Welcome to our joint running diaries of the opening MLB 2008 game in Tokyo Japan. We’ll be writing in from Boston, MA and while they’ll be sipping on Saki and snacking on sushi it’ll be Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and Danishes for us. It’s very early in the morning, so we felt our best bet was for both of us to write simultaneous accounts of the game for all you people out there not crazy enough to wake up and watch it. Enjoy this account from some truly mad men! As a side note anyone who can guess which one of us is the Red Sox fan wins the internet.
I expect this opening match up to be a one sided affair. Matsuzaka will be invigorated by his 55k+ home nation crowd, and most likely pitch on high octane all day, so if he can harness that adrenaline Sox fans could be treated to a performance reminiscent of the two innings Pedro threw in the 1999 all-star game. The A’s lineup will sport some multi-K potential bats, and I fully expect Dice-K to live up to his expectations. On a personal note I’ll be counting every ridiculous uppercut swing Pedroia lets loose.
The lineups are introduced with much fanfare as there is some old school baseball jingle music playing in the background as opposed to the latest “Who let the dogs out!” hook. My early impressions; who will last longer Crosby in the 6th hole or Ellsbury in the 8th spot? I’m guessing Crosby gets bumped due to injury before Ellsbury moves up due to talent. Not much has changed for the Sox Manny sure looks older, but the A’s are going to require some serious mashing from young sluggers Cust and Barton.
Wow, it's early. This is ridiculous. I kept saying I wasn't going to get up for this, but my subconscience woke me up this morning at 6am - it's Opening Ass Crack of Dawn! Look at this year's Sox lineup - same as last year's. Look at this year's A's lineup - their Triple A team called, and they want their lineup back! On the plus side, Bobby Crosby isn't hurt. A whooping 5 A's starters have less than 100 major league games under their belt.
How come the Tokyo Dome doesn’t have those ridiculous catwalks that Tropicana field does? Isn’t that the stupidest thing to have in a dome? Well my minds already wandering, but the first pitch is on its way though so bear with me…….Strrrrrrike One!
No uppercut swing as Pedroia sends an 18 hopper off the glove of Crosby and through the middle. Jerry Remy just informs us that Dice-K received, by far, the biggest ovation. You can’t get commentary like that on Fox. The A’s just avoided some early season jitters as 3B Hannahan recovers a Youk DP bobble for one out. Woot! Chalk one up for The Dude, as the whole field reminds Remy of St Pete. Blanton looks good early; he’s throwing strikes and keeping the hitters off balance, thus retiring Ortiz and Manny.
Well Travis Buck does what every great leadoff man should, which is swing at the first pitch and roll a weak dribbler to the second basemen. I mean you have all preseason to prepare for it and you just swing away….whoa Mark Ellis just juiced a fastball middle in over the left field wall, and Dice-K is rattled. Barton draws a walk on 5 pitches, four of which weren’t even close. Ouch, Cust gets beaned in the ankles and Dice-K might not make it out of the first the way he’s throwing right now. Dice-K helps himself out by fielding a swinging bunt, but another run crosses the plate, and the Sox need one more out. He then gets Hannahan on the high heat to end the inning. For the way Dice-K was pitching the Sox should feel fortunate they only allowed the two runs.
Lead-off single for Pedroia! Kid hasn't missed a beat all off-season! Leading the league in hitting already. Youkilis hits a double play ball to 3rd, but a little bobble by Not Eric Chavez at 3rd costs the A's the DP. Big Papi, Big Popup. Up comes Manny, dreads longer than ever, and he flies out to end the inning.
Dice-K comes out to flashbulbs and applause, and I hope he's not blinded by the flashes on this first pitch because you know how the Japanese love to take pictures. Is that out of line? Maybe, but it's 6:18 on a Tuesday and my PC meter isn't working at normal capacity. (Ha! Jerry Remy points out that the flashphotography was excessive and he didn't know how Buck saw the pitch to make contact as he grounded out to 2nd). D'oh! Mark Ellis goes yard, 1-0, A's. What a meatball! Daric Barton walks. This is looking like a typical Dice-K start that I remember. Watching Cust swing and miss at a changeup makes me wonder why he ever gets fastballs. And Dice-K hits him with a pitch. Good lord, I got up for this! Wild pitch, runners advance. Another walk, bases juiced for Crosby. Dice-K gets squeezed on the 1-2 pitch, which helps the A's as Crosby hits a swinging bunt on the next pitch. Dice-K makes a great play throwing him out at first. 2-0, A's. He strikes out Not Eric Chavez to end the inning, but not after throwing 30 pitches. This A's lineup might be young, but they are patient and don't chase pitches out of the zone, which is basically Dice-K's kryptonite.
Lowell singles, but so much for that Sox OF depth as they are starting Brandon Moss in right field, and he grounds out. Tek goes and GIDP (first of many this season), as Blanton continues to throw strikes.
A leadoff single for Suzuki is followed by two outs and a walk. Daric Barton is at bat and he has an intimidating plate presence. From what I understand he’s a former top offensive prospect that was injured as a catcher, and has since moved to first. He walks and Cust will hit with the bases loaded and two out. Dice-K gets a generous corner as Cust lives up to his reputation as an all or nothing guy and promptly strikes out.
Lowell leads off with a first-pitch single. JD Drew starts the season with a boo-boo and is out tonight after playing great in the meaningless games. Moss grounds up the middle and there's a nice play by Ellis to force Lowell at 2nd. The Captain comes next and promptly grounds into two to end the inning. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Kurt Suzuki, who's not Japanese, leads off with a single. Dice-K gets squeezed on the 1st pitch to Ryan Sweeney, who is one of the players that the A's got for Nick Swisher. He hits the ball well (I'll admit, I thought it was gone the way it left the bat, but it was just a routine fly out - It's been 5 months and my baseball watching skills aren't up to par quite yet). Buck strikes out, but Suzuki is able to steal 2nd (going on the 3-2 pitch). Dice-K goes from 0-2 to a walk against Ellis because he is uber-wild today. At this pace, this game is going to last 4+ hours. Another walk to Barton. Up comes Cust with them loaded, and this could get ugly with one swing of the bat. Or with 4 pitches out of the zone, which is probably more likely the way Dice-K's pitching; it's so wild I just texted, "Dice-K couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat," to a friend. 0-2 on Cust; if Dice-K grooves a fastball I'll be pissed, especially considering that Julian Tavarez is up in our bullpen. Called 3rd strike! He gets out of the jam. No way Dice-K gets through 5 innings if he keeps this up though.
Ellsbury K’s on the same corner Dice-K just received, so at least ‘ole blue is consistent so far. Lugo singles on his first pitch, and if he provides a steady bat at the end of the lineup the Sox will be all the more dangerous. That’s one upper cut for Dustin. He did make contact, but giant upper cut HR swings are not his strong suit. How did Youk make it that whole off-season without shaving that monstrosity on his face? He hits a hot shot down the 3rd baseline, but Hannahan snares it to save a run. Ortiz will bat with two on two out. The shift works, and Blanton gets out of the jam by throwing quality strikes.
Dice-K has regained some semblance of control, and as I write that he walks Hannahan. He’s on a 90 or so pitch count according to manager Terry Francona, and I doubt he’ll see the 5th inning. Lugo with a nice leaping snag ends the inning.
Hide your daughters, fathers; up comes Jacoby Ellsbury, who prompty strikes out looking. Julio Lugo starts off 2008 better than 2007 with a base knock. Here comes the Dude's favorite player, Pedroia, who flies to the warning track for the 2nd out. I'm sure the Dude will have something crass to say about Pedroia's "upcut" swing there. Youkilis hits it down the line, and Not Eric Chavez makes a great stop but cannot throw out Youk. Ortiz coming up with 2 men on, and he's certainly a crowd favorite, probably because (1) he's a great hitter and (2) he looks like a cartoon character to the locals. Papi grounds out into the shift and the inning is over.
Emil Brown does Dice-K a huge favor and pops out on the 1st pitch. Crosby breaks his bat on a grounder back to the mound. But Dice-K refuses to have a 1-2-3 inning as he walks Not Eric Chavez. Suzuki tags a liner but it's caught by Lugo. Inning over. By far, this was Dice-K's easiest inning.
Oh man…Don Orsillo just modeled a red satin Kimono for us. He looks like a degenerate from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Blanton has been impressive so far. Nothing flashy, but he’s coming right at the Sox hitters and making them put the bat on the ball.
Just spoke with Mugatu and he’s more or less in the same frame of mind as I am. Dice-K can’t throw strikes and Blanton is, while we’re talking Dice-K has a 1-2-3 inning of course.
Don Orsillo, the Sox play-by-play guy, is modeling his Japanese robe in the pressbox. I must say, Orsillo and Remy are in midseason form in the booth. They just put up Manny's batting numbers against A's starter Joe Blanton; Manny owns Blanton so badly he should be paying Manny mortgage; alas, as I type that, Manny flies out to right. Lowell flies out to center, and the crowd reacts like it's a homer and it's way short again. Remy has been pointing this out but it's impossible to miss. Moss grounds out to end the inning.
Lazy fly out by Sweeney to lead off the inning. Caught looking, Travis Buck, two down. Ellis grounds to 2nd to end the inning; finally a 1-2-3 inning for the Dice man!
Varitek sure didn’t bring his bat with him, and I’d have to say his reputation for handling pitchers has not been a factor today. Blanton matches Matsuzaka out for out that inning as the Sox are retired in order.
Well Matsuzaka not only has settled down, but he’s dominating hitters as he strikes out two and retires the side in order for the second straight inning.
Varitek swings and misses ... shocker. The first of many K's for the Captain this year. Ellsbury grounds to 1st for the 2nd out. Lugo grounds to short to end the inning. Blanton has looked solid and fantasy owners like myself should be quite pleased.
Dice-K strikes out Barton to lead off the 5th. Settled down would be the proper term. Cust chases a ball out of the zone for strike three - a very good breaking pitch by Dice-K. Grounder to 3rd, inning over. That's 7 straight retired and 9 of the last 10 batters faced for him.
Third time through the order for Blanton, I’d imagine the Sox bats have a little more to say this time around. Pedroia promptly doubles to lead off, but it was really a misplay by Travis Buck, who proves he’s not only a terrible leadoff hitter but a sub par outfielder as well. Youkilis walks and the Sox have two on nobody out with the heart of the order up, Blanton’s meddle will certainly be tested here. What a battle between Blanton and Ortiz. Blanton wins after two great full count pitches have Ortiz swinging off balance. Manny wastes no time though as he doubles down the line plating two and the Sox have tied the game. Brandon Moss singles to right, and Travis Buck pays no heed to the cut off man as the Sox take the lead. Remarkably enough that drives Blanton from the game, and puts Dice-K in line for the win. A complimentary Manny picking his nose shot before Varitek
K’s to end the inning. I think ‘ole blue took that half inning off, much to the chagrin of A’s fans.
Pitch count is overrated. Every report I heard tells me that if the pitch count is back loaded that becomes more of a problem than if the pitcher struggled early. Dice-K was dealing, and Francona removes him for Snyder who surrenders the lead to the 3rd basemen formerly known as Eric Chavez. In all seriousness Hannahan has had a great game so far and would be my pick for game MVP should it end as is.
Leadoff double for Pedroia on a ball that Buck couldn't quite get back on. Kevin Youkilis comes up to a "Yooooouuuuk" chant, all the way in Japan, and the traditional "Let's Go Red Sox" chant starts. The A's might be the home team, but Red Sox Nation has gone global. Youkilis walks on 4 straight pitches, bringing up Ortiz, representing the lead run. Ortiz works the count full, but then pops up to Not Eric Chavez, who catches it near the seats. Manny absolutely smokes a double down the left field line to drive in Pedroia and Youkilis (all the way around from 1st) to tie the score at 2. Lowell strikes out on a full-count changeup by Blanton, a very nice pitch. Base hit from Brandon Moss (filling in for Drew) scores Manny to take the lead and Moss advances on the very poor throw home. 3-2, Sox. And that'll do it for Blanton, who looked great through 5 but the wheels came off here in the 6th. Time for a shower. Old friend Alan Embree (forever immortalized pumping his fist after getting the last out in Yankee Stadium in 2004) comes in a promptly strikes out Varitek, who started the game 36 years old and appears to have turned 54.
Kyle Synder in for Dice-K after 95 pitches, and he's surprisingly in line for a win if the bullpen can hold it. Crosby singles to lead off the inning. Oh no, Not Eric Chavez with a 2-run blast. 4-3, A's. That'll be a no decision for Dice-K. Suzuki strikes out. Sweeney grounds out. Buck pops out. Hmm, that was easier, huh, Synder? Thanks for blowing the lead. It'll be a battle between the bullpens from here out.
Thatta boy Ellsbury. Now we get to watch you fly on the base paths. Never mind true to 2007 form Lugo is doubled up, negating the lead off single. Hah! Upper cut swing #2 for Dustin, and it’s a weak chopper back to the pitcher.
A very uneventful bottom half of the inning, but we do have a Keith Foulke sighting in the bullpen, which is weird since the A’s are actually winning. I’d probably use Foulke as a mop up man at this stage of his career, but what do I know.
Ellsbury has a nice leadoff single, but fails to advance as Lugo hits into a tailor-made double play. Pedroia grounds to the pitcher and Alan Embree looks like Alan Embree, circa 2004.
Synder retires Ellis on a long fly ball and that'll do it for him. In comes Javier Lopez to face Barton & Cust. And off I go to work - the rest will be a recap as I listen to the game on the radio. Lopez gets Barton to line out and Cust to strike out. Gotta love Jack Cust though. The man either walks, K's or homers (actual stat - 59% of the time last year he did one of those 3 things).
Here he is in the flesh your Oakland Athletics setup man Keith Foulke! Ohhh Youk goes to the deepest part of the park and records a loud out. Ortiz takes a called ball straight down the middle. The Sox certainly can’t complain about the umpiring today. Orsillo just said Manny’s new stance is very Thome like, that can’t be encouraging news for Ramirez fantasy owners looking for a rejuvenated season, and much like Thome, Manny strikes out. Well I’ll give credit where credit is due. Foulke retired the side on about eight changeups high in the zone and two loud outs from Youk and Ortiz. I don’t see him having anything but success for the A’s.
What a play by Jacoby Ellsbury. He leapt from the fringe of the warning track to rob a sure fire double off the wall. Certainly the fielding play of the game.
Whoa! Keith Foulke has risen from the dead. I'll be smiling the rest of the way into work if this goes as I think it will ... Youk with a long drive - caught. Papi with a long drive - caught. Foulke gets lucky in his return to the majors, getting two outs totaling about 800 feet. Foulke catches Manny looking as I almost drive off the road.
Bryan Corey retires the A's in order and with relative ease - although he did need an apparent highlight reel catch from Ellsbury to get through it.
Houston Street takes the mound for his first save opportunity of the season. You’d think he’d wrap it up against the bottom half of the Sox lineup, but lo and behold Brandon Moss puts on his best anti-Drew impression and belts a homer to tie the game up at 4.
Hideki Okajima enters to a raucous stadium as he gets a chance to pitch in his home nation and keep the game tied. He promptly K’s fellow Japanese named Hawaiian talent Kurt Suzuki to open the inning. Tokyo is sure getting a treat today. Okajima sends it to extra innings after allowing just one walk.
Huston Street comes in and I'm informed by the Sox radio guys that the Sox have NEVER scored off him. Not good. Then again, the Sox lost to the Royals to start 2007 and that worked out alright. Lowell flies out and my hope for a comeback has all but disappeared. BUT WAIT! Right after hearing that Brandon Moss has zero major league homers, he takes Huston Street deep to tie the game! Can you believe it? I'm shocked. Varitek up next ... another strikeout. I'm not shocked. Ellsbury flies out, but the Sox have tied the game at 4.
Okajima, Japan's 2nd favorite son that pitches for the Sox, comes on to hold the fort, and strikes out Suzuki. He walks pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney, who hit for Ryan Sweeney, and yes, Mike could be Ryan's dad. I'm going to have to look into that. Sweeney gets run for in the most obvious managerial move since 2003 (except that manager didn't make that move and you know the rest). Okajima gets Buck to fly out and Ellis to ground out.
A leadoff single gets things going for the Sox, and Street will have to beat the meat of the order to keep this game tied. After a Pedroia sacrifice, a Youk K, and an Ortiz IBB, Manny strides out to the mound carrying a big stick. He goes deeeep off the top of the Right Center field wall, and gives the Sox a two run lead. I suppose, if you’re an A’s fan you’re lucky that ball stayed in the yard.
Red Sox fans have to feel much better about Papelbon after watching the debacle that was Houston Street. Papelbon steps to the mound in his first appearance since ending the World Series, and two intimidating figures square off as he faces Barton. This time Barton gets the better of Papelbon by drawing a walk on a 3-2 count, and the tying run comes to the plate. Here comes all or nothing Jack Cust, and he gets nothing. Emil Brown comes through and drives in a run, but in the most moronic of fashions makes an out at third! What a break for the Sox as Bobby Crosby sequentially hits a hard single. The hit parade continues. Are the wheels falling off for Papelbon? Two on two out bottom of the 10th down by one in Japan with Kurt Suzuki at the plate! Ahhh a weak ground ball to first to end the game. Perhaps a bit anticlimactic, but a great ballgame to begin the season!
Lugo reaches on an infield single to lead off the inning and Pedroia bunts him to 2nd. That's right, the Moneyball Sox just played some small ball. After Youkilis struck out, the A's elect to walk Papi to get to Manny. I love when this comes back to bite teams in the ass. Manny's made good contact all day and hopefully can make the A's pay. Swing and drive, deep drive to center ... back by the wall ... it stays in the yard but that's a 2-run double. 6-4, Sox! Nice. Warm up Papelbon, it's over! The A's walk Lowell (120 RBIs last year) which is a good move except that have to face the red hot Brandon Moss (haha). Moss flies out to end the inning.
Wild thing! You make my heart sing! Wild Thing! That's right, Papelbon is in. Might as well just tell you the Sox won. Barton works an 8-pitch walk to lead off inning. Oh uh, did I jinx it? Cust strikes out (of course) for the first out. Whoa! Emil Brown with a double, scoring Barton. But Emil gets greedy and makes the 2nd out at 3rd, a big no-no, especially being the tying run. Crosby and Not Eric Chavez each single, causing some panic, but it's Papelbon, so he gets Suzuki to ground out to end the inning. That's 8 straight wins for the Sox, although not without some stress and drama. Not a good first outing for Papelbon, but he got the big out when he needed it.