CHIBA – The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles wanted to win this game. They wanted to win for themselves, but mostly they wanted to win in order to give their fans in Tohoku a little something to feel good about.
Which is exactly what they did.
Motohiro Shima hit a tie-breaking three-run homer in the seventh inning, Hisashi Iwakuma pitched into the ninth and the Eagles held off a late rally to edge the Chiba Lotte Marines 6-4 in both teams’ season opener on Tuesday at QVC Marine Field.
“What can I say,” Iwakuma began. “It feels like our first-ever game as Rakuten in terms of everyone coming together and getting a victory. The cheers of the fans certainly gave us a boost.”
The afternoon began with a moment of silence for the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kumagai then took the field afterward to make a brief statement and welcome the Eagles to Chiba.
“We hope the earnest play of the players encourages the areas that are suffering and the entire nation,” Kumagai said.
Play was stopped briefly in the fourth as the effects of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures on Tuesday afternoon were felt.
The game was tied 1-1 in the seventh when Shima followed singles by Akinori Iwamura and Randy Ruiz by homering on Opening Day for the first time in his career. He wasn’t sure at first if the ball would reach the stands.
“I don’t hit enough home runs to know what it feels like,” Shima said. “So I was just running to first and I figured it out from the reaction of the crowd.”
The victory gives Eagles manager Senichi Hoshino a win in his return to Japanese baseball following an eight-year absence. Iwakuma presented him with the winning ball after the game.
“It’s like, ‘Have we really won?’” Hoshino said. “It feels like I’m dreaming. I am relieved for sure.”
It was a return of sorts for Iwakuma (1-0) as well. The right-hander was set to sign with the Oakland Athletics, after being posted over the winter, until negotiations fell apart and forced him to return to Sendai.
He came within two outs of a complete game before Kazuya Fukuura sent him to the showers with a three-run homer. Iwakuma gave up four runs — three earned — on seven hits and struck out four.
“I wanted to go the distance, but give credit to the batter (Fukuura),” Iwakuma said. “I don’t have any regrets. I think it was a really huge win for us. The people up in Tohoku are doing their best and hopefully we can send them some good news.”
Iwamura went 2-for-4 in his first game since returning from the major leagues and Kazuo Matsui, another former major leaguer, went 1-for-3 in his Rakuten debut.
Lotte’s Yoshihisa Naruse was the better of the two starters before the Eagles got to him during the seventh. Naruse (0-1) lasted seven innings, giving up four runs on six hits and striking out nine.
Marines shortstop Takashi Ogino went 1-for-3 with a stolen base in his first game in place of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who signed with the Minnesota Twins after being posted during the offseason.
He made a bold move to tag-up and advance to third on a ball hit to left in the fourth inning, sliding in safely ahead of the throw from Toshiya Nakashima. He came home later in the inning on a grounder hit by Kim Tae Kyun and was safe when Shima couldn’t hold on to the ball at the plate, making the score 1-0.
Rakuten tied the game on a run-scoring sacrifice fly from Ryo Hijirisawa in the sixth and took the lead on Shima’s homer in the seventh.
Takeshi Yamasaki and Yosuke Takasu each drove in an insurance run for the Eagles in the eighth, making it 6-1.
Fukuura gave the Marines new life with his one-out three-run homer in the ninth, but Ryan Speier relieved Iwakuma and picked up the final two outs to nail down the win.
The jurors charged with deciding the Barry Bonds perjury case will try again to reach a verdict when they return to court for a third day of deliberations.
The jury of eight women and four men failed Monday for the second day in a row to reach a verdict. The jury deliberated all day Friday as well.
Bonds is charged with three counts of lying to a grand jury in 2003 and one count of obstruction. Prosecutors allege that Bonds lied when he denied knowingly taking steroids and human growth hormone. The third count of making a false statement alleges that Bonds lied when he said that no one other than his doctor ever injected him with anything.
The fourth charge is a catch-all count of obstruction, which alleges that Bonds’ hindered the grand jury’s sports doping investigation by lying.
On Friday, the jurors asked to hear a replay of the 2003 secret recording made by former Bonds business partner Steve Hoskins in which Anderson talks about injecting the slugger. Before the resumption of deliberations Monday, the panel spent 71 minutes hearing court reporter James Yeomans read back the March 31 testimony of Bonds’ former personal shopper Kathy Hoskins – Steve’s sister. She testified that she saw Anderson inject Bonds near the navel in 2002, becoming the only one of 25 witnesses at the trial to claim firsthand knowledge of Bonds being injected.
“This was very damaging testimony that contrasted starkly with his denials of steroid use that are the heart of this perjury case,” said legal observer Joshua Berman, a former prosecutor who is now a criminal defense attorney in Washington D.C.
However, it’s impossible to discern how many of the 12 jurors are focusing on that testimony and whether they feel the injection answer was material, or in layman’s terms, important, to the grand jury’s investigation. To convict Bonds of making a false statement, the jury must find both that what Bonds said was a lie and one that had an effect on the grand jury.
Anderson was jailed during the trial because he refused to testify.