May 15th, 2011
Yokohama BayStars 3
Streak: Won 3 Last 5: LDWWW
After two wins to start the series in Yokohama, the Swallows were led onto the field by Masubuchi (1-0, 3.81 ERA). The 23-year-old righty has been throwing well so far this year in his first season back as a starter after a successful spell as a set-up pitcher in 2010 (2.69 ERA in 60.1 innings off relief). Something you probably didn’t know: Masubuchi leads the Central League with an opposing team batting average of only .198!
Masubuchi’s weakness? You guessed it, walks. He leads the Central in that department as well with 14 free bases issued in his first four starts of 2011.
1. Ishikawa SS
2. Kinjoh CF
3. Sledge LF
4. Murata 3B
5. Harper 1B
6. Yoshimura RF
7. Watanabe 2B
8. Hosoyamada C
9. Makka P
1. Aoki CF
2. Tanaka 2B
3. Whitesell 1B
4. Hatakeyama LF
5. Balentien RF
6. Miyamoto 3B
7. Aikawa C
8. Kawabata SS
9. Masubuchi P
Tokyo gave Masubuchi a little bit of a cushion before he even entered the game. Aoki drew a walk to get things started, and then luckily (perhaps) Tanaka fouled off his first two bunt attempts. He was forced to swing away, and the result was a single that left runners safe on both first and second.
Whitesell then grounded into a 3-6-1 double play which left Aoki safely on third. Hatakeyama then drew an inexplicable four-pitch walk, which left Makka to deal with the red-hot Balentien. Balentien, as you’ll remember, already has four home runs in this series against the BayStars.
And he came through again with a grounder past Ishikawa at short to score Aoki from third. 1-0 Tokyo.
Masubuchi then took the mound and quickly got behind in the count and wound up with a full count situation to start things off against Yokohama’s leadoff hitter, Ishikawa. But on the seventh pitch, a belt-high fastball, Ishikawa went down swinging for the first out. Masubuchi then got out of the inning three pitches later when Kinjoh and Sledge both hit early-count pitches right at the Tokyo defense.
All in all, it was a very tidy first inning for Masubuchi, and it was quickly Tokyo’s turn to pick up the bats again.
Aikawa kept the pressure on Yokohama’s young southpaw by hitting a fastball over Sledge’s head in left. With Aikawa on second, Kawabata worked a walk, and both runners moved into scoring position on Masubuchi’s perfectly placed sacrifice bunt. Aoki then plunked a forkball into the gap between center and right to plate both Aikawa and Kawabata. 3-0 Tokyo.
Yokohama’s bats woke up a little bit in the second inning with a couple of hits. Harper’s fifth homer of the season, a solo shot to right, did a bit of damage. 3-1 Swallows.
Yokohama’s starter, Makka, had his afternoon cut short by his manager who felt that he wasn’t sharp enough to deserve any more time on the mound. Atori took his place and quickly retired the middle of Tokyo’s lineup in 1-2-3 fashion.
Through three innings, Masubuchi had thrown 42 pitches, given up two hits, and struck out four. And while he wasn’t having a difficult time locating his pitches, the fourth inning saw him get behind in the count against Sledge, Murata and Harper. It goes without saying that playing catch-up against those three hitters is not an enviable position to be in. The first two made him pay with singles before Harper popped up to Kawabata in shallow left.
Yoshimura was able to move Sledge over to third on a check-swing bouncer back to the pitcher. It was hit slowly enough though that he was able beat the double-play throw to first. And he would score one batter later when Hatakeyama failed to shift into the proper gear to get to Fujita’s fly ball at the warning track in left. Yokohama 3-3 Tokyo.
And Atori was perfect through his first three innings in the game. His forkball and inside fastball were used to great effect against the Tokyo bats.
Masubuchi looked sharp facing the first three batters of the fifth. He started throwing first-pitch strikes, and didn’t experience a base runner until Kinjoh gently patted a single to center. And although he got behind 3-0 to Sledge, he eventually struck him out looking with a heater right down the middle.
Hatakeyama did a little bit to make amends for his allowing those two runners to cross home plate earlier in the game by leading things off with a base-hit to center. He was swiftly taken off that base to make way for Fukuchi.
During Balentien’s at-bat, Fukuchi attempted to collect his league-leading ninth stolen base, but Balentien kept swinging away. The second time that he took off for second, Balentien shaped a low-and-away pitch into left-center that allowed Fukuchi to reach third.
Miyamoto then improved on his league-leading .550 batting average with runners in scoring position with a single to left that easily plated Fukuchi from third. 4-3 Tokyo.
Aikawa then moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt for the first out and another Yokohama pitching change.
Shinohara, a lefty, was brought in to face Tokyo’s Kawabata. The Swallows would have had another run on Shinohara’s 2-1 pitch, but the pitch was far lower than expected, and Kawabata’s squeeze attempt bounced foul.
It didn’t matter though because he was able to club a sacrifice fly deep enough into center that Balentien had plenty of time to make his way home. 5-3 Tokyo.
Masubuchi made it through six innings on 90 pitches and gave up three runs on seven hits. His five strikeouts looked very good against a zero in the walks column. Oshimoto took the mound in his place for the start of the seventh. Ogawa also made a defensive switch by switching Takeuchi for Whitesell at first.
Oshimoto worked a 1-2-3 with two strikeouts to bring on the eighth.
Another inning, another pitching change. Sanada was brought in to deal with Balentien who already had two base-hits prior to his at-bat in the eighth. His third hit of the day was a stand-up double down the line in left. He then moved over to third on Miyamoto’s sacrifice bunt.
I have no idea why the league’s best hitter with runners in scoring position would be bunting when runners are indeed in scoring position, but maybe that’s just me. At any rate, Balentien never made it home, and the lead remained at two.
Barnette came in for the bottom of the eighth in his 12th appearance of the 2011 season. He got Kinjoh to ground out to first, struck out Sledge swinging, and denied Murata his 1000th career hit by getting him to fly out to center.
Ejiri took the mound for the BayStars in the top of the ninth. Today was his 20th appearance so far this season. That’s quite an impressive feat considering that today was Yokohama’s 29th game of 2011.
As expected, Lim came in to try to close things up for the Swallows and complete the three-game sweep over the last-placed BayStars. Today was his third appearance in as many days. Getting through the inning without giving up more than one run would be his third consecutive save as well and seventh of the season.
Harper struck out swinging for the first out. But Yoshimura got on base care of a full count walk. Fujita then popped out to shallow left causing a rather scary collision between Kawabata and Fukuchi. Both were able to regain their feet and finish out the game, but hopefully nobody needs to take time off as a result of the miscommunication on that play. The final out of the game came on pinch-hitter Naito’s grounder to second. 5-3 Final.
Tokyo outhit the BayStars 9-7 in this contest and saw valuable contributions from Aoki (BB, 2 RBI double, G6, single, G1) and Balentien (RBI single, F8, single, double).
Tokyo’s late-inning trio of Oshimoto (3.00 ERA), Barnette (1.42) and Lim (1.46) completely shut down any hopes of a Yokohama comeback. The only Yokohama runner during the final three innings came on a walk with one out in the ninth. A beautiful thing indeed.
The Swallows head into the interleague portion of the season on a high note and in first place in the Central League. With Hiroshima’s loss to Yomiuri earlier this afternoon, Tokyo is now in possession of 2.5 game lead over the second place Carp.
Tokyo’s interleague campaign kicks off against Hokkaido at Sapporo Dome on Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ll then play a two-game series versus Tohoku in Sendai on Friday and Saturday before hosting their first home series against the Fukuoka Hawks on Monday and Tuesday of next week.