For those of you who didn’t know, the M’s are in Japan to play the A’s for the opening series of the MLB season. Before facing off with our rivals from the ugly side of the bay (personal opinion based off of observation) however, the M’s played two Japanese pro teams in exhibition games. They lost both games, 5-1 to the Hanshin Tigers and then 9-3 to the Yomuiri Giants.
I’ll be honest, these results suck. But realize that the Japanese leagues are not as far behind the MLB as many think. Japan consistently outperforms the rest of the world in the World Baseball Classic and have beaten other MLB teams who did similar exhibition tours, like the Yankees.
I will stress this point again; these games STILL do not count. This is still spring training. Other factors impacted the team’s performance like jetlag, lack of scouting reports and weird baseballs. Not kidding on the last one; the Japanese league uses a different ball than the MLB, which some M’s found weird. Boo hoo, it's still round and has seams. Anyway, do not panic and start selling your season tickets or switch to cheering for the Angels. As I told Patrick this morning when he told me to write this, these games mean jack shit, albeit annoying jack shit. Would I have loved to see the M’s beat these teams 20-0 and have Iwakuma and Noesi look like King Felix? Yes. But my reaction would have been the same, these games mean nothing, they are supposed to get the M’s ready to play against Oakland in games that matter.
Here are some things I picked up on based off the limited info available (Seattle Times articles, box scores and people tweeting live from the game).
Hisashi Iwakuma is not pitching very well. He got rocked by the Giants, gave up 10 hits, many of which were line drives that were hit hard. By all accounts he was lucky to get out of the fourth inning. Hello bullpen! Hopefully he can fix his velocity issue or mechanical issue or whatever he is doing wrong. Honestly, the M’s sucked against the Giants. They were walking people, throwing the ball away and just playing badly.
Hector Noesi was solid; yeah he gave up 3 runs in 5 innings, whatever. This is still his first year starting in the MLB and he has yet to show me anything that makes me think that he won’t continue to pitch solidly.
The Japanese love Ichiro. His face is everywhere, including on an ad in the Tokyo Dome, where the games were played. He also loves the Japanese, putting on a show for them while playing. I don’t mind that very much, at least he’s back home and enjoying himself.
Dustin Ackley showed some pop, hitting a home run and a triple against the Giants. He also showed a lot of "patience", striking out looking with the bases loaded to end an inning against the Tigers.
Miguel Olivo also deserves some mention, getting on base three times against the Tigers.
So now the M’s have to play games that count. Like show up in the standings and stuff. And Felix is starting. Like I’ve mentioned, I will be doing some form of communication on the game for the blog, not sure what, but you can rule out smoke signals, its super cloudy here. Go M’s.