A pair of two two run homers by Yomiuri Giants first baseman Seung-yeop Lee overcame an otherwise strong outing from Hanshin lefty Kei Igawa to power the kyojin to a 4-2 victory Tuesday at Tokyo Dome. This gave the Tokyo nine its first win in the initial game of a series in their last 17 and it kept them out of last place.
Igawa went 8.2 thirds before Lee's walkoff blow in the ninth and was charged with all four runs on four hits to fall to 8-7.
Koji Uehara started for Yomiuri and was excellent, as he held the Tigers to two runs on six hits in eight innings, but it would be reliever Yuya Kubo who was credited with the triumph after a hitless top of the last inning. Kubo is now 4-3.
Lee got his side off on the good foot, as he followed a leadoff double down the leftfield line by rightfielder Kenji Yano by smashing a two out 3-2 eighth pitch 89mph fastball that was up and out over the plate deep into the leftcenterfield seats for a 2-0 first inning lead. It was also Lee's 400th KBO/NPB homer, but more about that later. They would produce only one more knock through the next seven frames.
But Hanshin managed only one hit against Uehara through four. In the fifth, though, shortstop Takashi Toritani went with a fastball that was up and on the outer half of the plate and lined it into the leftfield stands to cut it to 2-1.
They would then knot it up in the seventh when first baseman Andy Sheets singled to left and Toritani singled to right, Sheets hustling into third. Second baseman Atsushi Fujimoto lifted a fly ball to deep left and Sheets tagged up and crossed. A writer for one of the Japanese sports dailies suggested that if third baseman Joe Dillon had cut the throw off they could have gotten Sheets at home. What an idiot.
Kubo walked leftfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto to begin the ninth for Hanshin, but he was made a statue when the next three men all went down harmlessly.
Igawa walked Giants second baseman Takuya Kimura with one out in the ninth and then struck shortstop Tomohiro Nioka out. Lee, a lefthanded hitter, was next. He got a 91mph fastball and crushed it over the centerfield wall and that was the ballgame.
Lee signed with Samsung out of high school as a pitcher after growing up with a poster of Sadaharu Oh affixed to his wall. Both men were high school hurlers who would be record setting home run hitting first basemen for the Giants. Lee was converted into a position player by a guy who had played in the Japanese leagues, Jinten Haku (Paik Im-chung). The moment Lee went yard, they showed it on the scoreboard at Samsung's home ballpark and handed out 400 free tee shirts commemorating the event. He is only the third man ever to reach that mark before turning 30, the other two being Oh and Alex Rodriguez. Lee will be 30 on the 18th. He broke Oh's single season Asian record in 2003 with 56 homers and slugged 327 of his bombs in the KBO and the other 74 in Japan. He made it to 400 in his 1455th KBO/NPB game. Oh did it in 1422, former Hanshin catching great Koichi Tabuchi in 1438, and multiple Triple Crown winner Hiromitsu Ochiai in 1447.
There were 50 Korean media at this match and as soon as the ball left Korean tv reportedly cut in to report it. One outlet, YTV, offered that Lee's accomplishment lends Korean baseball new respect it didn't have before in Japan, though I personally thought that the WBC had done that.
This was Lee's second walkoff longball of the campaign, the last one also being off the Tigers on April 21st against Tomoyuki Kubota.
Hanshin has lost five straight at Tokyo Dome. The defeat also ended a streak of ten wins when Toritani homered.
Uehara became the fifth Yomiuri pitcher ever to total up eight straight 100 strikeout seasons.
For Hanshin, Sheets was 1-4 and is at .309.
For Yomiuri, Lee was 2-4 and is at .331. Dillon was 0-3 and is at .206.
Yakult third baseman Akinori Iwamura homered twice and drove in three runs and second baseman Greg LaRocca added a three run big fly to dispose of the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium Tuesday. Shugo Fujii started for the Swallows and went seven solid innings on three runs and six hits while striking out six for his seventh win.
John Bale started for Hiroshima and couldn't keep his pitches down during his five innings of five run ball on 13 hits and he is now 0-2.
Yakult was in front before the seats were barely warm, as centerfielder Norichika Aoki beat out a bleeder toward third and, one out later, Iwamura keelhauled one into the rightcenterfield stands for a 2-0 lead.
But Hiroshima shortstop Eishin Soyogi doubled to right with one away in the bottom stanza and, one out later, completed the circuit on a single to center by third baseman Takahiro Arai to shrink the disparity to 2-1.
The Swallows, though, tacked on another in the second when rightfielder Ryuji Miyade singled to right and shortstop Hiroyasu Tanaka singled to left. One out later, Fujii helped his own cause with a single to left and Miyade scampered across to hike it to 3-1.
Soyogi, however, doubled to left in the third with one away and jogged the rest of the way in when rightfielder Shigenobu Shima went gorilla on a Fujii offering and deposited it in the rightfield bleachers to level it at 3-3.
Yakult had two on and nobody out in the fourth and abandoned them. But in the fifth, Iwamura smoked one to the opposite field and into the leftfield seats. Leftfielder Alex Ramirez singled to left. Bale fanned the next two hitters. Tanaka singled to center and catcher Tomohito Yoneno singled to left to cash Ramirez in to make it 5-3.
LaRocca would put it away in the sixth, as Aoki walked and first baseman Adam Riggs singled to left in front of him before he dropped off a pitch from reliever Ryuji Yokoyama in the centerfield stands to wriggle into the driver's seat at 8-3.
Hiroshima had two on and two out in the seventh and two on and one out in the eighth and let them get moldy. They had another two on and two out in the ninth before Shingo Takatsu induced a popup out of backup second baseman Yoshihiko Yamamoto to turn the lights out.
Yokoyama hasn't gotten anyone out the last couple of weeks and the league is now hitting .267 against him.
These were the first post all star break RBIs for Iwamura, who is wearing a back brace right now. He is also disappointed by his first half totals and doesn't want to use the hamstring and back problems as an excuse.
For Yakult, Riggs was 1-5 and is at .275. Ramirez was 1-5 and is at .286. LaRocca was 2-5 with two strikeouts and is at .296.
For Hiroshima, Bale was 0-1 and is at .000.
Chunichi first baseman Tyrone Woods homered twice, but it wouldn't be enough, as Yokohama third sacker Shuichi Murata also pounded one over the fence and then scalded a shot off the glove of his opposite number for a sayonara RBI single in the ninth and a 4-3 victory. Ken Kadokura actually showed up for this one and tossed seven innings of two run, three hit baseball, though he wasn't accorded the decision. That went to closer Mark Kroon, who improved to 2-3.
Kenichi Nakata started for Chunichi and wasn't around for the decision, either, as he obtained good results despite some wildness (four walks and 126 pitches) over his seven innings of two run ball on six hits.
Chunichi went absolutely nowhere against Kadokura for the first five innings, neutraliziing them on two hits and a walk.
Nakata had a couple of minor scrapes, but similarly made it though the fifth unscarred.
However, in the sixth, Dragons rightfielder Kosuke Fukudome walked and Woods cremated a forkball and scattered the remains in the leftfield bleachers for a 2-0 lead.
That was halved in the home edition when Murata socked a hanging slider into the leftfield stands to make it 2-1. The Stars put two more men on in the inning, but a flyout killed the chance off.
Yokohama then restored equilibrium in the seventh, as shortstop Takuro Ishii walked with one out and went to second on a sacrifice. Rightfielder Tatsuhiko Kinjo singled to left and Ishii sped in to deadlock it at two all.
They snagged another tally in the eighth when first baseman Yuki Yoshimura got real gone to right off of reliever Masafumi Hirai to seize the upper hand at 3-2.
Kroon mosied in from the bullpen for the ninth and didn't close the deal. Woods got a 91mph forkball and nine ironed it into the rightfield stands and it was 3-3. Kroon retired the following three hitters and it was time for Yokohama's turn.
Problematic southpaw reliever Akifumi Takahashi was summoned from the bullpen for Chunichi and walked Ishii, who went to second on a sacrifice. Kinjo was intentionally walked. Denny Tomori took Takahashi's place on the mound to face Murata, who torched a fastball off the glove of third baseman Masahiko Morino and Ishii blazed across the plate to end it.
This was Chunichi's first loss since July 15th.
For Chunichi, Woods was 3-4 and is at .299. Leftfielder Alex Ochoa was 0-4 and is at .274.
team owner Taku Takihana in attendance, veteran righthander Masumi Kuwata
made a start down in the Eastern League and wasn't all that good, as he
was tagged for nine hits and three runs in five innings.
It is perhaps a sign of the total lack of vision with which Japanese pro baseball is governed when even the company that owns a club disses it. Tuesday, NTV, Yomiuri's flagship television outlet, announced that it will no longer extend broadcast time for games if they run over the allotted minutes. What Yomiuri Group chiarman Tsuneo Watanabe, who is also in the same position for the Giants, doesn't realize is that it tells the public that there are more interesting things than baseball. Not exactly killer marketing there, guys.
As had been planned earlier, the Giants pitchers forsook Tokyo Dome and repaired to a nearby Little League field to get their running and other conditioning in. They did this to lessen the stress that the artificial surface at the dome puts on the legs and backs of the hurlers. They were forbidden from hitting fungoes at the facility, so the defensive drills had to be back at ths stadium. Of course, some fans on their lunch breaks stopped by to take it in and offer words of encouragement.
Top high school pick Takanobu Tsujiuchi was able to throw for the first time in about a month after coming down with a shoulder inflammation. He made about 30 pitches before coaches put the stop sign up.
Miscellaneous In just a terrible decision, a Tokyo district court judge ruled for the NPB owners Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by the players association concerning who has the rights to player names and images for commercial exploitation. Judge Makiko Takabe asserted that NPB has the ability to make deals with commercial entities where players images are used without needing player approval due to a pre-existing agreement made in 1951. However, Takabe did seem to be nudging the owners toward perhaps revising that so that players receive what may be more equitable share.
Look let's call this what it is: court approved identity theft. In MLB and in the KBO, the players hold those rights. In Japan, where one's name is considered sacrosanct, this has got to be especially galling. Moreover, when the agreement was formed in 1951, it was more or less at the point of a gun because NPB would have weeded out troublemakers. Most players in those days, when Japan was a very poor country, were just glad to have a job. Moreover, TV hadn't really taken hold in Japan yet and there weren't things such as video games.
The case arose out of an agreement that NPB cut with video game maker Konami in 2002. The players argued that the owners holding exclusive righs violated Japan's anti-monoply law but yet insist that player rights should be bargained by the players association.
Mariners rightfielder Ichiro Suzuki was 0-4 Tuesday against Baltimore and made his second error of the season when he allowed a single by second baseman Brian Roberts to skip by him. Roberts reached second and then stole third in what ultimately was a 2-0 birds victory. When the media asked Ichiro if the miscue was aided by the way the grass was cut at Camden Yards, he wouldn't have any of that "I'm supposed to make that play," he retorted.
Catcher Kenji Johjima was 2-3.
Kazuhito Tadano threw a hitless inning for Oakland's AAA squad against Round Rock Tuesday.
Also in the minors, Rockies AAA shortstop Kazuo Matsui went 2-5 with two RBIs and a stolen base Tuesday.
Chicago White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi was 1-4 with a walk against Kansas City Tuesday in a 7-5 victory.
For you Phillies fans out there, the Japanese press is following second baseman Chase Utley's hitting streak.
After going all the way in a 15 inning scoreless tie Monday, Sendai Ikuei High ace Yoshinori Sato went the distance in a 6-2 victory over Tohoku High Tuesday. He threw 374 pitches over the course of the two days. He was clocked at 88mph.
Japan obliterated Hong Kong 43-0 in the Women's Baseball World Cup. It was mercifully called after five innings.