Looks like a great day at Petco Park.
Weather: Partly cloudy, 58 degrees, wind 6 mph SW
Kazuhiro Kiyohara is in the booth helping out with the commentary on TBS (channel 6 in Tokyo).
Here are the starting line-ups:
JAPAN CUBA RF Suzuki CF Cespedes SS Kataoka 3B Enriquez LF Aoki LF Cepeda 3B Murata DH Peraza DH Ogasawara 2B Gourriel 1B Uchikawa RF Despaigne CF Fukudome 1B Anderson C Johjima C Pestano 2B Iwamura SS Paret SP Matsuzaka SP Chapman
Nakajima's fever has gone down, but he is not in the starting line-up. Whether or not he's well enough to enter the game later on is not known.
I'm a little surprised with the line-up. I was actually hoping to see Kawasaki at third with Murata DH'ing. But I guess Hara feels better about Ogasawara.
It's a little strange to see the stands so "empty" -- I've become so accustomed to seeing them packed for Samurai Japan games in Japan.
Top of the First
Not a horrible inning for Japan. They got Chapman to throw 18 pitches (9 for strikes). Aoki got on with a walk and I hope that his steal of second is a sign of a lot of running to come.
And while Ichiro's AB wasn't exactly great, he did get Chapman to throw 6 pitches. And he almost managed to eek out a walk.
Bottom of the First
Matsuzaka tossed 16 pitches that inning (11 for strikes). It seems like he was hitting his spots pretty good. He did give up 2 hits, but I don't think either one of them was hit very hard.
Top of the Second
Not an altogether bad inning for Japan, in terms of making Chapman work (23 pitches, 12 for strikes), but they killed any momentum they could have picked up by getting picked off twice. While Ogasawara's pick-off is somewhat forgivable, Uchikawa really had no business getting picked-off.
Bottom of the Second
Nice 1, 2, 3 inning for Matsuzaka -- and he only needed 11 pitches (7 strikes). He looks pretty comfortable out there so far.
Top of the Third
Very nice inning for Japan. This is exactly what they needed to do. They made Chapman work and they ended up getting to him. And with their aggressiveness on the base paths, they made Cuba make tough plays.
In the end, I think youth and inexperience did Chapman in. There were a number of times he was visibly upset with the home plate umpire and I think the frustration from that, along with some really tough ABs by Japanese hitters, were major factors in Chapman falling apart. When he gets his stuff together, he's going to be a really scary pitcher.
Bottom of the Third
Matsuzaka gave up 2 more singles and ended up throwing 24 pitches (18 strikes). The inning may have ended slightly sooner had Ichiro and Johjima not dropped balls hit in foul territory during Paret's at bat. That one AB cost Matsuzaka 9 pitches.
Still, a very solid inning by Matsuzaka. He also struck out 3.
Top of the Fourth
Another solid offensive inning for Japan. They got a little help from the sky, but they managed to push a run across the plate (even though it wasn't pretty). And Iwamura had a nice 8-pitch at bat that ended up turning into an infield single.
Bottom of the Fourth
I think this is the best I've seen Matsuzaka pitch this year. He threw 11 pitches (8 strikes) for another 1, 2, 3 inning. He also struck out 2 more batters (6 so far).
Matsuzaka is sitting on 62 pitches so far.
Top of the Fifth
Japan made Cuban pitchers work again that inning. They tossed a total 32 pitches in while facing 7 batters. Aoki also had a great 12-pitch at bat -- it may have ended in an out, but I think it did a lot more for Japan (and Aoki) than it did Cuba.
And it looks like Ogasawara has climbed out of his slump at just the right time (the same could also be said for Iwamura).
Bottom of the Fifth
Another nice inning for Matsuzaka. A bunt single, a double play, and a strike out to end the inning.
Matsuzaka tossed 14 pitches (9 strikes) in that inning -- he's now sitting at 76 pitches overall.
Top of the Sixth
Japan went down fairly quietly this inning. Ichiro struck out, Kataoka flew out to left, and Aoki grounded out to second. But they still managed to make Cuba throw 15 pitches that inning. And while Ichiro did strike out, I think he also had a decent AB (he saw 6 pitches).
Bottom of the Sixth
Great outing by Matsuzaka. He came through big time for Japan. And he ended his day in fashion, striking Peraza out on a slider with his 86th pitch of the game.
His final line:
6 IP, 22 BF, 5 H, 0 BB, 8 K, 7 GO, 3 FO
86 pitches, 61 strikes
Top of the Seventh
Three up, three down for Japan.
Bottom of the Seventh
Nice inning there by Iwakuma. He gave up a lead-off single, but then struck out Despaigne, got Anderson to ground out to short, and then struck out the pinch-hitter, Merino to end the inning.
Iwakuma: 12 pitches (10 strikes)
Top of the Eighth
A fairly uneventful inning, outside of perhaps Johjima's 8-pitch at bat (that resulted in a line out to left) and Iwamura's 9-pitch at bat (that resulted in a walk).
Bottom of the Eighth
Mahara made a nice play on a bunt single attempt for the first out. He then gave up a single and got a double play to end the innning.
Mahara: 8 pitches (5 strikes)
Top of the Ninth
Aoki laid down a good bunt to move Kawasaki over to second. Murata followed that with an RBI single. Inaba replaced Uchikawa, but weakly grounded out to second to end the inning.
Bottom of the Ninth
Fujikawa gave up a double to start the inning, but settled in nicely after that by striking out 2 batters swinging and getting Despaigne to fly out to center.
Fujikawa: 19 pitches (13 strikes)
Great game for Japan. Must have been a fairly tough (and tiring loss) for Cuba. I think Japan really managed to do just about everything right in this game. They made the pitchers throw a lot of pitches, they ran the bases aggressively, and the pitchers all did a really great job.
4 pitchers combined: 9.0 IP, 33 BF, 8 H, 0 BB, 12 K, 11 GO, 4 FO, 125 pitches (99 strikes).
The only negatives might be Ichiro's 0-for-5 and Fukudome's 1-for-4 with 3 strike outs. Still, the team did an amazing job making Cuba throw a lot of pitches -- 186 pitches (116 strikes) thrown between 7 pitchers to be exact.
Iwamura (2-for-3) and Ogasawara (2-for-4) also appear to have turned a corner. If Ichiro continues to slump, these two guys (more so Iwamura than Ogasawara though) could become important keys to Japan's offense.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E JPN 0 0 3 1 1 0 0 0 1 6 12 2 CUB 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 0