Kodai Senga took hold of the game ball, heard the music, and started the dance. Shogo Akiyama skittered a grounder. Takumi Kuriyama flew out. Ernesto Mejia drove a single up the middle, but felt that lonesome wallflower feeling when Takeya Nakamura bounced out two pitches later. It was time to flip the record.
In the bottom of the 1st, Ryoma Nogami faced Yuichi Honda, and started their logbooks with an infield fly. Keizo Kawashima found a little more airworthiness with an out to center. As the distance of each subsequent solo flight increased, Yuki Yanagita poked one over the tall fence in left field. All of Fukuoka Dome filled with joy for the first Hawks home run of the season. Lions fans had a really good seat to watch the ball arrive in splendid fashion. Seiichi Uchikawa also gave a sphere a ride to left. It found shallower leather. Contact never landed on the ground, but only one flew out of the nest. Hawks led 1-0.
Opening the second chapter of Senga, Hideto Asamura rocketed a fastball to Honda. Tomoya Mori drove a single toward Yanagita. Ginjiro Sumitani whiffed, and action closed with a shoe height liner to Uchi from the bat of Ryo Sakata.
Nogami grabbed his tackle box and hiked down to the bottom of the 2nd. Barbaro Canizares fly. Caught. Nobuhiro Matsuda fly. Caught. Yuya Hasegawa swam one past short for a single. Kenta Imamiya fly. Caught. 3 big outs in the cooler.
Leading off the 3rd, Shuta Tonosaki flared to Uchi. The shoes and glove of the Hawks captain had another chance to say hello. Akiyama struck out looking. Kuriyama zipped a bounder to Imamiya who quickly relayed the message to the bridge.
Hiroaki Takaya struck out. Honda watched the next four buses go by without waving any of them down, then took advantage of a free shuttle to first base. Moments after exiting the complimentary coach, Honda was picked off. Keizo Kawashima flew out, or one could say he showed consideration to a patient right fielder who waited his turn.
As the 4th began, Senga eased back into traffic with 36 on the trip computer. Mejia added mileage spraying souvenirs foul before flying out to Gita. Nakamura sliced one past Imamiya for a single, then Asamura drove a single behind a running Nakamura while he hustled to third. Mori put a timely in left that scored Nakamura to tie. Sumitani took a curve for a strike, then lofted the next pitch deep to Yanagita. Mori dashed to third. Sakata skipped a slider to second. Honda made a pretty play, and flipped the ball to Imamiya from one glove to another. Hawks and Lions were level at 1-1.
In the bottom of the frame, Gita took a ball inside, swung at a change, watched a strike, and ended all that detailed buildup with a ground out to third. Uchi watched 5 pitches, put a check swing strike in the mix, then banged a single for a happier melody. Canizares dropped a hit single too. Matsuda ripped a timely down the 3rd base line past his corner office. Uchi turned down that same familiar street on the way home. Hawks led 2-1. With runners at first and second, the wonderful (for lack of a better term at the moment) “Big Bad Wolf” chance theme began to pour in from right field. The music accompanied a circus on the infield when a shoulda-woulda-coulda-been-a-double-play left Nakamura’s bat. The big top was packed full of kids of all ages. They were happy to see Hawks perched on every pillow. Soon, the gorgeously relentless (also FLOABTATM) “siren summons scoring” chance theme song began for Imamiya. During his at bat, a pitch in the dirt almost caused more chaos, but it was corralled by a lucky catcher. Imamiya checked his swing one final time, and accompanied a slow motion RBI with his own trot to first. Takaya also took a pitch living dangerously in the dirt, then hit a sac fly to left to score Matsuda. Honda was up when a pick-off attempt at second went bad. Lions got another break when it didn’t advance anyone. On a 3-2 pitch with 2 out, Honda swung through strike three. Two frogs left on the lily pads, but Hawks had a 4-1 lead.
The infield covered the top half of the 5th. Tonosaki lined out to Imamiya. Akiyama ended a full count with a liner to Matsuda. Kuriyama grounded out to Honda. The outfield finished reading their magazines, and jogged back to the dugout.
Kawashima led off the bottom of the 5th with a grounder up the middle for a base hit. Gita hit a frozen rope to the right fielder. Yosuke Okamoto replaced Nogami after the starter scrambled through the rocks for 4 1/3 innings and 81 pitches. Uchi singled to right, but a potential rally ended when Canizares grounded to short, and two outs were recorded in a familiar way.
Senga started the 6th with 73 pitches. Mejia swung, watched, swung, and walked away. Nakamura swung, swung, swung, and walked away. Asamura hit a foul for the first contact of the frame. He watched, fouled, and fouled again. A low forkball and a chest high offering were the first balls of the inning. With all that out of the way, Asamura lofted a fly to Gita. Done.
Okamoto was still working in the bottom of the 6th. Matsuda hit a towering fly to left. Nakamura lined a single. Imamiya battles at 1-2. Nakamura draws a throw. Imamiya makes it level at 2-2, then sends a shaggy hound bounding happily into right. Runners at the corners for Takaya. “Big Bad Wolf” began pouring over the right field wall again. Takaya crafted a perfectly placed ground ball toward first base to score Nakamura. Before the end of his signature brass flourish, Honda was gone. On the other hand, 5-1 Hawks.
Senga started Mori with a strike, but he eventually dropped a single into right. Sumitani drove one out to Yanagita who made a sliding catch every other time, but didn’t this time, and had to recover quickly. With runners at first and second, Sakata threaded a shoelace grounder through to left field. Bases lacked vacancy, Satoh looked concerned, and the infield called a meeting. Tatsuyuki Uemoto entered as a pinch hitter for Tonosaki. He lifted a long fly to Gita who almost beat the runner Mori with an accurate throw home. Runners moved to second and third for Akiyama. He hit one deep in the hole to Honda who smothered it with his glove, and picked it off the turf, but it was too late. Sumitani came home. Senga balked in the next run, and Sakata scored after a short mosey. Akiyama moved to second. Kuriyama grounded out to Honda. Satoh came out to the mound. Kudo went to the umpire. After 6 2/3 106 pitches for Senga, Edison Barrios took over. Deuces were 2 and 2 with 2 out wild on Mejia when he grounded to Matsuda. At last, Lucky 7, and happy yellow balloons celebrated a narrow lead. 5-4 Hawks.
Submarine captain Makita sailed in for the Lions to work the bottom of the 7th. Kawashima was gone swinging after 3 offerings. Gita took a full count walk, and Uchi bounced into a double play. Makita silently disappeared into the sea leaving a quiet horizon.
Edison Barrios made quick work of the 8th inning. Nakamura was eaten up on a filthy fork. Asamura rolled out to Honda. Mori went down swinging, spinning, and silent.
Makita surfaced again to work another half frame. Fukuda pinch hit for Canizares, and crafted a single for the Hawks 10th hit. As Fukuda took off for second, Matsuda fouled the first pitch. Fukuda returned and drew a throw. Matsuda drove a foul into the crowd. Fukuda drew another throw. Matsuda did his world famous foul ball dance a few times. Fukuda drew yet another throw. The fans chanted until the moment Matsuda swung at a low strike three. Nakamura took a strike, and Fukuda drew another throw for good measure. Nakamura watched a ball. Coaches relayed more signs from the dugout. Fukuda took off on a foul, and came back for another go. With a 2-2 count, he predictably drew another throw. Nakamura struck out as Fukuda claimed second. The bag belonged to Fukuda, but he was so dirty one might have wondered if he’d tunneled his way over. It was time for a mound meeting when Hasegawa stepped in to pinch hit. He was serenaded with the “siren” chance theme. Takaya had half his gear on, and waited in the on deck circle. He was committed to batting before Hasegawa walked on 4 straight pitches. Plans changed, and Tomoki Takata pinch hit for Takaya. Either one of these gentlemen probably could have flown out to right on the second pitch, and the lead had to stand without additional insurance.
In the top of the 9th, Dennis Sarfate took a moment to crouch down for a quiet prayer behind his hat. Sumitani was quickly 0-2 after taking a slider, and spoiling the next foul. He drove the next offering into right for a single. Daichi Mizuguchi pinch ran for Sumitani. Masato Kumashiro hit in Sakata’s spot, and dropped a sac bunt to move Mizuguchi into scoring position. Onizaki worked the count to 2-2 before grounding out to Takata at short. Akiyama took 2-0, swung 2-1, watched 3-1, fouled 3-2, and watched ball 4. Lions at the corners, but 90 feet might as well have been a mile when Kuriyama was dispatched on a 1-2 check swing. Sarfate clasped his hands and bowed to his catcher. Hawks held on for a 5-4 victory.
After the opening series at home, the season record against opponents is 1-1-1 and 1-1-0. So far, the Hawks are building a picket fence with a cute little round door for the cat.
Official NPB Box Score.