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Sayonara Opening Day

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Welcome to the Bayside West: Yokohama Blog

Featuring Michael Westbay (a.k.a. westbaystars)

Michael Westbay has been blogging about Pro Yakyu since before the word "blog" entered the vernacular. Here he writes about Pro Yakyu in general, and the Yokohama BayStars in particular.


Sayonara Opening Day

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It was a long time coming, and even interrupted with a quake delay, but Opening Day has arrived! And the Yokohama BayStars have started off the 2011 season with their first sayonara win of the year.

Old, familiar names like Murata Shuichi, Yoshimura Yuki, and Kinjoh Tatsuhiko played key roles in the offense. We got to see some new faces like Yamamoto Hichori (from Nippon Ham) and (Shimamura) Ikki (from Orix) make contributions.

Now, I said long ago that Kaga Shigeru needs to be moved to the closer role. Obana-kantoku realized that he'd be the perfect guy on the mound to keep things going and has officially make him the "setter upper." With the game tied 4-4 after 7 1/2 innings, Kaga was called on to work the final two innings, and he was brilliant. First he struck out Wada Kazuhiro, Jeol Guzman, and Tony Blanco (Chunichi's numbers 4, 5, and 6 batters) in a row, all swinging, in the 8th inning. Then, after allowing a leadoff single to Ohshima Yohei, former BayStar Tanishige Motonobu bunted the ball back to Kaga in front of the mound. Without a hesitation, Kaga turned and fired to second for one, and the relay beat Tanishige to first for a double play. Pinch hitter Fukuda Nobumasa then went down swinging to send us to the bottom of the ninth.

Even with the delay due to a mildly strong earthquake earlier in the game, the game time was still well under three hours, plenty of time under the 3 1/2 hour limit for extra innings. (It'll be interesting to see the strategies used this season with the relief corps and how many extra innings there will likely be.) Ochiai-kantoku went with Asao Takuya as the setup man with the game tied. Asao didn't blow a save at all last season.

Hichori led off the bottom of the ninth grounding out to third. The former northern Fighter was 1 for 3 on the day, singling in the second inning then coming all the way around to score on Yoshimura's double to the left field corner. In past years I would have expected the runner to be out at the plate. That just always seemed to be our luck. But Morimoto ran all out, crossing the plate with a big grin on his face. Welcome to Yokohama, Hichori! He also plated Murata in the 6th inning with a sacrifice fly to right. (By the way, his new color appears to be yellow. He wore green wrist bands while in Hokkaido. Here he pulled out a pair of yellow wrist bands after reaching first in the second.)

So, with one out, 3 for 3 Yoshimura came to the plate. As mentioned, his double in the second inning scored Morimoto from first. Here in the ninth, he ripped his second double of the day to left, making it 4 for 4. I'd almost forgotten what a productive player Yoshimura could be, as he showed so much potential in 2009 just to disappear after slumping the first couple of months last season. Welcome back Yoshimura!

Kinjoh hit a high bounder fielded by the second baseman who had no play on the speedy pinch hitter. This put runners at the corners with just one out.

Now, this is the point where something bad usually happens. The table is set, but someone comes in and pulls the table cloth off, spilling the food everywhere. There was that kind of vibe in the seventh inning when Ikki led off the bottom half with a double to the left-center field gap. After Ishikawa Takehiro struck out, Watanabe Naoto (second baseman; played with Rakuten last season) hit a routine fly ball to left field, but Ikki either thought there were two outs or misjudged the ball, because he realized too late that he needed to go back to second, getting himself doubled off with ease.

So when pinch hitter Naitoh Yuta hit the ball up the middle, past Chunichi's superb infield, I couldn't believe it! Yoshimura crossed the plate, Naitoh rounded first, and the celebration began! The Yokohama BayStars defeated the Chunichi Dragons with a sayonara victory to open the season!

Other notable performances included Murata singling in the first run of the game in the first inning, going 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. Yamamoto Shogo (from Orix) threw 3 perfect innings before allowing three consecutive singles, a sacrifice fly, then a three run home run to Guzman in the fourth inning. He worked 5 innings, allowing those 4 runs on a total of 5 hits while striking out 1 and walking 2.

Nelson Maximo started for Chunichi. He started off a little wild, but settled down after the second inning. He thew 6 innings in total, allowing 4 runs on 7 hits (2 of them doubles) while walking 2 and striking out 2.

It seems to me that it was a few months into the 2010 season before Yokohama managed a sayonara victory. Hopefully this offense can continue throughout the season.
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