Monday, August 10, 2009

Pro Yakyu Super Summer Extravaganza Day 3 A.K.A. My Greatest Yakyu Fan Moment 08/02/09

Hello everyone. I've taken a few days off from writing here and updating my "Pro Yakyu Super Summer Extravaganza" series because the plane ride back to Haneda Airport last Monday really messed up my sleeping pattern during the last few days. And besides, after Sunday's game, I needed to reflect on it and figure out how exactly I was going to write this article. Because hands down, this was the best game I've seen all year and nothing will probably come close to it and what happened the following day was probably the greatest thing to happen to me as a Pro Yakyu fan.

Catcher Takeshi Hosoyamada and infielder Noriharu Yamazaki sharing a laugh by the water cooler.

Pitcher Kentaro Takasaki after warming up before the game.

Hayato Terahara after warming up before the game.

Let's start out with the basics here in regards to this game shall we? It was a near 4 hour slugfest (3h 55m to be exact) with a total of 31 hits between the Stars and the Carp and honestly, it was like a roller coaster ride with all it's ups and downs for the 26,076 people in attendance. I believe this was Hiroshima's most productive game in regards to hit total but in the end, they could not come away with the win despite jumping all over Yokohama starter Les Walrond in the first inning. Walrond was totally useless on the mound during the 1 2/3 innings he did work and had lousy command to boot. Don't know if it was the summer heat in Hiroshima or just some bad Okonomiyaki from the night before but it wasn't a good performance from yet another Yokohama starter. And while I'm on the subject, "PRIORITIZE PITCHING IN THE OFFSEASON YOKOHAMA".

Les Walrond after his first inning of work. Sad face.

Walrond after throwing a pitch in the second inning.

Hiroshima ace Kan Ohtake did a little better as he only gave up one run on four hits through his first 5 innings over work. But as you will see, he was eventually worn down and tagged for 7 runs in the end.

Hiroshima ace Kan Ohtake in the first inning.

Ohtake playing with his hat during the ceremonial first pitch.

Hiroshima wasted no time in taking an early lead in the bottom of the 1st. Akihiro Higashide started things off with a single to center. Then the very next batter Masato Akamatsu, doubled to left center and just like that it was 1-0 Hiroshima. Both runners then advanced to 3rd and 2nd respectively on a double steal and after that, Hiroshima clean up hitter Kenta Kurihara hit a sacrifice fly to deep right to make it 2-0. Now before I go on, if you had ever visited the old ballpark in Hiroshima, you would know that it was probably the easiest park to hit a home run in. That being said, I think that Kurihara’s numbers may take a little dive in the future because of the new park. He hit a number of fly balls in this series that would’ve easily gone for home runs in the old ballpark. Going back to the game, Scott McClain singled to left to make it 3-0 and was eventually moved over to 3rd thanks to an Andy Phillips walk and a Tetsuya Kokubo single to center. Catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara capped off the scoring for the Carp in the 1st by hitting a sacrifice fly to center to bring in McClain and make it 4-0.

Hiroshima struck again in the bottom of the 2nd when Soichiro Amaya singled to right and then was promptly brought in by a Kenta Kurihara double to left center which made it 5-0 and spelled the end for Les Walrond as he was replaced by Kentaro Takasaki.

Yokohama got on the board in the top of the 4th when both Kazuya Fujita and Seiichi Uchikawa hit back to back singles to right field. Fujita was later brought home by a Yuki Yoshimura single to left which made it 5-1. And from there, something really strange started to happen. Gradually, the Stars started to chip away at Hiroshima ace Kan Ohtake and that brought us to the top of the 6th. Kazuya Fujita started things of with a single to left. Then later on, Shuichi Murata single to right which brought up Dan Johnson. And with one swing of the bat, Johnson made it 5-4 via a three run home run (his 15th on the year) to deep right and boy did that ball fly. Now in my opinion, while Johnson’s batting average hasn’t been anything to write home about, he’s been an asset to the Stars on defense and because of his home runs because he usually hits them when there are actually runners on base as opposed to the numerous amounts of solo homeruns I see other players hitting. So really, he's helped the team out quite a bit in my opinion and is worth holding onto for next season and beyond in my opinion.

But the one run lead wouldn’t last as Hiroshima came back with a vengeance in the bottom of the 6th. After two quick groundouts to start the inning for Hiroshima, pitcher Kan Ohtake singled to center. He was then moved over to 3rd by Akihiro Higashide via a double to left. And once again, Masato Akamatsu struck again by hitting a 2 run RBI single to left and widening Hiroshima’s lead at 7-4.

But Yokohama was not out for the count as they really made it count in the top of the 7th. It truly was a “Lucky Seven” for us today. Pinch hitter Tatsuhiko Kinjoh started things off with a hit to right. Then, leadoff man and former Carp Shigeru Morikasa added a hit of his own to center putting runners on 1st and 2nd and after that, Fujita moved the runners over with a nice sacrifice bunt which set things up for the heart of our order. Seiichi Uchikawa hit an RBI single to center which made it 7-5 and Hiroshima manager Marty Brown decided Ohtake’s night was over and put in Hayato Aoki to take his place. It didn’t really matter though who was pitching as Yokohama’s offense kept coming as the next batter, Shuichi Murata, hit an RBI single to right center which made it 7-6. And after a walk to Dan Johnson for obvious reasons which loaded the bases and a fly out to short by Yoshimura, shortstop Takehiro Ishikawa was lifted for veteran hitter Takehiro Saeki and Saeki was on point today as he delierved a 2 run RBI single to right which gave Yokohama the lead at 8-7 with runners on 1st and 3rd. Unfortunately, catcher Shingo Takeyama flied out to short to end this monumental comeback by the Stars. Seriously, this was amazing to watch I can’t begin to recap the emotions that were going through me at the time.

But just as fast as they got the lead, the Stars lost it again when in the bottom of the 7th, Hiroshima catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara doubled to right center with one on to tie the game at 8 a piece.

So that takes us to the top of the 10th inning where none other than Yuki Yoshimura leads things off with a solo home run to left to make it 9-8 and slowly earned a little more of my respect. Interesting to note too that Yokohama did load the bases in this inning as well but nothing came of it. But the solo home run was all the Stars needed to win a hard fought game. Yokohama I feel, has a decent offense but again, they can't always rely on their offense to be on their game and need pitching to match what they have. But ranting aside, this was the best game I've been to all year and I don't think anything can match it quite honestly.

Today's game hero Atsushi Kizuka being interviewed for TV after the game. He was absolutely brilliant in the game.

Kizuka on the mound in the 10th inning.

What happened the following day was probably the greatest Yakyu related thing to have ever happened to me. So, I was at Hiroshima Airport waiting for my plane to depart and was watching a recent Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles game which was the first MLB game I've seen in well over 2 years possibly. Anyways, I'm watching the game and I turn around to see none other than Takuro Ishii standing right behind me. So it turns out that the Carp were flying out of town because they had to go to Hokkaido for a short 2 game series against the Giants. After much debate and that fact that I didn't think I'd ever get this chance again, I asked Takuro if I could take a picture with him and he agreed to do it. After that, I saw Marty Brown, Scott McClain, and Mike Schultz having some coffee at a nearby shop. So, it took me about 10 minutes to get the courage to ask Marty to take a picture with him and he said yes also. Marty is a really nice guy and was totally cool with me being a Stars fan and all. Hopefully, the rumors about his job aren't true as I think Marty is a great manager I feel and hopefully the Carp can make it to the Climax Series in the near future as I think I'm not the only one who wants to see them go.

Hiroshima manager Marty Brown and myself at Hiroshima Airport on Monday after the game on Sunday night.

Takuro Ishii and myself at Hiroshima Airport. The greatest photo I've ever taken hands down.

All in all, a great trip to Hiroshima and hopefully, I can get back there in the near future as it's always a pleasure going to my favorite place in Japan.

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