August 21st, 2009
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 9
Streak: Won 1 Last 5: WLWLW
Can anyone remember the last time Tokyo won a three-game series? Neither can I.
The birds went into this game hoping to catch the visiting Giants napping as they desperately seek a win or two to get their season back on track.
Today’s game saw Tokyo’s Yuuki and Yomiuri’s Utsumi square off.
1. Fukuchi (LF)
2. Kawashima (SS)
3. Aoki (CF)
4. Hatakeyama (1B)
5. Iihara (RF)
6. Tanaka (2B)
7. Yoshimoto (3B)
8. Aikawa (C)
9. Yuuki (P)
Tokyo got off to a flying start when Fukuchi singled to start the game, and then Kawashima bunted to move him over. That was followed by an Aoki rbi single and a Hatakeyama single past Sakamoto at short. Iihara’s double-play ball, however, allowed Utsumi to escape without incurring any further damage. 1-0 Tokyo.
The bunt was used again in the second inning after Tanaka led off with a single, but nothing came of it because the two players following the sacrifice were the two weakest hitters in the lineup, Aikawa and Yuuki.
Kawashima came through with a one out single in the bottom of the third, and Aoki got beaned during his at-bat to put two men on with one out. Hatakeyama popped up to right for out number two, but Iihara came through with an rbi single to right that scored Kawashima. 2-0 birds.
And meanwhile, Yuuki quietly logged a perfect first three innings.
After Matsumoto singled to break up his fledgling no-hitter, Yuuki found an excuse to plunk Abe in retaliation for Aoki’s earlier beaning. Nice choice, Yuuki.
The Swallows should have scored in the fifth as well, but a very bad call at home plate meant that the inning was over prematurely. This inning also featured a sacrifice bunt. It appears that Takada has reinstituted the bunt-whenever-possible strategy after about a week without it. Anyway, it was entertaining to see Fukuchi get in the ump’s (Tsuchiyama) face after that play at home. Tsuchiyama was pushed back about five paces before Fukuchi’s nose was removed from his forehead.
But Yuuki was on a very short leash tonight. He was yanked after only five and a third innings when things started to get a little weird. After getting leadoff hitter, Sakamoto, to pop up harmlessly to second, he gave up three consecutive hits that allowed Yomiuri to score it’s first run of the evening. He was then replaced by Lee (3.76) who threw four pitches and got Kamei to sit down, and then Lee was replaced by one of Takada’s favorites, Oshimoto (2.82), to try and get the third out.
Oshimoto did end up recording the third out, but not before Tani slapped an rbi single into right field to level the game at 2-2. Yuuki was charged with both runs.
Takada again had Yoshimoto bunt after Tanaka led off with a single in the sixth, and the value of the sacrifice was once again nullified when pinch-hitter, Shida, who had just been called up from the farm and was standing in the box for his first at-bat of the season, crushed an inside pitch over the wall in left. 4-2 Tokyo.
Tokyo added another four runs in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Hatakeyama doubled to left to get things going before Iihara reached base on an error at first, and Tanaka sent both of them home with a triple to center. Third baseman, Yoshimoto, then dumped a Toyoda offering just over the wall in right to score two and make it 8-2 Tokyo.
With Igarashi on the mound for the birds in the eighth, a Ramirez single was followed by a Kamei homer to make it 8-4.
But three consecutive two-out walks gave the birds back a run in the bottom of that inning to make it 9-4 home team. Iihara gets the rbi credit for drawing that third one with the bases loaded.
Despite the five run lead, Lim was brought in to handle the ninth, and the result was not pretty. He gave up four hits and two rbi’s before recording the second out of the inning. He eventually got Ramirez to ground out to short to end the game.
TAKADA COUNT: 6
If not for that error in the seventh that allowed Iihara to reach base with two outs (the play that eventually led to us scoring four runs), the Swallows probably would have lost this game. There were four sacrifice bunts in this game, and none of them were laid down by a pitcher. Furthermore, the value of the two that featured during innings in which the team scored runs was negated by subsequent rallies or home runs.
While the team did put the bat on the ball a lot more today, and there were glimpses of the team’s form from early July, this may very well have been another game that we were lucky to win.
Unfortunately, Takada’s revolving door policy with regard to promoting players to, and quickly dropping them from, the top team was validated by the fact that two of his recent additions, Shida and Yoshimoto, came up with clutch home runs.
That means that Takada will continue to bring guys up just for a late inning bunt and then send them back down within the same week (or series!).
Additionally, bringing Igarashi (2.85) in to pitch with a six run lead is not OK. Apparently Takada disagrees, but I would argue that it doesn’t matter that Matsuoka (5-0, 2.74) had already pitched the sixth inning. Matsuoka, Igarashi, and Lim do not always have to pitch on the same day if the team builds a big lead somewhere along the way. Those four runs in the seventh meant that Igarashi and Lim (0.94) should have taken the night off. Instead they both ended up taking a beating.
Incidentally, Matsuoka ended up getting the win for his 11 pitches in the top of the seventh inning.
On offense, the Fukuchi again had a big night, going 3-5, and Tanaka matched him while adding an rbi.
Hatakeyama and Iihara both had two-hit evenings while Yoshimoto and Shida hit their first home runs of the year.
The Swallows will try to put together two wins in a row when hostilities resume tomorrow night at 6pm.