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Home » May 2007 Game CommentsMay 2007 » Ensei [遠征]

Ensei [遠征]

Game 32: May 9, 2007
WinRed Sox 9 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (4-2) 22-10, 3 game winning streak
9-2-2 series record
Blue Jays 3 L: Tomo Ohka (2-4) 13-20, 8 game losing streak
4-5-3 series record
Highlights: Four Red Sox batters slugged home runs, locking a series win on Boston’s ensei, or “road trip.” The first character [遠] means “far” or “distant” while the second [征] means “to subjugate,” “attack the rebellious,” or “to collect taxes.” Which makes me very frightened of Japan’s National Tax Agency. Julio Lugo, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell each exacted a tariff on Toronto’s bullpen of a home run apiece. Will there be hachimaki (headband) to commemorate the event available soon at the Rem Dawg on-line shop? Do you even need to ask?

Last month I compared Tomo Ohka to Daisuke Matsuzaka and last night they went head-to-head for the first time. It had been five years since the most recent showdown between Japanese pitchers, where Ohka, then with the Expos, defeated Mac Suzuki of the Royals. Their win/loss records are reflections of one another, tangible evidence of their divergent destinies.

Ohka was brought into the Red Sox organization in 1998 with very little fanfare and was dealt in 2001 to the Expos for Ugueth Urbina with even less bravado. Suffice to say, Red Sox fans were not anxiously tracking Ohka’s commercial flight from Kyoto to Boston. Ohka was never enrobed in the folk hero-like glory that Matsuzaka was, much like how the man who signed him, Dan Duquette, doesn’t carry the cachet of Theo Epstein.

And yet, Epstein’s 2004 team owed more than a few key players to Duquette’s expertise, and moving Ohka through the Red Sox system taught the franchise valuable lessons about integrating a player from the Japan. Lessons such as, “Don’t room players from Korea and Japan together just because they are Asian” and “Hiring translators would probably be a good idea.”

Matsuzaka looked sharp for most of the seven innings he pitched. Comparing his two outings against the Blue Jays:

Date IP H R ER HR BB K Pitches/
Ground Outs/
Fly Outs
April 17 6 9 2 2 0 3 10 105/68 2/6
May 10 7 5 1 1 1 3 8 108/70 6/7

One concern is that opposing teams, particularly those within the division, scheme to unravel a pitcher’s approach and grow to be more effective against the staffs they most often face. There’s not enough information to draw a conclusion yet, but it something to keep in mind as Matsuzaka racks up innings against the AL East.

The infield reincarnation of Frank Catalanotto, Aaron Hill, did not rob David Ortiz of any hits last night. Ortiz’s four true outcomes were: deftly lining over Hill’s reach (innings one and five), taking the outside pitch the other way for an RBI double (second inning), striking out (on six pitches in the sixth), or merely putting out of the reach of everyone (homer in the eighth).

How bad does one have to be to be replaced by Victor Zambrano? Josh Towers bad. The fascination with this pitching project must originate in the novel ways the Blue Jays’ marketing staff derive market synergy from CN Tower and Towers’s surname, because it has nothing to do with his twirling aptitude. In his three innings of work the right-handed reliever didn’t walk a batter and struck out one while surrendering two home runs, proof of his inability to command the strike zone.

Odd that I compared the Blue Jays to “American Idol” contestant LaKisha Jones. Toronto faces another series sweep as Kiki (as her mom and Diana Ross call her) was swept off the stage last night. My own idol, Melinda Doolittle, survived another week, but said the judges’ comments gave her “a wakeup call.” That should put Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks on notice, like the Red Sox have done with the usually irksome Blue Jays.

Oh, and “American Idol” far surpasses its Canadian counterpart. They invented Labatt’s but Americans refined and elevated schmaltz to its most sublime.

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