shohei Tateyama. I was really hoping to see Tateyama pitch in one of these games and can you guess what the pitching match up for the day was? It was none other than Shohei Tateyama going for the Swallows against Takahiro Aoki of the Carp. So right off the bat, I’ve got to give the Birds all the credit in the world and a free pass from any “constructive criticism” about the team for a while even though it makes me angry to see Tateyama get ZERO love from the Birds in terms of merchandise. But, aside from that little jab now, no more dissing the Birds for a while. The attendance for this game was 14,981, which was pretty good. I thought that more people would’ve come out for the Sunday game but nonetheless, Yakult drew good numbers for both games in Matsuyama.

This is Hiroshima first baseman Kenta Kurihara. Seriously, this guy is an amazing ballplayer.

Kurihara again. By the way, do you notice anything strange about this picture? Now correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't really see many pro ballplayers doing this sort of thing or at least I haven't. Bonus points to Hiroshima for including this baseball fundamental during their practice time.

New Hiroshima outfielder Scott McClain taking his swings before the game.

Hiroshima second baseman Akihiro Higashide in the batting cage while manager Marty Brown plays with a bat.

Hiroshima starter Takahiro Aoki.

The game itself was much like the previous day. Both pitchers started off pretty good but Hiroshima starter Takahiro Aoki ran into trouble in the 3rd inning. After a groundout by pitcher Shohei Tateyama to start the bottom of the 3rd, Yakult shortstop Keizoh Kawashima singled to left and then Yakult left fielder Kazuki Fukuchi singled to right which put runners on first and third. And then, Aoki singled to right to make it 1-0 Yakult and Botchan Stadium promptly erupted. Seriously, the ovation that Aoki got was loud.

After that, Hiroshima finally got on the board in the top of the 5th. THE MAN, Takuro Ishii, doubled to left to start off the inning and then advanced to 3rd on a groundout by Hiroshima 2nd baseman Eishin Soyogi. After that, Sohichiro Amaya hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Takuro to tie the game at 1 a piece. However, that's all that Tateyama would give up as Hiroshima couldn't score any more runs for the rest of the game.

But not to be outdone, Yakult came back in the bottom of the 6th with a vengence. After a line out to first by Aaron Guiel and a flyout to right by Shinya Miyamoto, catcher Ryoji Aikawa singled to right. Then, Yakult second baseman Hiroyasu Tanaka hit a grounder to second which Hiroshima second baseman Eishin Soyogi misplayed for an error and that put runners on first and third. Then, Takada kantoku made the play of the game in my opinion when brought in Shinichiro Takeuchi to pinch hit for Tateyama even though the fans want to see Tateyama pitch anpther inning at least. Takeuchi promptly singled to left to make it 2-1 Yakult and put runners on 1st and 2nd. But Yakult wasn't done yet. Shortstop Keizoh Kawashima singled to right to score Hiroyasu Tanaka from 2nd but due to the slide from Tanaka, catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara missed the ball and Takeuchi came around to score as well to make it 4-1 Yakult.

After that, Masao Kida and Ryota Igarashi would hold Yakult scoreless for the next 2 innings and this allowed Yakult super closer Chang-Yong Lim to pick up his 10th save of the season. Naturally, Shohei Tateyama picked up the win by going 6 strong innings and giving up 1 run while striking out 7. It was just a pleasure to see Tateyama pitch and I hope I can see him pitch at least one more time before the season is over.

Yakult starter Shohei Tateyama. Sorry, all the pictures I took of Tateyama turned out bad. But, it still doesn't diminish the great season he's having.

Tateyama again.

Yakult setup man Ryota Igarashi warming up before the 8th. So, if Igarashi does indeed make it big and go to the Majors after this season is over, I can officially say that I saw him way back when. Oh yeah, and that's Shinya Miyamoto talking to an umpire in the background too.

Ryota Igarashi throwing the ball...

Now, I've got to say that Yakult has surprised me this season so far. As of this writing (05/20/2009) they are in second place in the central with a record of 22-13. Hopefully, they can continue to play well as I'd like to see a team other than the Giants, Tigers, and or Dragons in the Central League postseason this year. So keep it up Yakult and I'm pretty sure I'll be seeing you at Jingu on the last day of Inter-League play when you host the Lions.

The final score for the game.

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