July 30th, 2009
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3
Streak: Lost 2 Last : WWWLL
OK, here’s the deal: we need to buy a second farm team right now because there’s not enough competition for slots on the rotation, and the guys aren’t getting the game time that they need on the phenomenally overcrowded minor league team that bedevils the Swallows’ youngsters and retreads.
Sending a pitcher, such as tonight’s still-shaky Muranaka, down to the farm team for ‘readjustment’ doesn’t really do anything productive. He’s obviously already better than most of the other arms down there, which is why he’s up on the first team in the first place, and if he gets sent down, he’ll neither see the playing time he really needs nor will he pitch against a large number of other players who are on the cusp of being called up. Muranaka clearly needs a lot more work against competent hitters, and the only place he can get that is at the ichi-gun level, so unfortunately that’s where he should stay for the time being.
Like all the other teams in NPB, Tokyo needs at least one more minor league affiliate, and having a second farm team would allow for the separation of players into different ability levels and partial attainment of the goal of actually developing talent.
The way that things are set up right now, sending someone like Kawashima or Muranaka down to the minors to sort some things out is more akin to a punishment than anything else. Instead, young guys like Muranaka have to survive the weekly shellings until their confidence and control catches up with their natural talent.
But I digress. On to the game report:
With Tokyo fielding an unchanged starting lineup, Muranaka (0-3, 7.63) started and pitched reasonably well against Hiroshima for the first four innings. Hiroshima scored a single run in the first when the increasingly dangerous Kurihara brought Akamatsu around to score from second. 1-0 Carp.
Tokyo came right back in the bottom of that inning when Aoki scored on a D’Antona single. The go-ahead run came in the bottom of the second when Miyamoto scored on a Kawashima single through the gap between third and short. 2-1 Swallows.
Muranaka didn’t exactly keep the runners off the bases, but he didn’t allow any more run in the first four innings. He dodged a bit of a bullet in the third with the leadoff batter walking and then Hiroshima Carp manager, Marty Brown, calling for a bunt. That basically assured that no runs would score because pitcher Colby Lewis was only a couple batters away in the lineup. [Sometimes I think that Brown bunts just to help illustrate how stupid the idea is.]
But our starter got pummeled in the fifth, and he would be pulled after recording only a single out. He ended up allowing three runs off of three hits while also giving up his third walk of the afternoon. Hashimoto (2.08 ERA) came in to handle the rest of that inning and didn’t allow any more runs to score, but two crossed home plate in the sixth following an uncharacteristic fielding error by Mr. Tanaka at second base. 6-2 Hiroshima.
Tokyo would get one run back in the seventh when Kawashima hit his 9th home run of the season over the wall in left. Even with the wind blowing in, this one was never really in doubt and underscores the power that our wee shortstop developed during the offseason. 6-3 guys in red.
But after Oshimoto’s (2.90) scoreless sevnth, Hiroshima found a way to score off of the improving Lee (3.38) when Amaya tripled and brought Higashide home in the process. The final insult was exacted with Kida (5.67) on the mound again for the home side. [Someone please remind me why it was a good idea to use him again after the embarrassment of Wednesday night's game...there are at least five other middle inning relievers in the bullpen right now that need to get some game time.] Kida gave up a two out line drive over the fence in left for a final score of 8-3 in Hiroshima’s favor.
Against the dialed in Colby Lewis (6-5, 3.32), the only bird who had a game worth writing home about was Kawashima who went 3-3 with a home run and two rbi’s.
The Swallows now have the pleasure of hosting the red-hot Chunichi Dragons for a three game series starting tomorrow night at 6pm.
The Swallows are now three games behind the Chunichi Dragons in the battle for second place in the Central League.