Hello again everyone. On Wednesday, June 10th, I went to the Seibu Dome for another rare weeknight game against none other than the Hanshin Tigers. I attended this game with my friend Mike, who lives in the general area nearby and honestly we didn’t know what to expect other than there would be a lot of Hanshin fans at the stadium. We had both wanted to see either Hideaki Wakui or Takayuki Kishi pitch and we got our wish when the starters for the game were announced as Hideaki Wakui going for the Lions and Minoru Iwata for the Tigers. Now, I believe that this was Iwata’s first start of the year as he had been hurt to start the season. I really didn’t know what to expect from him but he went way above and beyond the call in my opinion as this game was a total pitching match and it was pitching ironically that ended up deciding who won the game. This was also my first time seeing Hanshin live this season so, I was pretty pumped about that. And even though I detest most Hanshin fans because of their attitudes and manners, you cannot help but admire and appreciate the atmosphere of a ball game whenever and wherever Hanshin plays, be it on the road or in Kansai.
Hanshin got things going in the top of the first when 3rd baseman Takahiro Arai hit a home run to deep right field to give Hanshin an early 1-0 lead. But, in the bottom of the first, Seibu responded when Takumi Kuriyama doubled to deep right center and promptly after that, Hiroyuki Nakajima blasted a 2 run home run to center field to put Seibu on top 2-1. But Hanshin wouldn’t stand idle for long as Tomoaki Kanemoto would give Hashin the lead again in the top of the 3rd on a two run RBI single to center allowing Keiichi Hirano and Norihiro Akahoshi to both score. Both batters had been walked previously by Wakui and interestingly enough, those were his only two walks of the game. And for the next few innings, Kanemoto’s RBI single would stand as the difference maker until the bottom of the 6th when Yasuyuki Kataoka doubled to right to start off the inning. After a sacrifice bunt by Takumi Kuriyama moved Kataoka over to third, Hiroyuki Nakajima grounded out to short allowing Kataoka to score which tied the game at 3-3 and from there the game got interesting.
Hanshin 3rd baseman Takahiro Arai crossing home plate after hitting a home run in the top of the 1st.
Arai standing on second after getting a hit in the 6th. Feel free to add your own caption.
Arai swinging at a pitch.
Arai swinging at another pitch.
Yasutuki Kataoka after swinging at a pitch.
Tomoaki "Aniki" Kanemoto striking out in the top of the 8th.
Kanemoto taking a short breather in between pitches.
Kanemoto getting ready to swing at a pitch.
Norihiro Akahoshi not looking happy after a called strike.
Shinjiro Hiyama fouling off a pitch.
Seibu infielder Hiroshi Hirao. Hard to believe Hirao is a 15 year veteran.
Hirao coming up to the plate.
Both pitchers had dominated the game each giving up 3 runs a piece and limiting their hits and walks. But 2/3 of the way into the 8th inning, Mayumi kantoku decided it was time for a pitching change when he brought in Scott Atchison to replace Iwata. I’m not so sure I agreed with that decision, as it was good for the end of the 8th when Atchison got out of a jam with runners on first and third with two outs by getting Nakajima to ground out to end the inning. But it was Atchison and later Jeff Williams who blew it for Hanshin. After striking out “Okawari” Nakamura to start the bottom of the ninth, Atchison walked Hiroshi Hirao, who was then lifted for pinch runner Haruki Kurose. Kurose then advanced to third on a GG Sato single to right. Tomoaki Sato was then intentionally walked (why Mayumi did this, I’ll never know) and Atchison was pulled in favor of lefty Jeff Williams. Catcher Tsumitani Ginjiro was lifted for pinch hitter Yutaro Osaki and Williams walked Osaki on four straight pitches to bring home the winning run for Seibu, giving them a 4-3 victory over the Tigers. Hey, it wasn’t the way I’d prefer to win but I’ll take it, as a win is a win after all.
Saitama Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui.
Hanshin starter Minoru Iwata.
Iwata after throwing a pitch.
Iwata waiting for a ball after throwing a pitch.
The conference in the top of the 8th and the Iwata's finish.
Wakui got the win for Seibu and Iwata took the loss for Hanshin. As I said earlier, both pitchers were outstanding and their numbers were pretty much the same (see box score below) but, I have to say that Iwata impressed me more because he was more “economical” with pitches having only thrown 99 pitches by the time he was lifted in the bottom of the 8th whereas Wakui ended up throwing 141 pitches by going the distance. I really love Wakui as Seibu’s ace and think the world of him but I can’t help but think in the back of my mind how much damage these complete game/high pitch counts will do to him in the future.
Game hero Yutaro Osaki addressing the crowd after the game.
Also as a little side story, former Saitama Seibu Lion Craig Brazell made his return to the Seibu Dome but ended up going 0-4 in the contest. It’s great that Craig was able to get another shot to play in Japan after being let go by the Lions after the end of last season. For the time being at least, he seems to getting along nicely and has become an instant hit with Hanshin. Hopefully, he helps the team and has a productive season. And as a treat for all the readers out there, here are some shots of Brazell in his new uniform. Not bad pictures if I do say so myself. I think these are the first in game shots of him in a game but I’m not really to sure if they are or not.
Craig Brazell shot #1.
Craig Brazell shot #2.
Craig Brazell shot #3.
Craig Brazell shot #4.