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Blanco Barbecues Dragons - April 19, 2013

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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.

Blanco Barbecues Dragons - April 19, 2013

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How better to recover from a sayonara loss the day before than with a sayonara victory? How does an incredibly deep sayonara 3-run home run by Tony Blanco sound?

Blanco hit his league leading 8th home run in the first game of the current home stand against his former team mates, the Chunichi Dragons. The 3-run shot raised his RBI total to 22, well over Giants' Shonnosuke Abe and John Bowker at 18 apiece.

But what makes this home run so special isn't that it's against his former team. It's that it's the first game that Blanco homered and the BayStars won. Blanco even said that he was aware of the frustrating jinx that seemed to be on the team when he went deep. But you can't loose after a sayonara home run!

Yokohama got on the board right away in the first inning. Takehiro Ishikawa led off with an infield single to first base. The rushed throw by Matt Clark to covering starter Kenichi Nakata was wide, allowing Ishikawa to go to second. Kensuke Uchikawa sacrificed Ishikawa to third, then Hitoshi Tamura grounded the ball to the left side, third baseman Hector Luna looked the runner back before throwing to first for out number two. With Blanco at the plate for the first time, Nakata throw a pitch a little outside that catcher Kohei Oda appeared fooled by as the ball bounced off of his right shoulder and toward the first base dugout. That got Ishikawa across for the first run of the game.

Hirokazu Ibata hit a 2-out double in the top of the second against Yokohama starter Kentaro Takasaki, but got no farther. Chunichi did threaten in the top of the third inning. With two down, Yohei Ohshima singled to left, then Masahiro Araki hit an extra base hit into the corner in right. Tamura threw the ball to relay man Kensuke Uchimura who threw a one-bound strike to home to get Ohshima by a good margin.

Yokohama threatened to score in the 5th inning. With two down and runners at first and second, Uchimura grounded a ball through the right side and into right field. Shuto Takajyoh tried to score from second, but a laser beam throw from Ryosuke Hirata in right allowed Oda to block the plate with the ball, cutting down the rival catcher at home.

And so this pitchers' duel progressed to the top of the 7th inning. Luna led off the inning with a single up the middle, then Kazuhiro Wada drew a walk. Matt Clark grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, allowing Luna to move to third base. Ibata followed with his second hit of the night to right field, plating Luna and tying the game.

Jorge Sosa pitched the 8th and 9th innings for Yokohama, retiring all 6 of his former team mates that he faced, in order. Then the man who blew the lead the night before, Shun Yamaguchi, came on and retired the Dragons in order in the 10th inning. No problem.

Then came the bottom of the 10th inning.

Ishikawa led off with a come backer off Toshiya Okada's glove, the 5th Chunichi pitcher of the night, that got just too far away for either him or Araki to make a play. Uchimura sacrificed him along to second. That prompted a pitching change to face Tamura in the person of Daisuke Yamai. Yamai walked Tamura on four pitches to put runners at first and second with one out and Blanco coming to the plate.

Yamai's first offering was fouled off, Blanco jumping on Yamai early. The second pitch was taken low and inside, evening the count at 1-1. Then the third pitch, inside and belt high, was absolutely clobbered. There was no doubt about it from the moment it left the bat. Blanco just dropped his bat where he stood in the batters box and watched the line drive continue an upward course over the fence and 7 rows down from the top of the left field bleachers. (I think it hit a Chunichi fan in the face up there.)

Nakahata-kantoku sought Blanco out at the celebration at home plate and gave him a big hug. He said after the game that the night before was completely forgotten and he was shaking as though he'd hit the home run himself.

With 8 of his 22 RBIs of the season coming at the expense of the Dragons, Blanco has been a tremendous help in the BayStars' 3-1 winning record against his former team.
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