Monday, October 08, 2007

Furuta's Last Home Game

Tokyo's player/manager Atsuya Furuta played his last home game last night against the Hiroshima Carp.

Hiroshima jumped out to an early lead with three runs in the first inning off of Tokyo starter Ishikawa.

Tokyo was never able to recover despite an rbi sacrifice fly by Riggs in the second, and solo home runs from Guiel in the 6th and 7th (the one in the 6th was an inside-the-park homer that resulted from a fielding collision in shallow left field).

Incidentally, Guiel is now one behind Yokohama's Murata for the central league home run title. As fate would have it, the final two games of the season are at hitter-friendly Yokohama stadium this afternoon. Look for Guiel to walk three or four times today and tomorrow as Yokohama tries to protect Murata's claim to the title.

To be fair, the game has no meaning in terms of the CL standings. Tokyo secured last place with it's shaky pitching last night, and Yokohama is in no danger of losing its title as the best crappy team in the central.

The only other things at stake are era's, Ramirez's chance to break Aoki's CL mark of 202 hits in a season and/or reach 30 round-trippers on the season, Aoki's ability to catch Ramirez for the batting title (batting average), and Guiel's proximity to the league title for most times being hit by a pitch in a season (he's been beaned 23 times so far).

Rewind: Dave and I arrived at the park at 2pm to get in line for tickets. The game was sold out, so we were cared for by Nakagawa-san and company and somehow ended up 35th in line for the right field bleachers. That meant that we were easily able to get our normal seats at the back of section D, and we were able to watch the stands fill up very quickly as gate after gate began hemorrhaging fans.

The wait was long enough that we had a pizza delivered to where we were standing in line. Pizza-la was able to find gate 17 despite the long walk, and the pizza was delivered with a smile.

The sell-out was due to Furuta's impending retirement from professional baseball. He started and played the entire game, and he received unbelievable support every time he came up to bat. Throughout the game, short videos were played on the giant monitor in center field that commemorated his role in turning Tokyo into a major force during the 90's and the first part of this century. Most fans held green placards with Furuta's number 27 on them every time he came to the plate.

The end of the game saw starter Ishii come on in relief and Takatsu (two guys that Furuta caught through several championship seasons) pitching in the ninth. Hiroshima's manager, Marty Brown, responded by sending in veterans Sasaoka and Maeda to help recreate some of the old days.

After all was said and done, including speeches, lots of flowers, Furuta getting thrown into the air several times by his teammates, and a long tour around the grounds to throw balls into the stands, Aoki and Ramirez followed Furuta back toward the right field fence where they hoisted him up so that he could climb on top of it and thank the fans in the bleachers that have been watching him play for nearly two decades.

Even those of us who have not been impressed by his stint as manager were quick to thank him for all that he's meant to the team and Japanese baseball.

I hope that he doesn't stray far from the game.

Final score:

Tokyo 3 -- 6 Hiroshima

W: Hasegawa (5-5, 2.95 era)

L: Ishikawa (4-7, 4.38)
Update: [Tuesday October 9th, 2007; 1:12 am]
Ramirez was able to rewrite the CL record with his 203rd hit, and Aoki captured the batting crown with three hits and a season average of .346 (to Ramirez's .343). Guiel walked twice. Tokyo lost the game 5-4 and sealed their position as the worst team in Japan this year (despite having one of the most potent offenses).

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