October 9th, 2009
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3
Streak: Won 4 Last 5: LWWWW
Whisper it, we are A-Class. No f*uck that. Shout it from the rooftops, WE ARE A-CLASS!!
In the biggest game the Swallows have faced in years, they did what was necessary and beat the Hanshin Tigers to secure 3rd place in the CL and the Climax Series place that goes with it. Savour it. We will be travelling to Nagoya to face the Dragons a week tomorrow.
Bring. It. On.
In front of over 30,000 fans in a packed to the rafters Jingu, a stadium in which the Swallows fans at least equalled, if not exceeded in numbers those of Hanshin (not been able to say that for quite a few years), Tokyo lined up as thus:
- Fukuchi (LF)
- Noguchi (2B)
- Miyamoto (3B)
- Aoki (CF)
- Hatakeyama (1B)
- Guiel (RF)
- Kawamoto (C)
- Onizaki (SS)
- Ishikawa (P)
Takada just had to get his oar in tonight, messing with the lineup that had proved so effective for the last few games, replacing Kajimoto with Noguchi and Yuichi with FataHatakeyama. At least he didn’t replace Guiel which we feared he might as the lineup was being announced, though he did move him from the no.5 to the no.6 slot..
And so to the game. The two team aces, Shohei Tateyama and Masanori Ishikawa were being entrusted with taking the Swallows to the CS at the expense of the Tigers, and after the former pitched a superb complete-game shutout the night before, all eyes were on Ishikawa to see if he could bring it home for Yakult.
Tokyo faced off against Tigers starter Iwata, and got off on the right foot in the bottom of the 1st.
Fukuchi led off with a single before being bunted along to second by Noguchi for the first out of the inning. Miyamoto then hit and infield single to put men on first and second before Aoki came to the plate. A wild pitch allowed both runners to advance into scoring positions, as Aoki dug in at the plate. After quite a battle, he hit the ninth pitch he saw through the gap between second and third and a run scored for 1-0 Tokyo with runners now at the corners with one out.
Next man up Hatakeyama blew the chance to extend the lead as he hit into a double play to end the inning.
In the top of the 2nd, two singles and an intentional walk for the Tigers’ no.8 hitter Kanoh loaded the bases for Iwata, but despite the pitcher making decent contact with the ball, it was taken by Onizaki who threw to second to make the final out of the inning and the runners were stranded.
In the bottom of the inning, a Guiel leadoff double wasn’t capitalised on, as he ended up being stranded at third.
The Swallows eventually extended their lead in the 6th, with walks for Aoki and Guiel putting men on first and second with two outs. The unlikely hero of the night before, Kawamoto, poked one up the middle and it was 2-0. Onizaki was then given a free pass to first to load the bases before Ishikawa grounded out to end the inning.
Tokyo then gifted Hanshin the opportunity to get back in the game in the top of the 7th. Sakurai led off the inning with a single before Kanoh hit a grounder to short that had double play written all over it. Onizaki however let the ball past him and the Tigers had runners on the corners with no outs. After pitcher Iwata had twice tried and failed to bring runners home earlier in the game, Takahashi came in to pinch-hit. He hit a liner to center and the lead was halved as it was 2-1 as Tigers runners occupied first and second. A Hirano groundout and a Sekimoto flyout then put two outs on the board.
Toritani hit a fierce grounder to second which was stopped by the diving Morioka (in for Hatakeyama and occupying second, with Noguchi moving to first) but he couldn’t field the ball and the bases were loaded for the rather long in the tooth Kanemoto. He hit a fly ball to behind the plate which was taken by Kawamoto and more runners were stranded.
In the 8th Atchison took the mound for Hanshin, for his (quite ridiculously) 75th outing of the year. Fukuchi reached second after a walk and trademark steal, before making third on a Noguchi bunt. Miyamoto hit a single to right and things were a little more comfy at 3-1 Tokyo.
In the bottom of the inning, an Arai double and a Brazell groundout put a runner on third with one out. Takada then called closer Lim to the mound, after which no other reliever left the bullpen to warm up. It was clear that Lim was given the task of bringing home the win for Tokyo. A strikeout and flyout got Lim two of the five outs he needed in order to accomplish his brief and the 8th was done.
In the 9th Lim walked pinch-hitter Katsuragi to start the inning, but a Hirano ground out, a Hiyama strikout put the Swallows just one out away from their goal. Toritani obliged with a flyout to centre and it was mission accomplished, 3-1 Tokyo Final.
Ishikawa took the win after his 7 and 1/3 innings of five-hit one-run baseball, with two Ks and two BBs. He, as we suspected he would, came up with the goods when required to put his record at 13-7/3.54.
Lim earned his 28th save of the year with his ERA now down to 2.05.
Tokyo were outhit 8-6, the Swallows’ hits coming from Fukuchi (.271), Aoki (.303), Guiel (.266) and Kawamoto (.180), all with a hit apiece, and the quite simply superhuman Miyamoto (.294) with two hits.
A few thoughts:
- Miyamoto is the MF man. Playing an enormous role down the stretch and all with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand. He is without doubt the current holder of the Mr.Swallows title. Shinya, you have my everlasting respect.
- Jingu was as busy as I’ve seen it since the Furuta retirement game. Great atmosphere, but huge lines for toilets and concessions showed that Jingu is more comfortable with it’s more regular 15,000 or so inhabitants.
- Where did all those extra Swallows fans come from? The same fans that chanted Takada’s name at the end of the game. I shouted that we didn’t need him next year, and called them all idiots for cheering him. Party pooper? No. Just not a fuktard.
- Never seen the team so hyped for as long as I can remember. Outs were accompanied by punching of the air and a real sense of fight by the Tokyo players and staff alike. Love it. Can we have that passion every game next year please?
- Aoki looked absolutely elated at the end of the game. Finally he gets a reward for his stellar seasons during what has been a barren spell for the Swallows.
The season series ended at 15-9 in the Swallows’ favour. The only teams Tokyo have a losing record against are the first-placed Orange Fuktards and the last-placed Baystars. Go figure.
This is Tokyo’s first A-Class finish since 2006, when they also finished 3rd. This is the first time in five years that the Tigers have finished in their more historically accurate B-Class position.
So, on to the Climax series which starts in Nagoya against the Chunchi Dragons next Saturday.
Between now and then is a game against the Dragons on Sunday before the final home game of the year (unless we make the Nippon Series) Monday against Yomiuri. Both now have little meaning as the Swallows are now 1.5 games clear of 4th and 11.5 behind 2nd. We’re all waiting for the real stuff to start next week.