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Whew, That Was Close - June 22, 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.


Whew, That Was Close - June 22, 2013

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I'm sure that I've ranted a number of times about "that one inning" where everything goes wrong, or "that one pitch" that turned the game around. That goes especially for games played in Yokohama.

Well, those narrow misses seemed to all turn around for us this evening, Yokohama breaking their 8 game losing streak at Yokohama Stadium in the process.

Hanshin got on the board first when Hisashi Takayama drew a full count bases loaded walk in the first inning off of BayStar starter Shugo Fujii. And, no, the final pitch was not even close. Fortunately, Ryota Arai grounded out to second to end the first big threat of the game.

Down but not out, Yokohama answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the 1st. The two runs came in on back to back ground outs by Nyjer Morgan and Tony Blanco. (Blanco had an awful time against Hanshin starter Randy Messenger, accounting for 2 of Messenger's four strike outs.)

The 3rd inning started the theme of "that was close." With two down and nobody on, Matt Murton hit a double off the very top of the right-center field fence. That was so close to being a game tying home run. Instead, Murton was gunned down at home on the older Arai brother's (Takahiro) single to left. Murton said that he didn't like bowling over the catcher in a recent interview on the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast, but he clearly was trying to dislodge the ball as the ball beat him by a good margin to Shuto Takajyoh at home. Takajyoh rolled over backwards on the collision, but held on to the ball.

The top of the 4th opened up with back to back fly balls to the outfield that were almost back to back extra base hits. Sho Aranami made a great diving catch in right field off the bat of Hisashi Takayama. Then left fielder Keijiro Matsumoto made a jumping catch while crashing into the left field wall on a deep shot by Little Brother Ryota.

Yokohama scored a pair in the bottom half of the 4th. Here, too, we had a very close play go our way.

Takajyoh led off the bottom half of the inning with a single to left. He was then balked to second when, with T. Arai moving in to protect against the sacrifice bunt, Messenger started to throw to first, where his first baseman was not. Not stepping off the rubber, the balk was called. After Fujii did get the bunt down, Messenger attempted to get the runner at third base, but Takajyoh slid in just before the tag which R. Arai made without first catching the ball. Close, but everyone was safe.

Takehiro Ishikawa then hit the very next pitch into the left-center field gap, both outfielders playing in (to protect against the runner from third scoring?). Fujii motored all the way around third, running straight upright. The throw got to Akihito Fujii at the plate first, but unlike Murton who plowed into the catcher, Shugo Fujii slid around his namesake, touching home plate with his left hand under Akihito's left thigh while avoiding the tag. Whew, that was close, but two runs are in! Yokohama goes up 4-1.

But the Tigers weren't done yet. After Murton drove in two runs with a double to left, making it a 1-run ball game (Yokohama still up 4-3), Takahiro hit a fly ball deep to right field. Aranami went back to the wall, then suddenly lunged forward to make the catch. Whether it was the wind or his unfamiliarity with right field, that was awfully close as Murton was half way to third hoping the ball would drop in to score the tying run.

After that, Fujii walked Ryota on 5 pitches and was done for the day. In his 6th year as a pro, Atori Ohta has been winless with 10 losses. He has held the opposition scoreless in 3 appearances so far this season, so he may be a good choice.

That turns out to be so. Ohta gets Akihito to ground out to short for the final out.

Other than Ishikawa hitting a long foul ball into the left field corner that was just centimeters from an extra base hit, there were no more really close calls this game. Yokohama did score another run in the 8th to defeat Hanshin 5-3.

However, there was one more narrow escape. Ohta (who has been registered as "Atori" the past several years) got his first career win, stopping his losing streak since his pro debut at 10 games. That fixes him tied for the second worst record in NPB history with 3 others, 2 players had lost 11 games since their debut.

With several narrow escapes, that was a very close game.
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