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Entries from Empyreal Environs tagged with “Okajima”

Spoiler Alert

Nava, Nova — they’re all the same to Tim McCarver. Never you mind that Daniel Nava is the Red Sox outfielder salvaged from independent league obscurity while Ivan Nova is the late-blooming pitcher who was a Rule 5 draftee returned to the Yankees. McCarver also didn’t know the name of Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, calling him “Frank Rodriguez” then “Felix Rodriguez” until stumbling onto the correct combination. The belief that Nova was not respected as a pitcher in the Dominican Republic because his surname literally translated means “it doesn’t go” in Spanish has been debunked as an urban legend. He wasn’t held in high regard because he just wasn’t that good. Nova lasted 4⅔ innings with a line of 4 hits, 4 earned runs, 3 walks, and 2 strikeouts. Jon Lester carried a perfect game for four innings until he allowed a leadoff walk to Alex Rodriguez in the bottom frame of the fifth. The no-hitter lasted until the sixth when Francisco Cervelli’s liner to left ricocheted off Nava’s arm as the outfielder attempted a heroic diving grab. Nava made up for the miss later in the inning. The left fielder gathered Derek Jeter’s ground ball single and fired a...

Dr. Strangeglove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Team

John Lackey denied the Mariners his essence, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth. Of all batters to break up the bid it had to be Josh Bard, the former Red Sox catcher who was part of the ill-fated 2006 squad. He was part of the Coco Crisp trade, another player that has found himself on a West Coast club. It wasn’t a cheap hit but a soundly hit line drive single to right. Jack Wilson followed with a ground ball single, but Lackey exited the inning unscathed. The disturbing pattern of bunches of hits would continue with Manny Delcarmen. Delcarmen faced four batters but failed to get an out. Light-hitting Franklin Gutierrez, with Chone Figgins on first, knocked a two-run homer into the left field seats just above the Fenway-like manual scoreboard. How the colors on Lackey’s face must have changed as the game went from a no-hitter to a 6-3 affair. After Gutierrez’s dinger came another improbable event: a walk by Jose Lopez, a batter who has 16 walks in 383 at bats this season. What followed wasn’t so rare, unfortunately. Marco Scutaro Merkin Muffleyed Milton Bradley’s batted ball, turning a double play into two men on with none...

Pedey’s Big Adventure

The middle game of this series turned out to be a tug-o-war of wills between the two lineups. Manny Ramirez led off the second with a single, swiped second, and scored on a single to right by the reanimated corpse of Garret Anderson that Bill Hall failed to stop from skipping past him. Of the myriad positions Hall can field, right field is the spot he has played the least; in 821 games started Hall has a mere 15 starts in right. Add to that novelty the difficult sun field of late afternoon games at Fenway and unsurprisingly Hall had two errors. The second error came in the seventh. Anderson, still powered by some dark art, lifted a ground-rule double to right and scored on Blake DeWitt’s double to right. Hall incorrectly played the carom of DeWitt’s ball, following it too closely as it hugged the curve in the wall rather than allowing the ball to come to him. Anderson scored to cut the home team’s lead to a run and DeWitt made it to the hot corner. Tim Wakefield was in line for the win when Manny Delcarmen took the mound with one out in the seventh. Maybe the...

Eponymous Boesch

Rookie outfielder Brennan Boesch powered the Tigers’ comeback with a 4-for-6 showing, turning what was a garden of earthly delights for the Red Sox into a patch of hellish horrors. With the score 6-1 in the sixth and victory seemingly in Jon Lester’s talented left hand, Boesch knocked in two runs with a bases-clearing triple to the right-center gap. Brandon Inge sacrificed Boesch and Detroit was back in the game, 6-4. In the eighth the Tigers clawed their way to a tie. Hideki Okajima allowed a leadoff homer to Magglio Ordonez. Miguel Cabrera walked in an impressive eight-pitch at bat and advanced to second on Boesch’s ground ball single past a diving Dustin Pedroia. Inge smoked a double to left to plate Cabrera for the tying run. The visitors squandered a scoring chance in the eleventh inning. Kevin Youkilis, who reached base five times on bases on balls, walked to start the inning. David Ortiz dropped a single into shallow left that Adam Everett gave up on and Johnny Damon failed to catch in a head-first slide. With two on and none out Adrian Beltre struck out swinging and J.D. Drew grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Drew otherwise had...

Peck and Claw

The Orioles were swept in three of the five series they played before coming to Fenway and were on course for another wrenching defeat. As Daisuke Matsuzaka is well on the path to recovery, a starting pitcher will have to step down from his spot. Because of his contract, his prior bullpen experience, and the need for Clay Buchholz to seize his opportunity to be a full-time starter, Tim Wakefield was the natural choice to be converted into a reliever. He left the mound with the lead, two outs, and a man on second. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, a fitting sendoff for the knuckleballer who has outlasted general managers, managers, and owners. The three-run lead, however, could not withstand the onslaught of team too long suppressed and frustrated. Baltimore put together two three-run innings to record its third win of the season. Miguel Tejada rocked a two-run homer in the seventh to tie the game. Hideki Okajima was hanging out too close to the Orioles relievers out there in Williamsburg and learned some of their bad habits. Tejada’s swing was the culmination of his frustration of grounding out to Adrian Beltre three times; he thought for sure...

Kattobase [かっ飛ばせ]

ALDS Game 2: October 3, 2008 Red Sox 7 H: Hideki Okajima (1)H: Justin Masterson (2)BS, W: Jonathan Papelbon (1, 1-0) 2-0 Angels 5 L: Francisco Rodriguez (0-1) 0-2 Highlights: Jason Bay rhymes with kattobase (pronounced ka to BAH say), which means belt out, crush, or kill a pitch for a home run. Japanese fans will yell this when exhorting their hitters. Despite the preponderance of Thunderstix®, cheers for the visitors could be heard. In the first inning Bay smashed a 2-2 slider to the boulders left of the batter’s eye with two men on and two out. How refreshingly enjoyable it was to watch a start by Daisuke Matsuzaka without the roiling undercurrent of contempt that Jerry Remy brings. It may not be pretty, but most fans have long accepted that the pitcher will not efficiently work through the lineup, but he will more likely than not leave the mound with his team ahead. Even with the early lead Matsuzaka nibbled at his plate like Keira Knightley at supper (her only meal). The three runs the Angels scored over Matsuzaka’s five innings were the result of singles and bases on balls. In the seventh Justin Masterson inherited two...


Game 157: September 23, 2008 Indians 4 L: Cliff Lee (22-3) 79-78, 1 game losing streak Red Sox 5 W: Tim Wakefield (10-11)H: Manny Delcarmen (18)H: Hideki Okajima (23)H: Justin Masterson (3)S: Jonathan Papelbon (41) 92-65, 1 game winning streak Highlights: I wanted this. Not as much as I want Barack Obama in the White House, but close. I had hoped the Red Sox would cinch a spot in the playoffs on the day that Yankee Stadium closed, but the two events were close enough in time that in my senility I will remember them as happening in tandem. “Grandma, you’re wrong,” my know-it-all grandkids would whine. “I read it on your archived blog from that season. In 2008 the Red Sox clinched on September 23rd, but the last baseball game was played on September 21st!”“Just a few days off!” I’d snap back. “It was great how they put that Cy Young award winner in his place that game. That entire season that Lee guy only gave up more than five runs in a game four times, and one of the times he did it was against the Red Sox.”It’s 2038 and I drift into rhapsodic remembrances of the...

Kyūen [球宴]

Game 92: July 7, 2008 Twins 0 L: Brian Bass (3-3) 50-39, 1 game losing streak Red Sox 1 W: Hideki Okajima (2-2)S: Jonathan Papelbon (26) 53-39, 1 game winning streak Highlights: Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn’t part of the decision last night, nor will he be in next week’s All-Star Game, which is called kyūen in his native language (the first character kyū means ball and the second en stands for party or celebration). But last night he proved he is capable of shutdown stuff despite a rough first inning. In the first inning Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed three Js, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel, to load the bases after securing two quick outs. It had all the makings of one of those outings that Jerry Remy grouses about: walks galore thanks to Matsuzaka’s nibbling. Matsuzaka induced a ground ball out off the bat of Delmon Young to himself to end the inning.From that point on Matsuzaka went right after batters. John Farrell probably worked his magic in between frames to motivate his charge to be aggressive on the mound. The result was seven and one-third innings of fine pitching supported by upper-echelon defense and a return to form...

Beikoku [米国]

Game 3: April 1, 2008 Red Sox 2 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0)H: Hideki Okajima (1)S: Jonathan Papelbon (2) 2-1, 1 game winning streak Athletics 1 L: Joe Blanton (0-1) 1-2, 1 game losing streak Highlights: The kanji for the United States of America, pronounced beikoku, translates literally to rice country. This odd association is the result of kanji being used for their phonetic value rather than their meaning, a method of character usage called ateji. The Red Sox are back in America and Matsuzaka looked more at home here than he did in his country of birth: he lasted for six and two-third innings with nine strikeouts and no walks. Only Jack Cust managed an extra base hit, but it was a homer off a first-pitch fastball to lead off the second inning. Matsuzaka even slapped Kevin Youkilis on the butt when the corner infielder handled the ground ball out of Daric Barton and tapped fists with Hideki Okajima when his outing was over, exhibiting the starter’s gradual acquisition of quintessential American athletes’ display of camaraderie. Wally Bell is broad man with a correspondingly wide strike zone. When it comes to judging home runs, however, the chief umpire of...

Kisei [帰省]

Game 1: March 25, 2008 ∙ 10 innings Red Sox 6 BS: Kyle Snyder (1)W: Hideki Okajima (1-0)S: Jonathan Papelbon (1) 1-0, 1 game winning streak Athletics 5 H: Keith FoulkeBS, L: Huston Street (1, 0-1) 0-1, 1 game losing streak Highlights: Just as I recently returned home to Hawai‘i, I can understand some of the feelings that Daisuke Matsuzaka may have with his kisei (homecoming): excitement tinged with anxiety, joy touched with woe knowing that the stay will be short. A Japanese word that is similar to nostalgic is natsukashii, but as an adjective it refers to the place, person, or sense that inspires pleasant memories. In Japanese, a person can’t be natsukashii; instead the object of the memory stirs one’s recollection. ESPN and NESN would have you believe that in Daisuke’s country the strains of the shakuhachi echo across rice paddies, the words of Sun Tzu cross the lips of people daily, and the clatter of geisha’s okobo punctuate the quiet of city walkways nightly. Japan may be those things, but it is also the Shinkansen, the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge (the world’s longest suspension bridge), and, of course, baseball. While I was in Hawai‘i I read Baseball Before...

Peewee’s Big Award

He who is too short and has too big of a swing garnered AL Rookie of the Year honors, becoming the first Red Sox player to be so recognized since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997. Dustin Pedroia has been proving naysayers wrong his entire life and this most recent honor may at last quiet those doubters. Even if the skeptics continue to harp on his untraditional build and technique, the infielder will do the same he has done for the past 24 years: ignore them. The Red Sox second baseman was first on 24 of the 28 ballots for a total of 132 points. He was tenth in the league for batting average with .317 and 21st for OBP at .380. Only Placido Polanco had comparable production at the same position. Two of his teammates also got the sportswriters’ attention: Daisuke Matsuzaka came in fourth with 12 points and Hideki Okajima sixth with three points. Congratulations to Rat Boy!...


World Series Game 2: October 25, 2007 Rockies 1 L: Ubaldo Jimenez (0-1) NLDS: 3-0NLCS: 4-0World Series: 0-2 Red Sox 2 W: Curt Schilling (3-0)H: Hideki Okajima (2)S: Jonathan Papelbon (2) ALDS: 3-0ALCS: 4-3World Series: 2-0 Highlights: The Terry Francona Special Postseason Limited Edition Action Figure with Quick Hook Action™ is a wonder to behold. In a regular season game Francona would have pressed his luck with his favored veteran pitcher and who knows what would have happened after Matt Holliday’s one-out single and Todd Helton’s eight-pitch base on balls. Instead, Schilling was pulled with two men on in the sixth and Okajima pitched to the next seven Rockies hitters flawlessly. Papelbon tallied his second multi-inning playoff save, striking out two and picking off Holliday while doing so. Matt Holliday, the NL MVP candidate, smoked a liner so close to Jonathan Papelbon that it took all the closer’s dancing prowess to avoid the imprint of stitches on his torso. Dustin Pedroia doggedly tracked down the grounder and rolled his wrist while tumbling near the outer lip of the outfield dirt. The second baseman came up with the ball too late; Julio Lugo’s voice above the din told his fellow...


Game 161: September 29, 2007 Twins 2 BS, L: Nick Blackburn (1, 0-2) 78-83, 2 game losing streak20-24-7 series record Red Sox 5 W: Tim Wakefield (17-12)H: Javier Lopez (13)S: Hideki Okajima (5) 96-65, 2 game winning streak33-14-5 series record2007 AL East Champions Highlights: Jacoby Ellsbury needs to brush up on his baseball rule knowledge. The rookie outfielder tried to advance to second when he had already grounded out. His insistence on standing on first while the Twins tried to snare Kevin Youkilis in a run down seemed to confound the Minnesota defense, so perhaps his gaffe yielded an unexpected benefit. Terry Francona, Brad Mills, and Coco Crisp were highly amused. Tim Wakefield is the only player who experienced the previous AL East title still with the team. If the cost for his post-clinch carousing was two solo shots, it was a price the Red Sox offense could match and beat. Especially with the regression of J.D. Drew to his expected levels of production. His poor performance in May and July are dragging down what has been an outstanding September (.342 BA, .454 OBP, .618 slugging). The right fielder fell a double short of hitting for the cycle, but...


Game 159: September 27, 2007 Twins 5 W: Boof Bonser (8-12)H: Juan Rincon (14)H: Matt Guerrier (14)S: Joe Nathan (36) 78-81, 1 game winning streak20-24-7 series record Red Sox 4 L: Josh Beckett (20-7) 94-65, 1 game losing streak33-14-5 series recordDivisional magic number: 2 Highlights: Faraway, so close. Green light, 7-Eleven David Ortiz must have had the green light in the bottom of the ninth, but Joe Nathan pitched to the slugger warily. Ortiz had already demolished a pitch in the fifth to tie the game. The Twins closer wouldn’t be the convenient one-stop spot to clinch the division. Your wheels are turning but you’re upside down The Yankees beat the Devil Rays as the Red Sox attempted to rally in the ninth. While the bats were not entirely stifled, Boston was unable to convert key scoring opportunities. Mike Lowell grounded into double plays in the third and seventh, neutralizing two of Ortiz’s four hits. In fact, Ortiz reached base in each of five plate appearances. You say when he hits you, you don’t mindBecause when he hurts you, you feel alive Josh Beckett may have slightly tarnished his Cy Young credentials by relinquishing two homers and taking a...

Okajima Oki-Doki

TATAMI’s EP of Red Sox-inspired music called Lovers at Fenway is now available on iTunes. Every dance song, not just TATAMI’s, seems to follow the same inevitable patterns. I haven’t missed much in the years away from the club scene. That these songs are inspired by a visit to Fenway does lends them a certain charm. Along with the near-mythic song about the Red Sox set-up man there are three other tracks: “It’s All Right,” “Green Monster,” and “So Para Min (Just For Me).” Of all the songs I liked the last track the best. A summery morsel, the tune reminded me of “The Girl from Ipanema” by way of Puffy AmiYumi. On the whole it’s better than “Gyro Ball,” but that’s like saying Alex Cora is better than Royce Clayton....


Game 140: September 5, 2007 Blue Jays 6 BS: Brian Wolfe (2)W: Jeremy Accardo (4-3) 71-68, 1 game winning streak21-16-7 series record Red Sox 4 H: Bryan Corey (1)BS: Manny Delcarmen (1)L: Hideki Okajima (3-2) 84-56, 1 game losing streak29-12-5 series recordMagic number: 17 Highlights: Jacoby Ellsbury continued to impress on both sides of the ball. From the two-hole the rookie outfielder drove in a run and scored after running out a double past a lurching Troy Glaus. He also slammed the door on the fifth-inning rally with a sliding haul of Glaus’s smoker to left. David Ortiz thought he caught Ellsbury Fever and tried to leg out a double on a clanger in the third but was thrown out to end the inning. In all but one inning Curt Schilling pitched capably; he lasted longer than Roger Clemens, at least, going six innings with eight hits, three runs, one base on balls, and two strikeouts. Delcarmen and Okajima served gopher balls late in the game to Troy Glaus and Vernon Wells respectively to snap the Red Sox’s four-game winning streak. Seeing Matt Clement out and about made me grin. His career contribution to the Red Sox fell short...


Game 137: September 2, 2007 Orioles 2 L: Daniel Cabrera (9-14) 59-76, 2 game losing streak17-25-2 series record Red Sox 3 W: Jon Lester (3-0)H: Javier Lopez (11)H: Hideki Okajima (25)S: Jonathan Papelbon (31) 82-55, 2 game winning streak28-12-5 series recordMagic number: 20 Highlights: The Walpole Little Leaguers took the field and stood with their major league counterparts during the presentation of the anthem. Insert Dustin Pedroia joke here. I was inspired by Pedroia’s play in Saturday’s game and created this avatar (features adult language). David Ortiz’s swipe in the fifth gave him his highest single season stolen base total: three. What better way to follow up a no-hitter but with a taut pitchers’ duel in the waning days of summer? Jon Lester stepped up with six innings of competent work: six hits, two earned runs, four walks, and one strikeout. A solo homer off the bat of Ramon Hernandez in the seventh knocked the southpaw out of the game, but a trio of bullpen arms staved off the vengeful Orioles. As neither the local nine’s starting pitching or hitting were stellar, it was up to the defense and relievers to step up and make pivotal plays to secure...


Game 121: August 17, 2007 Angels 4 L: John Lackey (15-7) 70-50, 1 game losing streak22-13-4 series record Red Sox 8 W: Clay Buchholz (1-0)H: Hideki Okajima (21)S: Jonathan Papelbon (29) 73-48, 1 game winning streak25-11-4 series record Highlights: In his major league debut Buchholz pitched six innings, struck out five, walked three, and gave up eight hits with three earned runs. Casey Kotchman hit the rookie well: he went 4-for-4 and was the only batter to tally extra base hits. Clay Buchholz’s debut was similar to Philip Hughes’s; on April 26 the Yankees’ best pitching prospect’s line was 4 1/3 innings pitched, 7 hits, 4 earned runs, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts. But Hughes was saddled with the loss while Buchholz won. He could have unraveled when he allowed Chone Figgins to reach on a leadoff walk in the first. Bruce Froemming seemed to be squeezing the zone slightly to give Buchholz a taste of major league umpirical whimsy. The young righty could have allowed J.D. Drew’s subsequent flub of Vladimir Guerrero’s line drive to unnerve him as well, but the greenhorn buckled down. Although Garret Anderson’s ground out to first plated Figgins, Buchholz rebounded by striking out...

Six Tickets for Red Sox

お目出度うご座います。Omedettō gozaimasu means “congratulations” expressed in the polite form. One uses the polite form to those whom one respects, and Hideki Okajima’s 2007 statistics command such deference: 41 innings pitched, 2 wins, 4 saves, 0.88 ERA, 10 walks, 37 strikeouts, 4 earned runs. The fans agreed and submitted 4.3 million votes for Okajima so that he could join Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, and Manny Ramirez in San Francisco for the All-Star Game. Tom Caron on NESN thought that Kevin Youkilis might have a chance to join them since Alex Rodriguez has pulled up lame. Just one more plot line to follow to leading up to the Midsummer Classic....

Neshek Courts Skinhead, Yankee Votes

In the heated race for the final spot on the American League All-Star roster, Minnesota Twins reliever Pat Neshek urged two of his largest bases of support, skinheads and Yankee fans, to “rock the vote.” Neshek admitted there is sizable overlap between the two groups, but is unconcerned because fans have unlimited votes. “If there’s one thing my proponents are known for it is their zeal.” Neshek characterized his campaign as one of two choices for those supporting truth, justice, and the American Way. “You got Kelvim Escobar, born in Venezuela and playing out there in that leftist hotbed California, and Roy Halladay, who was born in Colorado but chooses to be a turncoat by pitching for an entire nation of liberal pansies,” said Neshek as he summarized his opponents’ shortcomings. “Jeremy [Bonderman] is pretty American, but I was born in Wisconsin, which was admitted into the United States 41 years before his home state, Washington, was,” conceded Neshek. “He plays for a city that is true blue, Detroit, so I find him an acceptable option should voters not select me.” Neshek explained his particular enmity towards Boston Red Sox set-up man Hideki Okajima. “I really feel for that city,...


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