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Tigers 7 Baystars 3 (Game 1)

(Osaka Stadium)

Preview: Well, it’s that time again. Over Easter and onwards I’ll have a couple of essays to write on human rights and something about Japan, exams to revise for and then take, and a dissertation bibliography to compile (topic- Junichiro Koizumi and Yasukuni Shrine as an issue in Japan’s international relations). But for this morning all I have to do is sit back and watch Hanshin’s opening game, while leisurely drinking from my pot of freshly brewed coffee – good stuff.

First game of the season- bring it on! Baystars at home. Not much to preview really- except the team line-up. Murton goes in Akahoshi’s old spot, Brazell is a bit far down the order for my liking. Also no Sekimoto- he’s on the bench. Andoh is our starting pitcher- stern, solid Andoh. We’ll see how he performs.

Team Lineup (in batting order): Murton (C), Hirano (2), Toritani (SS), Kanemoto (L), Arai (3), Johjima (Ca), Brazell (1), Sakurai (R)

Battery: Andoh -> Tsutsui -> Kubota -> Messenger -> Fujikawa / Johjima

The Game: After the build up, this game started very slowly- into the fourth and the Baystars winning by a solitary home run to nothing. By the way, I’ve discovered the new 日刊プロ野球 iPhone app. It’s worth checking out- a comprehensive ProYakyu app, and it’s free! By the way, if you’re not so keen on this obviously partisan, quite rambling account of Hanshin Tigers games, you should check out this website. I plan to improve my Hanshin coverage with even more enthusiasm for the team, a large dose of healthy anti-Giants sentiment, and hopefully some translating of news articles in Japanese. Anyway, back to the game. In the fourth, things got worse- two two-base hits got 2 more runners home, giving the Baystars a 3-0 lead. In the bottom of the fourth- some excitement! Toritani is walked to first, and then Kanemoto hits to get Toritani to third! Next- well, not sure what happened there. Arai hits almost a home run, but it seems to hit the ceiling. Or a post. Or something. Anyway, its ruled a 2-base hit, and there is an extremely polite and incredibly ‘Japanese’ PA announcement by the umpire. So 3-1, and no outs! Next up, new boy Johjima- who hits a deep hit to centre field, and gets two runners home!!!! 3-3!! Brazell- he’s swinging like a man possessed. Two strikes. And out- he didn’t look like getting a hit there. One out. Sakurai- two run hoooooomu ran!!!!! 5-3! What a comeback!! Next up- Andoh, is out. Murton next- first base. Hirano- a sweet hit, but caught at second. Three out. What an innings- that walk of Toritani was a turning point, but it was Tigers batting power that drove home the runners. Still, only the fourth. The fourth becomes the fifth, and the fifth the sixth without incident. At the bottom of the sixth Johjima gets on base. Next up Brazell- and a sweet hit from him! Our offence is looking very impressive. Sakurai is outed, and now a change- Yano for his first appearance of the season. But he’s out. And so finally, with runners on first and third, it’s Murton. I like the look of this guy, but this time he’s out in the infield. Seventh. Kubota is in, and deals with the Baystars easily. The first Lucky Seven of the season goes off, and multi-coloured balloons fill the sky of Osaka Dome! Hirano dives and gets to first. Naisu! Toritani- out. Arai hits to the infield, is out at first but a dropped ball means the innings is still alive. Johjima- and WHAT a hit to left field!!! Unbelievable- Johjima is a machine! Two runners home, 7-3 Tigers!! For the eighth its Messenger- he hasn’t had a good pre-season, let’s hope he doesn’t balls this up. Actually his control is looking rather good. A well dealt with innings. Tigers eighth- Sakurai out, Katsuragi- pinch hitter- gets a hit to first. Murton also gets a hit. Hirano bunts…and a fielding errors get him on base too! Hmm, but here’s another weird announcement– apparently Murton is out! Its more my lack of baseball knowledge than Japanese deficiencies that’s preventing me understand that one- maybe because he barged the fielder while running to second? Hirano’s down as grounding out on the Tigers website. Anyway, first and second, two out. Toritani hits out, and we’re into the ninth. “Everything Little Thing” blares out over Osaka Dome to announce the arrival of Kyuji Fujikawa! One out…two out…finish!! Tigers win the opening game of the 2010 season 7-3!!

Analysis: (Other opening day scores: Kyojin 4 Swallows 1, Dragons 1 Carp 3) Well,  a highly satisfying first victory on NPB Se-League Opening Day. Despite falling behind, an impressive offensive performance got us back on track, and coupled with a solid display from our relief, propelled us to victory. Johijma got three hits and looked excellent. Others got one hit apiece- spread nicely round the team for a total of 10 hits to the Baystars 6. Also impressive was that all six hits came during Andoh’s pitching- the relief held solidly firm for four innings, including a debut performance by Messenger. A great opening day!