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Sledge, Sledge, Sledge!

Baseball news from Japan and Asia

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.

Sledge, Sledge, Sledge!

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Wednesday afternoon's game against the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium saw a ton of fire works. With everyone talking about the new "tobanai" (non-flying) ball this season, it didn't seem to have any problem clearing the fence on this day. And the sound is distinctly different when "shin" (the sweet spot) meets the ball. Especially off the bat of Terrmel Sledge!

Ohka Tomokazu started the second game of the season for Yokohama, but was immediately in trouble. The first three Dragon batters reached base, scoring one run. A couple of fly outs later, Tony Blanco drove in two more runs to put Chunichi up 3-0 after half an inning. Things were looking bleak.

But in the bottom of the first, the BayStars showed that they hadn't given up hope. Ishikawa Takehiro beat out an infield single to the left side. Watanabe Naoto sacrifice him to second. Then Sledge hit a huge home run to right. There was no doubt about it from the incredible sound of the ball meeting the bat. The BayStars wasted no time cutting the Dragons' league to 1.

But (you know there had to be one, right?), Ohka continued to struggle in the second inning, allowing 3 consecutive hits after getting two outs to put 2 more runs on the wrong side of the score. Chunichi now led 5-2.

Then came the top of the BayStar order in the bottom of the third inning. Ishikawa failed to hold up on a 2-2 pitch that went to the backstop and took first base - furinige! Watanabe then grounded the ball to Blanco at first base. Blanco threw high to second, and while it looked like Ibata Hirokazu might have made it back down in time, he failed to keep hold of the ball - everyone's safe! And that sets the table for Sledge.

Chunichi's starter, Nakata Kenichi, fell behind to Terrmel (who's wife and child were in attendance) 3 balls and a strike. Behind in the count, Nakata came in with a pitch a little too good for Sledge to pass up, and he planted the ball over the right-center field fence, into the packed outfield seats! With two consecutive home runs by Sledge, we have a tie ball game, 5-5.

In came the relief corps for Yokohama. New suketto Clayton Hamilto threw three innings, giving up a solo home run to Morino Masahiko in the 4th inning then allowing BayStar nemisis Tanishige Motonobu to drive in another run in the fifth inning. Ejiri Shintaro also showed early symptoms of ippatsu-byo, allowing a solo home run to pinch hitter Fukuda Nobumasa in the seventh inning. That put Chunichi up 8-5, and things were starting to look like they had the past several years.

However, Watanabe-kun hit a 2-out double to right-center in the bottom of the seventh to put a runner in scoring position for ... you guessed it ... Terrmel Sledge! And Sledge delivered with his third home run of the game on the second offering from Kawahara Junichi. This time Sledge went the other way, to the Chunichi fans in left field. Sledge says it was the first time in his career to hit three in a single game.

Kaga Shigeru threw the eighth for Yokohama, a perfect three up, three down. The highlight of his performance was striking out Joel Guzman looking on three pitches. The third offering came sliding over outside in to the stupefied Dragon number five batter. Current closer Yamaguchi Shun threw the ninth, allowing a 2-out hit, but nothing more.

Even down 8-7 going to the bottom of the ninth, neither the crowd or the team had given up hope. The sayonara victory the day before, combined with the possibility of Sledge coming up again had everyone's attention. However, it wasn't meant to be. With Kinjoh Tatsuhiko on second base (leadoff pinch hit walk), Watanabe grounded out with Terrmel on deck to end the game.

But Sledge gave us a show. All 7 of Yokohama's runs came in on Sledge's three home runs. Yes, it's a team sport. But seeing individual performances like this help to make even a close loss like this bearable. The team actually looks like they have the ability to score some runs this year.
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