- bounce back
- (be) slated to ～
- postseason play
- defeat ～
- grant ～ ...
- save for ～
- behind the plate
- down the baselines
- opening pitch ceremony
After a three-month delay caused by the new coronavirus pandemic, Japanese professional baseball started its season on June 19, in what will be a shortened program of 120 games, down from its regular 143.
The regular season had been scheduled to start on March 20. It is slated to end on Nov. 7, followed by postseason play.
It wasn't a perfect start, but all 12 league teams played, with two of the games held in open-air stadiums in Tokyo and Yokohama. They started about 30 minutes late due to rain.
The other four were in domed facilities in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and Saitama prefectures.
"I'm very happy, very excited about today's game," said Alex Ramirez, manager of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.
To avoid virus infections, all games will be played without fans until July 9, in a first for official games of Japanese professional baseball. There will be periodic testing and quarantines and, according to league guidelines, players will be banned from spitting.
At Tokyo Dome, the Yomiuri Giants defeated the Hanshin Tigers 3-2, granting the Giants their 6,000th victory since their foundation in 1934.
The orange seats in the dome were empty, save for messages in large, block letters across the seats reading: "Giants Pride," "2020 Tokyo" and "With Fans."
The stadium in Yokohama, which is the venue for next year's Olympic baseball final, had a characteristic atmosphere. Seats behind the plate and down the baselines were covered with 5,000 large panels, most carrying faces of fans with various goodwill messages.
"I have been waiting for such a long time," a note on one panel read in Japanese.
BayStars pitcher Ishida Kenta thanked health care workers when he spoke at a pre-game ceremony. "Thanks to the medical professionals still on the front line and many others who are supporting us," Ishida said. "Today, professional baseball can start the season because of them." (AP)
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