/ |

Home runs could turn fun-loving Lions into a dancing machine

by Jason Coskrey

Dee Brown has the Saitama Seibu Lions partying like rock stars.

Brown introduced a new home-run celebration called “The Rock Star” with shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, after Nakajima’s game-tying homer in the seventh inning in the Lions’ season-opening 2-1 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines last Saturday.

“We’ve been working on that for a little bit,” Brown said. “Nakajima’s a quick learner.”

The pair meets in front of the dugout after a homer then dance, mimicking playing an air guitar at one point, before jumping into the air.

They got plenty of practice during the opener, with Brown following Nakajima’s homer in the seventh with one of his own.

“We started practicing it before the opening game,” Nakajima said. “I’m surprised we were able to hit home runs in the same inning.”

The fun-loving Lions are no strangers to lively home runs celebrations.

Yasuyuki Kataoka and Takeya Nakamura have also had a patented home-run celebration in the past.

Kataoka gets a new dance partner with Brown’s arrival.

“I’ve got one with Kataoka, too,” Brown said. “When he hits one, we’ll bring that out.”

Back in style: Oft-injured Yomiuri Giants star Yoshinobu Takahashi is back.

After missing all but one game last season (he was 0-for-1 in his only plate appearance), Takahashi has turned in an impressive spring for the Giants.

Takahashi had a decent start during the first half of the preseason, but took things up a notch as the regular season drew nearer.

He crushed a pair of homers at Tokyo Dome on March 20, driving in four runs in a 15-2 victory over the Yokohama BayStars. Takahashi hit another homer against the BayStars the next day, an added a third on March 22.

Takahashi produced four homers and seven RBIs over the Giants’ final three preseason games, likely earning himself a starting spot either at first base or in the outfield for the season opener on Friday.

Complete failure: Three of Japan’s top pitchers opened the season with complete games.

They also all lost.

It didn’t matter much for Hokkaido Nippon Ham ace Yu Darvish, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles top starter Hisashi Iwakuma and Chiba Lotte Marines headliner Yoshihisa Naruse as each of their teams failed to put a notch in the wins column.

Darvish was under siege early, giving up a pair of runs in the second and another in the third. He ended up yielding five runs and striking out 13 in the 5-3 loss to the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

Iwakuma only gave up one run but that was enough for the Orix Buffaloes to escape with a 1-0 win. He allowed five hits and struck out seven.

A pair of Seibu Lions homers in the seventh spelled the end of the line for Naruse, who lost 2-1 in his first season-opening start.

Naruse took a no-hitter into the seventh, but it wasn’t enough with his Lions counterpart Hideaki Wakui allowing one run and striking out eight over eight innings.

Stuck in reverse: Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters closer Hisashi Takeda gave up game-tying and game-winning home runs during the ninth inning of Game 6 of the Japan Series.

That also represented the last inning of the 2009 season.

With a whole offseason to forget, Takeda made his first appearance of the season on Sunday against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks . . . where he gave up a go-ahead homer to Nobuhiro Matsuda. The Fighters went on to lose 2-1 in 11 innings.