The NPB season is finally upon us. On Monday evening (Pacific Time) I found about 90 minutes to spend watching two games, and talking baseball on Twitter. Here are my notes from what I saw of the games.
Chunichi vs Yokohama
- The 'Stars drew a pretty nice crowd.
- Chunichi starter Maximo Nelson looked a little rough around the edges early on.
- Yokohama starter Shogo Yamamoto can get a bunt down.
- Forkballs and low fastballs still to work against Brett Harper.
- Hirokazu Ibata has cool glasses.
- Yamamoto left a mistake out over the plate for Joel Guzman, who tagged it for the first NPB home run of 2011. Yokohama manager Takao Obana wisely brought in righty Shintaro Ejiri before Guzman's next at bat, and he made quick work of both Guzman and Tony Blanco.
- Right after Guzman's home run, yet another earthquake struck, shaking the lighting towers at Yokohama Stadium.
Yokohama eventually won 5-4, on a Yuta Naito walk-off hit off Takuya Asao.
Rakuten vs Lotte
- There were quite a few fans holding signs encouraging the Tohoku region at QVC Marine Field. Lotte has great fans.
- I thought the "Ganbarou Tohoku" patch on the Rakuten uniforms was a little small. Lotte wore black stripes on their shoulders.
- Lotte starter Yoshihisa Naruse was locked in early on, and had six or seven strikeouts in the first four innings. I thought he was getting some low strikes called in his favor.
- Takashi Ogino's showed off his speed in the fourth inning: after singling, he stole second, and advanced to third on a hard fly out to left field. He then scored on a ground out to third base, though he probably would have been out if Motohiro Shima had been able to hang on to the ball. Ogino looked like he got into Hisashi Iwakuma's head a little bit, as he seemed distracted when he was on first base.
- Kim Tae Kyun looks fatter than last year.
- Iwakuma got himself into a couple of minor jams in the fourth and fifth, but came away unscathed. His fastball velocity wasn't great though.
- I wasn't impressed with Rakuten's 1B/DH duo: Takeshi Yamasaki started at first, but his fielding days should rightfully be behind him, and Randy Ruiz looked bad in his first two at bats against Naruse.
- Just as I was signing off, Shima took Naruse deep for a three-run homer, giving Rakuten a lead they would extend and never relinquish. As great as Naruse is, his control has to be spot on, because he throws so softly that his mistakes can be very costly. Last year he struck out 192, but gave up 29 home runs.
Lotte mounted a comeback against Iwakuma in the ninth, but Justin Speier relieved him and stopped the Marines for his first NPB save. The final score was 6-4.
Other items of note from games I didn't watch:
- Matt Murton hit a home run in his first at bat of the season
- Yu Darvish got lit up for seven earned runs in seven innings, in the worst opening day performance of his career.