August 23rd, 2009
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1
Streak: Lost 2 Last 5: WLWLL
But in the end, Tokyo gave this game away, and what they learned was a couple of very hard but important lessons.
Lesson number one: Lim needs a break.
Lesson number two: Don’t ever swing when Kroon is pitching because he can rarely find the strike zone. Actually, I think we learned this lesson years ago, but everyone forgets it as soon as they step into the batter’s box.
Tonight’s starting lineup:
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. Ishikawa (P)
Alright, here’s what you need to know. Ishikawa (9-6, 3.51) had a great game. He pitched eight innings of five hit, no run baseball. He also recorded two strikeouts and didn’t give up a single walk. He definitely deserved to win this game.
And maybe he would have if he had been left in the game for a little longer. While that would have been a risky move to say the least, it couldn’t have been much worse than what ended up happening.
Lim blew his third save opportunity of the month. The first two times the team came back and won the game and he ended up with wins in both cases. This time he got the loss that he deserved.
In the top of the ninth, Tokyo was ahead one to nothing, and Lim came to the mound to grab those last three outs. The first batter he faced, Wakiya, smacked a single to right. The next batter up, Ramirez, drove one into left to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Lim got a few questionable calls here and there, he was scraping the underbelly of the strike zone as he normally does, but what came next was largely of his own doing.
He walked the next three batters he faced. 2-1 Yomiuri.
And that was it. Matsuoka had to come in to get the last two outs for him. Lim’s ERA has tripled over the last week and now sits at 1.31.
Kroon came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth, and everyone just flailed away as normal. Guiel was the only batter who stayed in control, and he eventually got beaned on the foot. Yes, that’s how bad Kroon’s control of his heater and forkball are.
I can understand swinging once just to keep him honest, but we’ve seen Kroon walk the bases full numerous times, so why can’t people keep the bat on their shoulders?! Tanaka, Shida, and Noguchi struck out swinging at junk in the dirt to end the game.
Tokyo’s lone run came in the fourth with two outs. Fukuchi, staring at his second rbi opportunity of the evening, came through with a single to right that scored Aikawa from second base. Tonight was Fukuchi’s fourth multi-hit game in a row.
But that was all that the home fans had to cheer about. The number of stranded runners was again annoying, and Aoki and Fukuchi both got thrown out trying to steal second.
A little bit more about the Lim debacle: he’s now made 48 appearances in 2009. He made 54 last season. I think it’s safe to say that he’s been overused.
And another thing–if Kawashima was hitting so well that he was moved from eighth up to second in the batting order, then why is he being asked to bunt so often? Additionally, it’s no secret that Aoki (third in the lineup) isn’t our best hitter with runners in scoring position, so wouldn’t it be wiser to just let the law of averages do its work and watch Keizo continue to collect base hits?
Tellingly, now that Tanaka is down in the bottom half of the lineup and doesn’t have to bunt as often anymore, his batting average and OBP are climbing quickly.
So the birds lost yet another series, and they dropped another game behind the only two decent teams in the Central League right now, Chunichi and Yomiuri.
The Swallows travel to Hiroshima for a three game series starting on Tuesday before returning to Jingu for a series against the second-place Dragons (Fri-Sat).