Saturday, April 07, 2007

Darvish Watch: Episode 1

A grand opening day in Chiba Prefecture, Japan saw the Japan Champion Nippon Ham Fighters and ace Yu Darvish taking on 2005 champion Lotte and everyone's favorite mustachio, Bobby Valentine. I kid about the "grand" opening day, as the weather was simply awful to start the 2007 campaign and both teams struggled through the rain to give the fans their new season.

Darvish took the mound against possible 2007 MLB free agent defector Naoyuki Shimizu. The first few innings looked a lot like the first game of the season as batters hacked and swung and generally looked unable to get anything done at the plate. Shimizu recorded 5 swinging strikeouts in his first 6 outs, while Darvish managed to go 1-2-3 over the first three frames. Nippon Ham managed to scratch across 2 runs in the third on a combination of walks and timely hits by second baseman Kensuke Tanaka and first baseman Kuniyuki Kimoto. Darvish continued to cruise, retiring 15 of 17 batters through 5 complete. Meanwhile, the 6th inning saw two more Nippon Ham runs added to the tally, making the game 4-0 in the now driving rain.

It was clear that the game needed to be stopped, but the home team was afforded the opportunity at one last round of at bats. They took advantage as Darvish was unable to get his pitches located. The conditions were not appropriate for play, but the game went on. Single to center, fly out to center, infield single in front of the pitcher, fly out to right, walk, grand slam, game tied at 4. That's where this game ended. It seems a bit unfair to Yu Darvish to miss a win, and inflate his ERA this way, but that's the Japanese game. Rain is not a cause for immediate delay or postponement and something like this can happen. Chalk it up to gremlins. Let's hope that the next start for the young ace is in better conditions in the Sapporo Dome. Wink, wink.

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