Saitama Seibu Lions ace Hideaki Wakui was perfect after three innings at in Game 1 of the Japan Series at Tokyo Dome, an effort that brought back images of last season's combo perfecto in the Series finale.
The Chunichi Dragons closed out 2007 with two hurlers setting down all 27 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. On Saturday, the Giants were fortunate to avoid a no-no as both their hits found enough leather to make a handbag.
An error to open the fourth inning led to Alex Ramirez getting a chance to bat. He slapped a floater toward Hiram Bocachica in right and the outfielder raced in and dove for the ball, catching it in the webbing. Then everything went haywire.
"The ball was in my glove, but then my glove got stuck in the turf and I almost broke my wrist," Bocachica said of what turned into an RBI double for Ramirez after the ball popped out and rolled away.
"It was in the web, but not in the deep part--that's the only reason it came out of my glove."
Said Ramirez: "I'm glad he dropped the ball--that's all I can say about my hit. Almost a no-hitter, though. You've got tip your hat."
By the time Wakui got through eight without allowing another hit, though, Bocachica was more in the mood to pull his cap down over his face and hide.
"I was feeling bad for Wakui because that was the only hit he gave up the whole game. But then the second baseman got a hit in the ninth inning," the outfielder said.
Wakui left for closer Alex Graman in the ninth inning, and Takuya Kimura's leadoff infield single doubled Yomiuri's hit total.
OH, WHAT A FEELING: Before Hideaki Wakui's opening performance, the last Seibu hurler to win a Series opener at Tokyo Dome was current skipper Hisanobu Watanabe, who did it in 1994.
Starting Game 1, however, was not necessarily the highest honor. Then-manager Masaaki Mori would say "Game 2 is more important." Watanabe pitched four Series openers with some extra motivation.
"To hear that hurt so much that I went out and pitched like my life depended on it," said Watanabe, who was 3-0 with a no-decision in Game 1s.
NO FIRST HELPING: Takeya Nakamura, known as "Mr. Second Helping," was doing his best to forget Game 1. The Lions cleanup man fanned twice, fouled out once and left a runner in scoring position in his final at-bat in the eighth inning.
On top of that, he committed an error in the fourth inning that helped Yomiuri score its only run.
"For me, the Japan Series starts today," Nakamura said prior to Game 2.