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Hanshin’s new signing, Kevin Mench. Note the Eagle tattoo on his left arm, demonstrating how much he loves America. Note also that the Eagle is far closer, genetically, to the Yakult Swallows than the Hanshin Tigers. Hmmm. Mench has been crap in pre-season, but he’ll be starting right-field tonight and needs to step up.

Starting Line-Up – Kanoh (Ca), Sekimoto (1), Hirano (2), Arai (3), Toritani (SS), Kanemoto (L), Akahoshi (C), Mench (R), Andoh (SP)

Some may call a Friday night spent watching baseball on the internet and… blogging sad- I call it dedication! Yes, the long wait is over, and the 2009 Central League season is finally upon us. Tonight sees the Hanshin Tigers take on the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Osaka Dome. Follow along with it here.

Natsukashii– check out this post from my first ever Hanshin game- a fantastic 6-5 victory over the Swallows with an Arai sayonara home run.

Tonights Opposition- The Swallows

In the first of a five part series, lets preview the Opposition. The Yakult Swallows…

The Swallows are Tokyo’s second team, behind the evil Yomiuri Giants. They play at Meiji Jingu stadium, and their main threats come from a young up-and-coming pitching line-up, and WBC winner Aoki. They have a good shout at breaking into the playoffs this season with Chunichi’s almost inevitable demise.

Game Starts 6pm! …

TOP 1st – BOTTOM 3rd

I missed the start of the game, and find us FIVE NIL UP! The team was as I predicted. A two base timely hit by Kanemoto got us off to a 1-0 lead in the first, a lead that was expanded in the 2nd by a 3-run home run from Sekimoto! In the 3rd Aniki power once again prevailed- a Kanemoto home run to put us five up!

THE FOURTH

All out quite quickly. This seasons batting line up is confirmed- Akahoshi (1), Sekimoto (2), Toritani (3), Kanemoto (4), Arai (5), Mench (6). Toritani up to third, Arai back to fifth- more home runs? We’ll see.

Fuck! Out of nowhere a Guiel home-run for the Swallows. 5-1. Andoh starts to look shaky, and its 2 out with runners on 1st and 3rd. Fortunately, the next batter grounds it for an out at second base. All change, Hanshin leading 5-1! Next up Toritani, Kanemoto, Arai.

THE FIFTH

Toritani is struck by a dead ball, and gets a free walk to first. When Kanemoto is struck out he stupidly tries to steal to second, and gets caught out. Crazy fool.

Yakult all out. Coincidentally the Giants are suffering at home against the Carp- losing 6-3 with Greisinger at the mound.

THE SIXTH

Not much here. My first look at Mr. Mench- doesn’t look too great.

THE SEVENTH, EIGHTH AND NINTH…

More dodgyness from Andoh in the seventh- 5-2!  But he recovers to make it to 7th inning stretch. Actually to be fair to the lad he’s pitched very well today. All out from Hanshin at the bottom.

Williams in at the top of the eighth. Nice job- three out. Base hit from Arai. Mench in at two out- out. Hmm.

Fujikawa in for the ninth…should surely close out the game.Wobbles a bit at 1 out with runners on 1st and 2nd- is this why he wasn’t chosen to pitch in the WBC semi-final and final? But it’s ok…three outto!!

HANSHIN TIGERS  5  YAKULT SWALLOWS  2 !!!

Well, its good to have baseball back! Hanshin did the business in the early stages tonight- great home run from Sekimoto, and the usual fantastic hits from Tomoaki Kanemoto. Andoh performed very well throughout the first 7, and the J and F of Hanshin’s famed JFK also came through with no complaints. I wasn’t impressed by Mench though. Still, great start to the season!

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