10/31/09 — Japan Series — Hokkaido vs. Yomiuri (Game 1)

Yomiuri 4

Hokkaido 3

Series: Hokkaido 0-1 Yomiuri

(Sapporo Dome)

The 2009 Japan Series kicked off tonight in Sapporo with the Pacific League Champions, Hokkaido, hosting their Central League counterparts, the Yomiuri Giants.



Both Takeda and Gonzalez retired the side rather quickly in the first, and then Tani came through with a two out solo homer to left to put the visitors ahead. 1-0 Yomiuri.

But Sledge crushed a Gonzalez fastball with one out in the bottom of the same inning to tie things up. 1-1.

Itoi reached with two outs on a single to left, and he took off running on the 1-1 pitch, but Tsuruoka fouled it off. He would reach second anyway on the next pitch as the ball skipped briskly over second base and into center field. Kaneko, however, stranded both of the runners when he struck out staring at a slider.

Kimura struck out on three straight pitches as Takeda continued to change speeds well and keep batters off balance. Furuki and Sakamoto both grounded out (nice play by Tanaka to throw Furuki out, by the way) to bring former Tokyo player, Gonzalez, back out to the mound without too much of a rest.

Tanaka and Morimoto grounded out to quickly make it look like a quick inning for Gonzalez, but Inaba (also a former Swallows player) singled past second base and Takahashi hit an infield single to short to again put runners on first and second with two outs. But after scoring the leveling run in the second, Sledge could only ground out to first and strand two more runners.

Koyano came up with a great diving play to rob Matsumoto of a single at the start of the fourth inning. But Ogasawara was able to reach first on a single up the middle after fanning badly at a couple of Takeda offerings near the middle of the zone. With one on and one out, Ramirez got ahold of one but broke his bat in the process and ended up flying out to left-center for the second out. Kamei grounded out to second on the first pitch he saw. Ogasawara never got past first.

Lots of first pitch swinging going on so far in this game. Lots of first pitch outs as well.

Gonzalez was finally able to finish things the easy way with two outs. He retired all three batters he faced (Koyano flied out to center on the first pitch).

Leading off the fifth was Mr. Tani who was responsible for the first run of this championship series with his second inning homer. Tani singled to center this time around, and pig-boy, Abe, followed up with a single of his own to put runners on first and second with no outs and Kimura in the batter’s box.

Takeda should have been able to get Tani at third, but he turned his head before gloving the ball and the Fighters had to settle for the out at first. Furuki then came to the plate with one out and runners on second and third. He struck out swinging at a changeup, and that brought Sakamoto to the plate for his third at-bat of the game. And the youngster came through with a pitch that he pulled down the line in left and plunked off the wall to score both Tani and pig-boy. Sakamoto ended up on second. 3-1 Yomiuri.

Matsumoto and his stupid little hand-waving habit (what is he doing? Is the bat hot?) then came to the plate with two outs and Sakamoto on second. He flied out to right to strand the runner, but the Giants regained the lead. In retrospect, Takeda’s mishandling of that bunt (which he did very well to get to quickly) should probably have been called an error even though the Fighter’s got the out. That was a typical little league fielding mistake.

After Kaneko struck out looking, Tanaka reached first on a single to right after a nice, long at-bat. Morimoto followed with a sharp grounder that made it through the right side of the infield and put runners on first and second with one out. Inaba struck out swinging at a high fastball to bring the end of the inning a bit closer, and Takahashi grounded out to short to again strand a pair of runners.

And this is neither here nor there, but that Daidan commercial that they’ve shown a couple of times so far between innings? Damn. If you’ve got enough money to advertise during the Japan Series, the least you can do is make a half-decent 15-second spot. That thing looks like a high school, end of term marketing class project.

Ogasawara gave us another first pitch out to get things started in the sixth. Ramirez followed with more of the same. Two outs. And he broke yet another bat in the process. Kamei stuck around for four pitches, but he grounded out to let Takeda sit down after only six pitches.

Sledge watched a slider hit the middle of the zone for strike zone, and then he passed on a high fastball that caught the inside of the the plate. He fouled off the third pitch and then watched the next two find the dirt as Gonzalez’s pitch count reached 90. He fended off another fastball and then a slider to keep himself in it before finally watching a changeup miss low to bring the count full. He then ripped the 2-3 pitch into right field to put a man on for Koyano. Koyano slapped the first pitch he saw into right to once again put runners on first and second for the Fighters.

That earned Gonzalez a little pep talk from Yomiuri pitching coach, Obana, but it wouldn’t really matter because the Fighters would bail him out a little on the next pitch. Itoi’s bunt was tracked down in a hurry by Yomiuri first baseman, Kimura, and where Takeda earlier failed, Kimura succeeded. Sledge was out at third to worsen the situation for the home team.

Tsuboi was then brought in to pinch hit for the Fighters, and as soon as Hara saw the switch he pulled Gonzalez and put Yamaguchi on the mound. Fighter’s manager, Nashida, then changed his pinch hitter to Nioka, the man who played for the Giants up until last year but was relocated (against his will) to Hokkaido after proving to be surplus to needs and a bit of a tabloid magazine magnet during the 2008 season.

Nioka eventually worked the count full before poking one through the hole between third and short to score Koyano from second and make Hara sweat a bit. 3-2 Yomiuri.

And Nashida looks like a genius.

Kaneko fouled off the first two pitches he saw before swinging at and missing the 2-0 forkball that he was offered on the third pitch. Two outs for Tanaka with two runners on and two out. But two more runners were left aboard yet again as Tanaka flied out to center.

Nashida then went with Tateyama on the mound and Ono behind the plate. That didn’t work very well as Tani collected his third hit of the game (single to right). So Tateyama left the mound to make way for Hayashi, another player that Yomiuri sent north to Hokkaido during the off-season.

There to greet him was former battery-mate, pig-boy. Abe fouled off the first pitch from Hayashi before trying, and failing, to hold up on a high, inside pitch for strike two. The following junk pitch was junky for ball one, and Abe put the 2-1 pitch past Tanaka, who was drawn in pretty far, to put runners on first and third with no outs.

Hara then actually did something clever for once. A fake squeeze by Kimura freaked the Fighters out long enough for Abe to safely take second. Runners on second and third with no outs.

Kimura eventually struck out waving at a high heater, and Omichi was put in to pinch hit. Hokkaido pitching coach, Yoshii, came out to replace Hayashi at that point (Ejiri, RHP), to which Hara reacted by pulling Omichi in favor of Lee (obvious copycat move of what Nashida did earlier).

And Lee smacked the 1-1 pitch into center to score Tani from third to make it 4-2 Yomiuri.

With runners on first and third and only one out, Sakamoto struck out swinging weakly at an outside slider for the second out. Matsumoto then grounded out to third to end the headache for the Fighters.

Yamaguchi was still on the mound for the bottom of the seventh, and he got the first two batters he faced out before walking Takahashi to give Sledge another shot at being a hero. But Sledge grounded out to Ogasawara at third (nice bobble, Mr. Veteran).

Wow, that Vana H water commercial is pretty weak as well…

Ogasawara reached first on a third strike that ended up at the back screen. Oops. Suzuki took his place on first and stole second easily to put a little hamster on second with one out. Kamei then moved Suzuki over to third with a fly ball to right, and up came the 3-3 Tani. Tani held off on the first four pitches and was rewarded with a cautious 1-3 count. Ejiri threw a low slider for strike two, and Tani popped the full count pitch up to first to begin the Fighter’s eighth.

Nomura’s wearing a red sport coat in the commentator’s booth.

Ochi came in to handle the bottom of the eighth. He got the first out, but he walked Itoi to put a very fast guy on first. Inada then came in to pinch hit with one out and a runner on first. He end up grounding out, but the Giants weren’t able to turn the double play. Two outs, slower man (than before) on first.

Kaneko then showed us another first pitch out with a grounder to short which allowed Sakamoto to easily get the first at second. Baka.

That toilet spray commercial was pretty shocking as well. They must be giving discounts to any company that has never, ever created a print ad or promotional video before. The computer graphics involved here looked cool in the early 90’s, but even I can do better than what’s on display tonight.

Miyanishi (LHP) got all three batters he faced out in a hurry to end the first half of the 9th.

And that would bring Kroon up for a go at protecting the two-run Yomiuri lead.

Hey Hokkaido. Here’s a free piece of advice from someone who has seen Kroon throw at least 100 times: don’t swing.

Tanaka didn’t swing, but he somehow blooped a safety bunt just over Kroon’s head to put a runner on first with the tying run at the plate.

Morimoto, the moron, started swinging right away. Strike one on a very low pitch. He held off on the next pitch though (forkball), and Kroon also missed low with his third pitch. Hmm, maybe Morimoto swiped at that first forkball in order to get Kroon’s hopes up? Anyway, Morimoto looked at another forkball for ball three before taking a called strike two right down the middle. Morimoto eventually grounded out on a full count hit and run so Tanaka was safe at second. One out, Tanaka on second. Inaba at the plate. Inaba flied out to right (soft swing at a forkball), but Tanaka was able to move over to third on the hit.

Takahashi then came through with a double off the wall in center which plated Tanaka and put the tying run on second. 4-3 Yomiuri.

And that brought Sledge to the plate with two outs.

He took a called first strike before a ball sailed high for 1-1. The next pitch was a forkball that Sledge couldn’t resist and it was 1-2. But the next forkball was low for 2-2. Sledge fouled off the next pitch to keep everyone on the edge of their seats, and he held off on the next offering to draw the count full with.

Sledge fouled off the next pitch as well. Kroon’s next forkball wasn’t close enough for Sledge to get excited, and the go-ahead run was now on first. Sledge was pulled for pinch runner, Murata.

Third baseman, Koyano, then found himself with a chance to be a hero. Kroon’s first pitch, a slider, missed inside, and his second, a fastball, was also a bit inside. Koyano fouled off the next offering, a fastball, to make it 1-2. But he missed badly on Kroon’s next pitch, an outside slider for 2-2. The game ended on Kroon’s next pitch, a slider in the northern region of the zone that Koyano chose not to swing at.

Game over: Hokkaido 3-4 Yomiuri.

About Christopher Pellegrini

Christopher is a budding sabermetrician and long-time supporter of Tokyo's more lovable team, the Swallows. He has publicly volunteered, several times, that he plans to buy the team at some point in the future. When he finally runs the joint, it is likely that he will fine any player who swings at the first pitch or sac bunts (unless it's a pitcher, of course). Follow him on Twitter: @chrispellegrini

  • James

    Any chance of someone putting together a review of the draft, any info on our new players etc?


  • Ken

    Iwamura to Pittsburgh.