Owen, Oliver, Kenta and I went to yesterday’s Hanshin Tigers versus Soft Bank (Fukuoka) Hawks Nippon Professional Baseball league game at Koshien Stadium. In a pitchers’ duel, the Hawks defeated the Tigers 1-0. Kodai Senga pitched 8 scoreless innings to improve his record to 7-0 in 12 appearances. Soft Bank, the biggest cell phone and internet company in Japan, really does a good job in baseball operations and has far and away, the best team and organization in the league. They are 44-17 this year to be atop the Pacific League and have won the Japan Series the past two years. Senga is one of many excellent pitchers for the Hawks. They originally were based in Osaka and were owned by a railway company before being purchased by a department store in 1988 and moving to the southern city of Fukuoka.
The Hawks had great pitching from Randy Messenger, the 6-6, 265 American import. He played for the Florida Marlins, San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners in his 4-year MLB career. Messenger has played for the Tigers for 7 seasons and is their ace, despite being sent to the minors briefly last year. Messenger pitched 8 strong innings and the Hawks scored the only run in typical fashion in the third inning. After a leadoff hit, a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second. They love sacrifice bunting here. Senga got a hit to move the runner to third and then a suicide squeeze bunt play brought the runner home. Messenger also had one of the 4 Tigers’ hits and deserved a better fate.
- The Asahi beer girls must have been uncomfortable in the hot temperatures but beer sales were quite brisk.
- This was a rare interleague game, as the two leagues (Central and Pacific) only play each other from May 31 to June 23 in a 144-game season. There are only 12 teams total, six in each league, so it must get boring to play the same 5 teams all the time.
- They still use the bullpen car to bring in relief pitches. The car at Koshien is a convertible. Much better than the golf carts with a baseball on top like in the 1970s MLB.
- Our man Tsuyoshi Nishioka got the start at third base for the Tigers and of course struck out twice and grounded out to first base. He has the best song of any player, however. (see video below) The fans are constantly singing or slapping the plastic bats together.