April 30th, 2009
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3
Chunichi Dragons 0
Streak: Won 3 Last 5: LLWWW
Yakult completed the series sweep of the Dragons with another assured performance, the only downside being an injury to Aoki who was hit in the head by a pitch late in the game.
Masanori Ishikawa started for Tokyo, and he continued where he left off last week. But unlike last week’s good performance he got the run support he needed to earn his third win of the season. Ishikawa went 7 and 2/3 innings shutout innings, giving up five hits, striking out five and walking three.
The only lineup change for Tokyo saw Morioka start at secondbase in place of Tanaka.
The Swallows were up against Chunichi’s Yoshimi, and neither team could put up a run on the board over the first 5 innings, though Tokyo did strand a fair few runners on base.
The stalemate was broken in the top of the 6th, Aaron Guiel blasting his fifth homerun of the season, a solo shot to right to make it 1-0 Tokyo.
In the bottom of the 6th, Ishikawa escaped a men on the corners with one out situation as Wada hit into a double play to end the inning.
Neither team threatened to score another run until the bottom of the 8th inning. Ishikawa found himself in a two out jam with men on the corners and Takada turned to the bullpen, calling on closer Lim to face Tony Blanco. Lim got the American to ground out to second and the threat was ended with the slender lead intact.
And so to the top of the 9th, with Chunichi reliever Hirai on the mound. Pinch hitter Yuichi singled to start the inning and was replaced by pinch runner Noguchi. Ihara, who had entered the game as part of the double switch that saw Lim enter the game the inning prior, then singled to centre to put men on the corners with no outs. Fukuchi then came to bat, and Ihara promptly stole second to put both men in scoring positions. Fukuchi struck out and up came Miyamoto. The veteran third baseman then hit a grounder to the pitcher, Noguchi was ran-down between third and home allowing Miyamoto to make it to second to leave two men in scoring positions with two outs.
Chunichi manager then called for closer Iwase from the bullpen, who came into the game with veteran catcher Tanishige to face Aoki. The first pitch from Iwase, what appeared to be a fastball, got away and hit Aoki squarely on the back of the helmet. He fell to the ground clutching his head, Iwase was ejected from the game, and Aoki was soon stretchered off the field. Tanaka took his place on first base and Takeuchi came to the plate with the bases loaded. He was to face pitcher Takahashi, who had been rushed into the game to replace the departed closer. And Takeuchi got a small amout of revenge for his fallen teamate by hitting a single through the infield to right, scoring two runs and making it 3-0 Tokyo. Lim then struck out to end the inning.
Despite giving up a two out double to Fujii, Lim got the job done in the bottom of the 9th to earn his sixth save and wrap things up at 3-0 Final.
Ishikawa’s record is now at 3 and 1 for the season, and his ERA is down to a more respectable 3.582.
Aoki was 1 for 3 (a double) with a walk and the HBP in the game. He looked more lively in the field today too, a 7th inning flyout from Nomoto which he caught on the run back to the wall showed he has got some of his range back. So all the more upsetting to see him hit later in the game. Hopefully he is okay and will recover quickly, and it will not prove too much of a setback.
Overall an immensely encouraging series against the Dragons, with three quality starts from Kawashima, Tateyama and Ishikawa to put the season back on track. And the bats backed up their starts in good style too, though some sloppy fielding from Chunichi did help things along a little. Hopefully they can build on this, and Yoshinori in particular can find some inspiration from the performance of his rotation-mates.
The Swallows now have a day off before starting their Golden Week schedule, with a three game series in Hiroshima starting Saturday afternoon. It will be their first visit to the new Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium.