Spurred by a homer and four RBIs from rightfielder Shigenobu Shima, the Hiroshima Carp stomped the Yokohama Bay Stars 10-1 Saturday at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium. There was also a real oddity in the ninth and after the game that would be unheard of in MLB, but more about that later.
Kan Otake, who has improved as the seaosn has worn on, went seven shutout innings on three hits, two strikeouts and just 72 pitches to nearly balance his record and to reduce his ERA to 3.77. His WHIP is average now (1.33) and his OBA, while a little higher than you want it, isn't terrible (.256).
Yuji Yoshimi started for Yokohama and was allowed to stay in for four innings of nine run, 11 hit ball for his fourth defeat.
Carp second baseman Akihiro Higashide singled to left in the first and went to second on a sacrifice. he was then immediately cashed in on a double to center by first baseman Kenta Kurihara. Third baseman Takahiro Arai singled to center. Leftfielder Tomonori Maeda doubled to left for an RBI. One out later, Shima blasted a Yoshimi offering into the centerfield seats for a 5-0 lead.
They tacked on two more in the second, as Otake singled to center and Higashide singled to right. One out later, Kurihara doubled to right to spring Otake in. Arai singled to right and Higashide did the cadillac walk home to raise it to 7-0, but Kurihara was thrown out at the plate. Maeda grounded to first and they would go hitless until the fifth.
The Stars were suppressed on a hit over the first three, but in the fourth, they had two on and two out, However, it was foiled on a flyout.
In the fifth, Kurihara and Arai singled to center. Yoshimi buzzed a fastball off the front of the helmet of Maeda and was ejected under the Dan Gladden Rule. That also loaded the bases. Takeo Kawamura was summoned from the bullpen. Shortstop Eishin Soyogi bounced into a 5-4-3 double play and Kurihara crossed. Shima doubled to left and Arai scuttled home to make it 9-0. Catcher Yoshikazu Kura struckout to turn the spigot off.
Yoikohama put two on with one out in the sixth, but a double play ball torpedoed that and they would get nowhere through eight.
Arai stepped up in the seventh and took Takumi Nasuno into the great wide open in right to enlarge the hegemony to 10-0. One out later, Soyogi flied out to center and he would be the only Hiroshima starting member who didn't have a hit during the contest.
They would get three singles in the eighth, but they were sandwiched around a double play ball and a strikeout, so they didn't turn it into anything.
Carp reliever Ryuji Yokoyama dispensed with the first two men of the ninth and veteran Shinji Sasaoka, the man who the big crowd of 29,776 had come to see into retirement, emerged from the bullpen to raucous applause and cheers. Third baseman Shuichi Murata was the first man Sasaoka faced and got behind to him 3-1. He then threw an 86mph fastball up and out over the plate and Murata, a dead high fastball hitter, torched it into the leftcenterfield seats. Now here is where it gets weird: Murata hung his head as he performed his home run trot and returned back to the dugout with an ashen expression on his face even though that bomb gave him the Central League homer lead with 36. Sasaoka struckout pinch hitter Takanori Suzuki to end it.
A few minutes later, Murata found Sasaoka and apologized for taking him deep in his retirement game. Sasaoka essentially told him to not worry about it and later laughed to reporters about being lit up for a jack in his final pro appearance. So call Murata the reluctant home run king.
Murata, though, still felt guilty and muttered that it was the first time he had felt that way about any homer he has connected for. According to one report, during Yakult infielder Ken Suzuki's retirement game, he allowed a foul ball to drop so that Suzuki could have another shot at putting one in play. In Japanese baseball, that's a respect for your elders thing and you would never see it in MLB (well, except for incidents such as one where Bill Freehan and Denny McLain set Mickey Mantle up in a game that didn't mean anything so that the aging Mick could paste one over the wall and reach some career milestone. I'm sure that's not the first time that has happened).
Sasaoka was given a doage by his teammates to say goodbye.
A pinch hit grand slam in the sixth by Norihiro Nakamura put the Chunichi Dragons battle with Yakult out of reach in an eventual 8-1 victory at Meiji Jingu Stadium. That was the 14th bases loaded roundtripper of Nakamura's career, tying him for second on the all time list with Orix great Yasuo Fujii.
Kenichi Nakata, attempting to catch Tetsuya Utsumi for the strikeouts title, started for the Nagoya crew and went five shutout innings on five hits and struckout eight, three short of what he needed to appraoch Utsumi, for his 14th win.
Kosuke Matsui started for the Swallows and went four innings of three run, four hit ball to be stained with the loss.
Chunichi shortstop Hirokazu Ibata walked with one out in the first and stiole second. One out later, first baseman Tyrone Woods singled to right to boost Ibata in for a 1-0 lead. Rightfielder Byung-kyu Lee doubled to left. Centerfielder Ryosuke Hirata singled to right and Woods and Lee navigated their way home to make it 3-0.
Yakult loaded the bases with one out in the bottom stanza, but a foulout cashiered it.
They touched Nakata for two singles in the third, but he also struckout the side to put another goose egg up on the big board.
They would have two on and two out in the fourth, too, but a popup quelled that disturbance.
Thus, it remained a three run margin until the sixth, when Ibata singled to center off of Masato Hanada and stole second before going to third on a groundout. Woods walked. Lee singled to right to ring Ibata in. One out later, pinch hitter Kazuyoshi Tatsunami walked to pack the sacks. Nakamura got a second pitch shuuto that was up and middle-out and plowed it just inside the leftfield foul pole to put four more up for his contingent to blow it open to 8-0.
The Swallows had two more on with one out in the seventh, but a double play repressed it.
Yakult catcher/manager Atsuya Furuta pinch hit for starting backstop Masakazu Fukukawa in the ninth with one out and singled to left and went to second on a groundout. Centerfielder Norichika Aoki, who had been zip for his last 11 plate appearances, grounded one toward third. Third baseman Masahiko Morino flung it beyond Woods and Furuta scored on what was ruled an infield hit and an error to slice it to 8-1. Second baseman Hiroyasu Tanaka grounded to Ibata and it was game setto.
The granny was the first in Nakamura's career that was in a pinch hit circumstance and the 11th slam overall this season for his team.
For Yakult, leftfielder Alex Ramirez was 1-3 with an HBP and is at .345. Rightfielder Aaron Guiel was 0-3 with a walk and two strikeouts and is at .244. First baseman Adam Riggs was 0-3 with a walk and is at .315.
For Chunichi, Woods was 1-2 with two walks and is at .270. Lee was 2-4 and is at .264.
are some numbers for you: the Dragons evening tv ratings in the Nagoya
market have been going up the last three years, attaining 15.1% this season,
while not only is Yomiuri having a hard time drawing eyeballs, but that
is increasingly somewhat true of Hanshin. While Tigers fans turn out bigtime
both at home and on the road for their squad, their ratings in their
Kansai region (Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe, etc) bailiwick declined from 16.4% in
2005 to 12.2% this season.
The Giants, of course, have had a bad time getting even 10% in their home Kanto area (Tokyo-Chiba-Yokohama) and that has manifested itself at a Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo bar where a lot of that club's faithful used to come to hang out, as, according to Chunichi Sports, the owner asserts that the reduced number of Yomiuri games aired nowadays is resulting in a slipping interest in the club. Moreoever, Chunichi Broadcasting says that ratings for the Giants in Nagoya itself are tanking. That's especially amazing since Yomiuri is full of name players while the Dragons are comprised of a bunch of joe lunchpail types plus Tyrone Woods, Kenshin Kawakami and about to depart Kosuke Fukudome.
Hanshin Manager Akinobu Okada said Saturday that he will decide on his final playoff roster after he sees how his players respond in Phoneix Instructional League games in Miyazaki Prefecture.
Shortstop Takashi Toritani, who was expeted to sit out the Phoenix League phase of their preparation, has rejoined the team. He was hit in the right side by a thrown ball at the end of the season, resulting in him having to be pulled out of a couple of games.
Recently released minor league pitcher Nobuaki Mizuochi will remain with the Tigers as a batting practice pitcher.
Yomiuri Not that this is a news bulletin to anyone, but the Giants one, two and three starters in the Central League playoff final are going to be Hisanori Takahashi, Tetsuya Utsumi and Hiroshi Kisanuki. Should one of them get beaten, either Takahiko Nomaguchi or Yuya Kubo could get a start, though Nomaguchi seems like the best bet there considering how he pitched the last coupld of weeks of the season.
Catcher Shinnosuke Abe came down with a fever and stayed home Saturday.
Some employees of the Yomiuri Land amusement park complex sent manager Tatsunori Hara a cake celebrating the team's winning of the Central League pennant.
Pitcher Jeremy Powell had a talk with Hara about the condition of his knees Saturday. After a lackluster injury informed 2007, it appears that the Giants will buy out the second year of the righthander's contract.
Miscellaneous That shriek you heard was from TBS and Fox after the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks both swept their series with the Phillies anf the Cubs respectively. The dream story line for Fox would have been the Yankees vs. the Cubs in the World Series, but that isn't going to happen. Indeed, it is looking like it could end up in an Arizona-Boston showdown plus it could deny them a big Boston-Yankees ALCS. The nightmare World Series for the media would be Colorado-Cleveland in ratings terms. Ain't nobody watching that. I was rooting for the Cubs, but oh well.
In any event, Kazuo Matsui came up big for the Rockes again with another RBI triple in a 2-1 victory. He finished 2-3 with a walk.
Philadelphia infielder Tadahito Iguchi popped up in his one at bat. He also said that he wants to play in MLB next season. Yomiuri is reportedly going to pursue him and that may happen if nobody promises Iguchi the regular second baseman's job stateside.
Yankees DH Hideki Matsui didn't practice Saturday in order to have his aching right knee treated.