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Matured Well - May 28, 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.


Matured Well - May 28, 2013

1 reply. Most recent reply: Jun 2, 2013 9:29 PM by Guest

It's been a while since I've watched the Lions' Yusei Kikuchi throw. One of the darlings of the 2009 Draft, he seemed to be a frail thing, often caught crying over something or other by the press. He failed to make ichi-gun at all his first season of 2010, and was 1 and 1 in two games at ni-gun, throwing a total of 8 innings. I had pretty much written him off as yet another wildly hyped teenage Koshien stars who just couldn't cope with the fame.

I was wrong.

Despite a losing record on the farm in 2011 and 2012, Kikuchi won 4 games with the top team in both of those years, and even threw two complete games in 2011. He still suffered from ERAs of 4.14 and 3.10 respectively, but if winning is what counts, then he was contributing to the team.

But he's really been effective this year. And while he may not have been able to shutout the BayStars this evening, he came mighty close, striking out 7, walking 2, hitting 2 batters, and allowing just 3 base hits (all in the first two innings). In fact, it was a sharply hit ball that his shortstop failed to handle (ruled a hit) off of the bat of opposing pitcher Daisuke Miura that drove in the only run he'd given up. Kikuchi looked every bit to be living up to the hype that surrounded his draft in 2009.

Miura, starting for Yokohama, looked like he was on his game to start with as well. The first Lion base runner he allowed was, coincidentally, Kikuchi, in the top of the 3rd inning. It was the 4th inning when it started looking like Seibu was going to break through, though. With two on and one out, Esteban German hit a double to left to tie the ball game. The first thing that went through my mind was, "It's just a matter of time before he allows a home run."

After that, though, Miura settled back down and retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced, holding the game tied at 1-1 to the 8th inning.

Then it happened.

Former pitcher Fumikazu Kimura, pinch hitting for Kikuchi, lined a home run into the left-center field stands that saw the Yokohama outfield move no more than two steps before watching it go. A double and sacrifice bunt followed, spelling the end of Miura's stand on the mound.

Tatsuya Ohishi came in and struck out Takumi Kuriyama on three pitches to start things off. I love it when a pitcher challenges a batter with three strikes. Unfortunately, that's where his challenge ended. Koji Yamasaki singled in Seibu's 3rd run of the game on the very next pitch, then Ohishi walked the next two batters to load the bases. Pinch hitter Ryan Spilborghs singled in another run, and the 1-4 deficit looked daunting. The 9th batter of the inning, Ginjiro Sumitani, grounded out third to end it all.

Yokohama answered with a run in the bottom half of the 8th inning on three consecutive 1-out hits, but that was it. The game final was Yokohama 2 - 4 Seibu.
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Re: Matured Well - May 28, 2013

[ Author: Guest: Azza | Posted: Jun 2, 2013 9:29 PM ]
Both Kikuchi and Kimura played winterball in Melbourne... a piece of useless trivia from me there (I am a Melbournian)

I felt the same thing as you, i thought that he will be just another pitcher who will live off his Koshien hype alone and nothing else, but this year he seems to have better velocity on his fastball and his off speed pitches have looked better this year. I did notice his mechanics had changed since he became pro which may have accounted for something because of a period of adjustment.

I have watched a few of his starts this year and he was more composed than previous years, probably a couple of years have helped in that but his control still needs plenty of work as he still walks a bundle of batters
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