Japan: Mariners vs. Hanshin Tigers (March 25)
Here is a recap of the Mariners first day in Japan playing an exhibition game vs. the Hanshin Tigers. The Mariners dropped the game to the Tigers 5-1.
An early morning for the Mariners traveling party, with 8:00 am bus times to head to the stadium. Once the players got to the Tokyo Dome, it felt like the regular season once again (though we’ll get that true feeling on Wednesday when Felix Hernandez takes the mound against the Athletics).
The Tigers had the early batting practice time slot and it was interesting to walk out and see the side-by-side batting cages on the field. Two former Mariners were on the field for the Hanshin Tigers, Kenji Johjima was all smile as he took his swings in the cage, and pitcher Randy Messenger made the rounds greeting former teammates and friends. Both Johjima and Messenger are entering their third season with the Tigers.
The crowd started pouring in early and the stands quickly filled up as the pre-game ceremonies approached.
All of the coaches and players for both teams were introduced, Guillermo Quiroz sat behind the plate for the first pitch but he didn’t actually need his glove to catch it. The pitch came in and it sailed way over Quiroz’s head and hit the backstop, nearly hitting Mariners team photographer Ben Van Houten.
The game got underway and the flashing cameras filled the Tokyo Dome when Ichiro stepped up to the plate. Ichiro promptly rewarded the fans for their support with a single to left field.
Right-hander Hector Noesi got the start and had a solid performance, retiring the side in order in the first frame, allowing three runs in the 2nd and bouncing back to toss three more scoreless frames.
Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez relieved Noesi and retired the side in order in the sixth, striking out the first two batters he faced. Munenori Kawasaki got a rousing ovation when he entered the game in the bottom of the sixth.
After Brandon League pitched a scoreless eighth inning, Casper Wells put the Mariners on the board with a long home run to center field on the first pitch he saw from the right-hander.
Something a little different that is done in Japan that isn’t the norm in Major League Baseball is the in-game quotes. Twice during the game assistants came around with quotes from Hanshin Tigers players. Since Casper Wells hit a home run in the ninth, we had to gather a quote from him post-game.
Casper commented, “I assumed he was going to try to get ahead so I went up there trying to be aggressive and I got a pitch that I could handle.”
These games in Tokyo are being handled like they were MLB postseason games. After the game, the losing team is made available first while the winning side comes in right after.
The clubhouse was a chaotic after the game with 60-70 people in there at one time trying to grab quotes from players. The clubhouse in the Tokyo Dome is tiny, with the only one on the same level being the Fenway Park visiting clubhouse.
We’ll have more tomorrow with a few players making appearances in the area, but we’ll leave you with a slideshow: