Sunday, May 24, 2009

2009 Interleague Madness: Yokhama vs. Saitama Seibu @ Seibu Dome 5/22 & 5/23 A.K.A. "When Worlds Collide"

Yokohama first baseman Takahiro Saeki on the ground after committing an error in the 7th inning of Saturday's contest. Seriously, why is Saeki even still in the lineup? And yes, Saeki's 2 run home run in the game STILL doesn't change the fact that he's atrocious on defense. This is kind of what I feel like after I watch a BayStars game nowadays to be honest with you.

Hello all. It's been a little while I know but I've been feeling under the weather for a few weeks and am now just starting to get better. Honestly, I thought I had caught the "新型インフルエンザ" or "New Type Influenza" (Swine Flu as some of you may call it) but it turns out that I may have just had a really bad cold and sore throat that hit due to the season changing. I have like 6 games I need to write up and hopefully all of them will get posted this week so I will most definitely get caught up with things here. But anyways, on to the recap shall we?

On Friday May 22nd and Saturday May 23rd, I went to see the Yokohama BayStars do battle with the Saitama Seibu Lions. Now, these games were important for a number of reasons:

1. I decided that I was going to cheer in the outfield for the BayStars. Prior to that, it had been quite sometime since I actually cheered for the BayStars (the opening series in Nagoya doesn't really count as I was mainly talking with my friends from Kansai in the back and only glancing at the game). But I decided that no matter how bad they would be, that I'd cheer for them the entire game. But, since I remembered that I now have a "Yakyu Blog", I did split my time on Saturday between the right field cheering section and my field level seat to get some great pictures too by the way as you will see in a minute or so.

2. These match ups were between my 2 favorite teams from the Central and Pacific Leagues respectively. Now, it wasn't that hard to make up my mind who I was going to cheer for but it did feel awkward going to the Dome and cheering against the Lions this time around. I would be lying if I didn't say it wasn't. With me it's always the BayStars first and the Lions second whenever they play each other, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

3. I got to see "Tashiro's BayStars" first hand for the first time. Now, I'm sure you are all aware that former manager Akihiko Oya was replaced by former Shonan SeaRex manager Tomio Tashiro before interleague play began last week. Now that I've had some time to dwell on the move, I'd like to state how I feel about it.

I think the move is good but it came a little to late if you ask me. I feel that Ohya should have been let go at the end of last season which would have given Tashiro the chance to choose his own coaching staff and what not (had management decided to promote him at that time). So if Tashiro fails. I'm not going to blame him because he was thrust into this situation. Also, while I've stated that I do feel bad for Ohya, at the same time, I am disappointed at him and the BayStars management also because he failed to own up to his part of of the team's bad start and should have officially stepped down. But instead, he let management put him on "rest" and therefore, he'll probably slip out the back door unnoticed while the team goes in a different direction. I really can't buy into this whole "sabbatical" thing to be quite honest with you and still, there's a chance he could come back if the team improves (albeit a slim one).

Game #1 on Friday was a match up of aces so to speak as the pitching match up was Hideaki Wakui going for the Lions against Daisuke Miura of the BayStars. This was my second time seeing Miura this year and he wasn’t that much better than when I saw him on Opening day to be quite honest with you. But, it didn’t matter how good or bad Miura was because the story for this game was Yokohama’s offense. Now, for a good chunk of this young 2009 season, the BayStars have done NOTHING on offense. They’ve repeatedly failed to drive runners in let alone get on base. So, it came as quite a surprise to me when they hammered Wakui. It was like they were taking out the past month and a half on Wakui and it felt pretty good even though I felt bad for Wakui at the end of the night as well. Almost each starting member of Yokohama’s starting lineup had at least one hit with Shuichi Murata being the lone exception as he struck out 4 times in the contest (seriously, is anyone else getting sick of Murata’s all or nothing uppercut swing because I know I sure am). Also too, Yokohama’s new American slugger, Dan Johnson, hit a triple in the first inning which was really cool and kind of funny seeing him leg out a triple because Johnson is a really big guy I would assume that he hasn’t hit that many triples in his career (2 to be exact). Johnson seems to be finding his groove here in NPB which can only be a good thing and I wish him all the best and hope that he can continue producing for the BayStars.

The Lions too, weren’t that bad either as they scored in consecutive inning in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th innings. But, it didn’t really matter as Yokohama’s bats couldn’t be stopped. My friends and I agreed that this was the best game for Yokohama this year so far as Tashiro kantoku seems to be getting settled in as the manager of the BayStars. The starting lineup was evidence of this as he had Seiichi Uchikawa batting leadoff. This was the first time in a long time (if ever) that I had seen Uchikawa batting leadoff and surprisingly, it makes sense I think.

Miura picked up the win for Yokohama and Wakui took the loss for Seibu. It was really good to actually cheer for the Stars again as I got many blank looks when I came to the Dome with my Lions bag that had all my cheer towels and whatnot in it. But I assured all my friends that the Stars are still my #1 team in NPB. Stats in English and Japanese can be found below:



Yokohama Ace Daisuke Miura warming up before the game. He's my second favorite Japanese player right after Takuro Ishii.

Miura again. Even if the Stars don't come close to winning anything in the next few years, at least (and I hope) "Bancho" will get to retire in a Yokohama uniform.

But before that, I have to say that I spent Game 2 going back and forth between my field level seat and the outfield. It was my second time sitting in the new field view seats @ Seibu Dome and I’ve got to say that the view was a lot better on the 1st base side as the seats seemed a lot closer to the action than the 3rd base ones did. But anyways, onto Game 2 of the series and here we go…

To put it bluntly, all good things must come to an end as
Yokohama’s momentum from Game 1 didn’t last. Game 2 was the exact opposite of Game 1 as Seibu struck first in terms of scoring and didn’t let up. The starters for the game were Ryan Glynn for Yokohama and Kazuyuki Hoashi for the Lions. Now for Ryan Glynn this season, things haven’t been going so well for him. As it stands now, he’s 2-5 with a 3.99 ERA through 8 games this season. Now granted, not all of this is his fault mainly because of the lack of run support he's gotten in his starts, but performances like this game don't really help him. 8 of Glynn's 9 hits he gave up in the game came in the first 2 innings he pitched plus he gave up 6 runs (5 earned). But, to Yokohama's credit, they did manage to fight back by scoring 2 runs in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. So, maybe Tashiro kantoku is indeed having an effect on the Stars as I can't even remember when they tried to comeback in a game under Ohya's watch.

Saitama Seibu starter Kazuyuki Hoashi.

Hoashi delivering a pitch.

Yokohama starter Ryan Glynn. I swear that Glynn is going to cause me to short circuit by the end of the season.

An early conference on the mound in the 2nd inning.

Anyways, what really impressed me with Seibu is the performance of starter Kazuyuki Hoashi. To be honest, what's been killing Seibu this year is their pitching (the bullpen mainly in my opinion). Yes, their offense has been streaky at times too, but the pitching worries me more. So, the Lions needed a pitcher to step up and Hoashi did just that. He went out and dominated for six innings and pitching until the 8th while giving up 4 runs and striking out five. Although, he gave up 2 runs a piece in the 7th and 8th innings which makes me question how long he can actually go. But all in all, a great performance by Seibu and a tough loss for the Stars. At least it was better than last year when they got swept by Seibu at the Seibu Dome and had to deal with Kaz Ishii, who is a BayStars killer in my opinion because every time I've seen him face the Stars, he dominated them to the point of humiliation.

As always, the box scores from the game are below and after that, you can view some of the the many photos I took and because these were special games, I've posted many of them.



Guess who?

Yokohama relief pitcher Yuya Ishii.

Yokohama left fielder and WBC star Seiichi Uchikawa. Hard to imagine that only 2 seasons ago, hardly anybody knew about him.

Yokohama relief pitcher Atsushi "Wildman" Kizuka.

Yokohama rookie Hitoshi Fujie. I actually like him a lot and think he's gonna be a great pitcher.

Yokohama second baseman Toshiyuki Kitagawa attempting to tag Hiroyuki Nakajima out at second after Nakajima hit a double to center field.

Yokohama third baseman Shuichi Murata hits a single to right in the top of the 7th.

Yokohama center fielder Tatsuhiko Kinjoh reacts after grounding out to short.

Saitama seibu second baseman Yasuyuki Kataoka.

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.

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.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

05/02 In the middle of nowhere : Saitama Seibu vs. Rakuten in Kumagaya

Sorry folks. Things have been busy lately and I put this post on the back burner and completely forgot about it. I wrote it the day after the game but haven't had time to upload the pics from it until now.

Hello everyone. This is just a little note to everyone that I decided NOT to do my Golden Week baseball schedule as I decided to go to Matsuyama in Shikoku next week. So in order to save money for that, I only did one game during Golden Week this year. Plus, it's also amazing how much you can get done around the house when you don't have to work. And besides too, the last 2 days of Golden Week here were just bad because of the weather so yeah.
*****End Disclaimer*****

Well, it is officially "Golden Week" here in Japan and you all know what that means right? That means I'm off to the stadium and the fun won't stop until I have to go to work again (which is next Thursday btw). So to kick this off, I decided to make a small change in my plans. I originally intended to go to Odawara to see the Shonan SeaRex take on the Yakult Swallows in a 2-gun match up but due to the fact that I booked my plane tickets and hotel for Matsuyama in Shikoku for this upcoming weekend, I decided to stay local. It just so happened that Seibu's 2-gun squad was hosting a game in Kumagaya City, which is in the north central part of Saitama Prefecture where I live and is only an hour away by train. So naturally, this being a "local game", I just had to go as my so-called "gimmick" as a Pro Yakyu fan is to go to these out of the way places to see baseball games.

The stadium itself was a nice little stadium and very spacious too in my opinion. One of the better local stadiums I've been to as the grounds were very clean and the stadium was also kept up as well.

Ironically too, the reported attendance for this game was 2,480 which really surprised me as there didn't look to be that many people there (maybe about 600 in my opinion) so I don't really know where they got this figure from. Or maybe too there were actually 2,480 people there but I just didn't realize it.

But anyways, the starting pitchers for the day were Ryohei Fujiwara for Seibu and Ryuhei Terada for Rakuten. Seibu got to Terada early and they never let up as they cruised to an easy victory. Overall, Terada pitched 5 innings giving up 10 runs (7 earned) while walking 6 and striking out 1. He also needed 131 pitches to get through the 5 innings. I don't know why he was left in so long but maybe, Rakuten's bullpen nedded a rest or maybe Matsui-
kantoku just decided to let Terada get the experience. But whatever the case was, he got rocked and didn't look good either. Plus on top of all that, his control was atrocious as he threw a whole bunch of wild pitches and seemingly couldn't find the strike zone either as he issued six free passes as well. Probably due to this, the game went a little over 3 hours which was probably the longest amount of time I've ever been at a 2-gun game to date.

Rakuten starter Ryuhei Terada

Saitama Seibu starter Ryohei Fujiwara

Saitama Seibu reliever Koji Mitsui. Some of you may remember him from when he tried not once but twice to go to the Majors via the posting system this past off season and was unsuccessful.

Mistui again

The story for Seibu on the other hand was their offense. Every member of the starting lineup reached base at least once and 7 out of nine players that started the game had a hit. It seems like almost every Seibu game I've gone to this season, whether it be an 1-gun or a 2-gun game, Seibu's bats show up and just steamroll the competition. Yutaro Osaki was the star of the game in my opinion as he went 4-5 with and RBI and 2 stolen bases. It's also weird too that this was my first Seibu 2-gun match up but somehow, I felt as if I already knew about most if not all of the players on the team. Is it possible that I indeed am abandoning Yokohama and turning more into a Seibu fan? Probably not, but it is strange to say the least.

Overall, Seibu's 2-
gun squad really impressed me both on offense and defense. It's nice to actually learn about each 2-gun squad and learn who may be playing for the team in the future. I really enjoyed this game and I hope that I can go to a few more this year.

Box Scores



Saitama Seibu warming up before the game

Saitama Seibu first baseman Hiroyuki Ohshima doing his routine before the game.

Saitama Seibu centerfielder Kenta Matsusaka. He hit a 3 run home run in the game.

Saitama Seibu 2nd baseman Takuya Hara at the plate

Haruki Kurose laying down a bunt in the bottom of the 5th inning.