Wednesday, June 17, 2009

2009 Interleague Madness: Rakuten vs. Yokohama in Sendai A.K.A. Totallly Owned

Hello again everyone. This past weekend, Saturday June 13th and Sunday June, 14th, I took a trip to Miyagi Prefecture in north Japan to see the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles take on the Yokohama BayStars at the ever famous Kleenex Stadium Miyagi. Now despite the name of the stadium as possibly being on of the worst ever, the stadium itself is a really nice place and Rakuten has done quite well in terms of marketing and really capturing the attention of the people in Miyagi and the surrounding areas. They drew 20,000+ crowds for the two games this past weekend and it was great to see people supporting the Eagles. The Rakuten eagles have only been in existence for about 5 years but already they are pushing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Pacific League and quite frankly, the team has gotten my attention and I’m listening. I can’t explain it but there’s a charm about the Eagles that makes them attractive in my opinion and I think I’ve somewhat become enamored with them as they are my second favorite team along with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the Pacific League, who both are behind Seibu of course. Maybe it’s their young stud pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and Masahiro Tanaka, or maybe it’s the manager, Katsuya Nomura (highly doubtful on this one), but I like the Rakuten Eagles and really when I can’t cheer for Seibu , I can see myself putting on some maroon and pulling for the Eagles.

This is MR.CARRASCO, one of Rakuten's many mascots. He is known for doing crazy things such as stunts on a dirt bike and literally climbing the very small wall in the outfield and jumping into the stands. He totally rocks.

But before I go on, I’d just like to say thank you to Michael Westbay from for the camera advice he gave on one of my previous posts. I’m still learning the ropes with my new camera so to speak and hopefully, as time goes on, this blog can serve as sort of a personal history to showcase my improvement in picture taking.

But enough joking aside, this weekend totally sucked for Yokohama. Now we all know that the Stars aren’t having the best season this year but after this weekend series, I can now officially say that they are content to be bottom feeders in NPB. I mean seriously, totaling 7 hits and 0 runs in two games just means utter fail. Yokohama is serving up its fans a double order of fail fries with a triple order of weak sauce every time they take the field seriously. It’s gotten to the point where I just don’t care enough about the team enough to pay attention to them aside from reading the sports news everyday to see how they did. And while I will always be a BayStars fan as they got me though some hard times a few years back, I absolutely refuse to be “a carp in a pond that eats whatever is fed to him” and I feel that that’s what many BayStars fans are as they just keep blindly following the team and hope that the team can win. They could learn a thing or two from the Chiba Lotte fans. Yeah, believing in your team is one thing, but when your team is in a tailspin and going downward with no end in sight, surely you must question what can be done to fix the team right? As a consumer, I want to get the most bang for my buck and am using this as a chance to explore other teams and take my interest in NPB to the next level. So basically, I use Yokohama as an excuse to go on road trips as I’ll be going to Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium in late July to see the new stadium when the Stars have a series there.

Dan Johnson or "DJ" as he likes to be called. I don't know what happened but he isn't playing that well these days.

Yokohama centerfielder Tatsuhiko Kinjoh. Honestly, I like Kinjoh but it seems like this may be his last year in Yokohama.

New lead-off man Yuki Yoshimura. I admit, while the concept of Yoshimura as a lead-off hitter is intriguing, he strikes out way to much for my taste and shouldn't be batting lead-off in my opinion.

Seiichi Uchikawa trying to be gangster in left field before the game. All kidding aside though, I really like Uchi and honestly, I think that Tashiro-kantoku should give him a shot to lead-off again.

As for the games themselves,
Yokohama was totally outclassed from the start. The starters for Game 1 were Ryan Glynn for the Stars and Satoshi Nagai for the Eagles. This was a typical start for Glynn as he gave up runs early in the game and didn’t receive any run support whatsoever from the offense. Rakuten needed little effort to win this game as they mainly used Glynn’s erratic control against him to do so.

After a fly out to left by Daisuke Kusano to start the bottom of the 2rd, Tsuchiya Teppei walked and then advanced to third on a single to right by Kenshi. Yosuke Hirashi also walked to load the bases and then Rakuten catcher Motohiro Shima walked to make it 1-0 Rakuten with the bases still loaded. Then, leadoff hitter Naoto Wantanabe singled to center to make it 3-0 Rakuten and that’s where the score stayed until the bottom of the 8th where Daisuke Kusano would add another run on an RBI double to make it 4-0 Rakuten. Again, Rakuten didn’t need all that much to win the game as they only had 6 hits total and 5 of them were singles.

But Satoshi Nagai on the other hand, totally handcuffed Yokohama by throwing a complete game while allowing 2 hits and striking out 8 while walking 4. Perhaps this will make Rakuten manager Katsuya Nomura appreciate what pitching he has instead of grumbling about how Iwakuma and Tanaka ore the only good pitchers there are and how he can’t send them out everyday to start. I guess I’m a spoiled Yakyu fan as earlier in the week, I saw Hideaki Wakui of the Lions also go the distance against Hanshin. Two complete games in one week is a great thing.

But to Yokohama’s credit I did see some things I liked. While I get on Ryan Glynn a lot, he did pitch great after giving up those 3 runs there’s no denying that. And also, I like what Tashiro kantoku did in mixing things up with the starting lineup. Now frankly, while having Yuki Yoshimura lead off and Dan Johnson bat second is not such a good thing in my opinion, he did something different and I think that deserves a little credit. But even that is stretching it out and can’t hide that fact that things were not so good in Sendai this weekend for the Stars.

Now, I had hope for Game 2 to be honest with you because Yokohama’s ace, Daisuke Miura, took the mound for Game 2 against the brick wall known as Hisashi Iwakuma. But alas, even “Hama No Bancho” was not enough to overcome defeat as he got hammered. Miura wasn’t his normal self as his control seemed a bit off and besides that, one of my friends told me that he hurt his leg or something during his last start so it’s also quite possible that he has been playing hurt as well.

Yokohama Ace Daisuke Miura warming up before starting the 1st inning.

Miura just before throwing his first pitch of the game.

Miura looking cool in his shades and practice uniform before the game.

Hisashi Iwakuma right before throwing a pitch.

Hisashi Iwakuma right after throwing a pitch.

Hisashi Iwakuma yet again.

Rakuten exploded and did most of their damage in the 5th and 6th innings by scoring 7 runs and totaling 9 hits in those two innings as well. Rakuten DH Takeshi “Hulk Smash” Yamazaki went 3 for 4 with 2 home runs and 2 RBIs and 3 runs scored and catcher Akihito Fuji went 3 for 3 with 2 RBIs and 3 runs scored. Seriously, if the Japanese were to ever make their own version of “The Hulk”, Takeshi Yamazaki would be the perfect guy to fill the role as he’s not only a decent sized guy, but he has the temper to boot.

Rakuten outfielder Teppei touching up first base during a pickoff attempt by Ryan Glynn during Game #1.

Teppei advancing to third on a single by Rakuten first baseman Kenshi during Game #1. It was the same play as the picture above too ironically.

Catcher Akihito Fuji standing on first base after recording his third hit of the day during Game #2.

Rakuten left fielder Masato Nakamura just after hitting a single in the 5th inning of Game #1.

Daisuke Kusano stealing second base.

But despite
Yokohama continuing its losing ways, Sendai was great as always. Kleenex Stadium Miyagi is a gorgeous stadium and Rakuten has done a lot to improve it, although those Lawson “Group Seats” in the right field stands are totally stupid and messed up part of the charm of the stadium which were the little hills in the outfield where you could sit and lay your blanket out just like in the countryside stadiums (left field still has the hill where people sit). So, if you ever get the chance to go, please do as you won’t regret it.

And finally, I leave you with this photo:

BayStars veteran pitcher Kimiyasu Kudoh. When it comes to this season, the look on Kudoh's face pretty much sums up how I feel when I think about the BayStars. I think this is going to be my mandatory introduction photo for all BayStars related posts this year.


  1. Great action photos. I saw the ball coming toward Miura in the photo above and knew you figured out the timing settings. The slide by Teppei with the dust cloud is another one I like.

    I would have liked to have seen Johnson come in as a defensive replacement for Saeki at first last night (June 28) at Koshien in the 9th. He hasn't been impressive with the bat, but Johnson's defense has been amazing. Those two "too hot to handle" hits toward Saeki in the 9th were our downfall. Oh, but let's not dwell on the past.

  2. Regarding Mr. Carrasco, were you around when Yokohama had "Black Hosshi"? The year after he disappeared, this Mr. Carrasco appeared in Sendai, doing some of the same wild stunts and itazura. I can't help but think that there's some sort of connection.

  3. Michael, I was very surprised to see Yokohama playing so well in Matsumoto and Kofu on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively (I actually did watch those games on Justin TV in their entirety). Perhaps they are indeed finding their groove and can start to put together a nice winning streak. And also too, I figured that Johnson would've been better at the plate so I was surprised when you told me about his defense.

    In regards to Black Hosshi, I wasn't around when he was, but I am aware of him. Also too, they had some promotion in September of least season in which they brought him back. But, I think it is a case of Rakuten "borrowing" an idea from Yokohama.