May 20th, 2011
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 2
Streak: Lost 2 Last 5: WWWLL
(Kleenex Stadium Miyagi)
After facing Darvish on Wednesday, the Swallows faced another one of the Pacific leagues better pictures this evening. Tanaka Masahiro was on the hill for Rakuten and Yoshinori was on the mound for Tokyo. Yoshinori (4-1; 1.80 ERA) and Tanaka (2-1; 1.66 ERA) both are at the top of their respective leagues for ERA. So spectators on both sides were in for a great pitching duel. Both pictures did not disappoint.
1. Aoki CF
2. Tanaka 2B
3. Whitesell DH
4. Hatakeyama 1B
5. Balentien RF
6. Miyamoto 3B
7. Aikawa C
8. Kawabata SS
9. Iihara LF
1. Hijirisawa CF
2. Matsui 2B
3. Kusano 3B
4. Yamasaki DH
5. Nakamura LF
6. Masuda SS
7. Tenpei RF
8. Yokogawa 1B
9. Nakatani C
Aoki got things off to a great start for the Swallows with an 0-2 single up the middle. In what seems like a video being replayed on a never-ending loop, Tanaka sac bunted Aoki over to second. Whitesell followed that with a strikeout. Up waddled Hatakeyama. He hit a liner to right that scored Aoki from second. 1 – 0 Tokyo
Balentien not looking as relaxed as he was last weekend, swung at the first pitch and flew out to center to end the inning.
As with the Swallows, Rakuten’s lead off man got on base to start their half of the first. Hijirisawa walked on 5 pitches. He was followed by Matsui. However, Yoshinori made him look like a fool by striking him out on 3 pithes. After Hijirisawa stole second, Kusano hit a single up the middle to put runners on the corners. Up walked the old timer, Yamasaki. After being in the league for 25 years, Yamasaki is still respected for his power. Maybe not wanting to chance it, Yoshinori eventually walked Yamasaki to load the bases. With those in attendance wearing maroon and gold stomping and singing his name, Nakamura dug-in at the plate. Batting a cool .330 coming into tonight’s game, the crowd had reason to cheer. But Yoshinori showed that he can battle with the best of them and gave up a sac fly. This scored Hijirisawa from third. 1 – 1
After battling off numerous foul ball, Masuda eventually flied out to end the inning.
The next few innings turned out to be the pitching duel that most expected. The only threat for the Swallows came in the 4th. They got runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs. Aikawa was struck by Tanaka and Kawabata hit a double to right. Eventually, though, Iihara went down swinging to end the threat.
Yoshinori and Ma-chan continued to pitch exceptionally. This continued until the bottom of the 7th. After reaching base on a fielders choice a few innings prior, Nakamura opened Rakuten’s 7th frame with a liner up the middle. Masuda then sac-bunted him to second. The struggling Tenpei was up next. On Yoshinori’s 101st pitch up the evening, Tenpei drove a double into left field to score Nakamura from second. 2 – 1 Rakuten
Takasu then came in to pitch hit for Yokogawa and Uchimura came in as a pitch runner for Tenpei. Takasu grounded out to Yoshinori for the second out of the inning. Nakatani then lined out to Yoshinori to end the inning.
Tanaka continued to pitch the rest of the game. He closed out the Swallows in the top of the ninth after pitching a complete game. In a performance that the great Nolan Ryan would be proud of, Tanaka threw 143 pitches; had 15 strikeouts; 9 hits; 1 walk and 1 hits batsmen. He also lowered his ERA to 1.55. Yoshinori matched him pretty well. In one less inning, he threw 122 pitches. He gave up 7 hits, struck-out 5 and walked 3.
In what turned out to be a winning night for the PL (taking 4 out of 6), Swallows and their fans can at least take some solace in the fact that they did not give up any ground in the standings.
The announced attendance was 15314.
Balentien’s frustration came out in the 4th when he was called out a questionable third strike. Him and the home-plate umpire exchanged a few words and I don’t think they were talking about the hotspots around Kleenex stadium. This may be something Jingu regulars may want to keep an eye on over the next few weeks. When things are going well for him, Coco is a great attribute to the team, but when he hits a bit of a roadblock, in this case two solid starters back-to-back, he may come unwind.
It looks like Rakuten’s Shiomi will get the nod to start tomorrow’s game against Tokyo’s Ishikawa. As with this game, both of these pitchers have ERA’s under 1.90. So we could see another good pitcher’s match-up.
Hopefully Ogawa will have the boys taking extra BP to break out of the rut that the entire team seems to be in.