I come home from work, turn on the Lotte game, and see Naoyuki Shimizu on the hill in some strange uniform with a “B” on it. Towards the end of the game out trots Daisuke Hayakawa; he too has that strange uniform. It’d be really weird if someone like Tasuku Hashimoto was wearing one of those uniforms too, ne?
Tonight’s starting pitcher matchup for the first game of Interleague play looked like an intersquad game from, well, anytime in the past 10 years as longtime teammates Shimizu and Shunsuke Watanabe faced off. Combine the players mentioned above with the return this year of Yabuta from parts unknown (and the Royals are indeed parts unknown) and we had ourselves one heck of a deju vu situ.
We also had ourselves one hell of a pitching duel as Shimizu went 8 very strong innings for Yokohama, striking out 8 and only giving up 5 hits. Fortunately for Lotte, 2 of those 5 hits were solo shots by Ohmatsu and Saburo. Shunsuke was pretty sharp as well – he only went 6 before getting pulled for Itoh and gave up just one run on a second inning single by Kinjoh. Saburo’s solo blast in the 4th gave Lotte a 2-1 lead, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as the Marines bullpen really did a fantastic job.
Once Shunsuke handed the hill to the pen it was virtually all over. Itoh (who is super erratic) was very much on, getting 2 of the 4 batters he faced out on Ks. Yabuta was even better; he struck out the side on 14 pitches. And on Monday I mentioned that Kobayashi hadn’t had much chance to record saves this year due to the run differentials – well, tonight he sure did, and he made great work of his opportunity, shutting down Yokohama in the bottom of the 9th to get the save. The game ended the same score as after Saburo’s HR – a 2-1 Lotte victory.
There really haven’t been too many games of this sort this year – there were two pitching duels in the very first series at Seibu Dome but most other games were of the blowout or slugfest variety. It was nice to watch a well pitched, well defended game.
Tomorrow’s matchup in Yokohama features hasn’t-been-around-in-ages Tomo Ohka (ex-MLBer) versus young gun Baby-Faced Killer Karakawa. Seems like a very hard matchup to predict – who knows what we will see from Ohka and Karakawa has been a bit erratic in the past month – but it should be interesting!