10/25/11 – Hiroshima (Home)

October 25th, 2011

Hiroshima Carp  1

Tokyo Swallows  2

Streak: Won 1       Last 5: LWWLW

(Meiji Jingu Stadium)

This game very nearly sucked. But in the end, it turned out to be a very satisfactory way to end the regular season.

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W: Oshimoto (3-2 1S) L: Maeda (10-12)

The unimportance of this contest was lost on very few people in the stadium with a large portion of the Swallows fans on hand showing up purely because Hirotoshi Ishii was slated to pitch a bit in the final top team appearance of his injury-abbreviated career.

 Hiroshima Tokyo
1Higashide 2B1Aoki CF
2Akamatsu CF2Ueda LF
3Maru RF3Tanaka 2B
4Kurihara 1B4Hatakeyama 1B
5Matsuyama LF5Miyamoto 3B
6Barden 3B6Balentien RF
7Kokubo SS7Morioka SS
8Kura C8Kawamoto C
9Maeda P9Akagawa P

The only person for whom the game seemed to matter was Hiroshima’s starter, Kenta Maeda. He needed a few more Ks and maybe an inning or two to secure first place in both pitching categories for the 2011 season.

Ishii threw three strikes in his last pro appearance.

And he got ’em both. Maeda went nearly the full nine and struck out four in a dominating pitching performance that nearly ended his season on a very high note.

Nearly.

Maeda carried a no-hitter through eight and one-third innings before finally running into trouble. He walked three in the process, but Tokyo’s bats never put up much of a fight. And why should they? This game felt very much like a fine-tuning exercise before the playoffs start on Saturday.

The pitching changes were fast and furious on the Tokyo side. Akagawa (6-3; 2.03 ERA) started and pitched two scoreless innings before Tateyama (11-5; 2.04) came in to throw a three up, three down, 12-pitch third. Lim (4-2 32S; 2.17) and Matsuoka (2-2; 2.86) pitched a runnerless inning each before Barnette (1-1 2S; 2.68) made his first appearance in what seemed like a year and a half and surrendered the only run of the game up to that point. 1-0 Hiroshima.

But the Tokyo bats weren’t getting anything done to keep Maeda honest. However, that didn’t really matter to most of the crowd as main course was about to be served. Ishii made his way to the mound to start the top of the seventh. His opponent, Matsumoto, swung politely at three straight pitches to give Ishii the send-off he deserved.

The teary-eyed Ishii was then replaced by Masubuchi (7-11; 4.22) who figures to be coming out of the ‘pen during the first stage of the playoffs. Masubuchi gave up the obligatory walk to repay Hiroshima for their sportsmanship, and then he worked through the next five batters without allowing any other runners to reach base.

I like Masubuchi coming out of the ‘pen. And you should, too.

Oshimoto (3-2 1S; 3.28) pitched the top of the ninth, and he eventually retired the side despite nearly giving up a home run to Matsuyama.

And Oshimoto would eventually get the win as the Swallows finally got to Maeda with one out in the bottom of the ninth. After drawing a walk in his first at-bat, Whitesell was caught looking at a called 3-2 strike. But then Tokyo’s horde of second and third string players came through to disrupt Maeda’s no-hitter and give the substantial home crowd something other than Ishii to cheer about.

Fujimoto (read this to find out why he was promoted) broke up the no-hit bid with a double down the line in left, and then Ueda outran a slow hopper to short to put runners on the corners with one out.

Ueda safely stole second during Tanaka’s at-bat, and then the latter worked a walk to juice the bases with Maeda still on the mound. There was action in the bullpen, but Nomura never made a move.

Hatakeyama then grounded stoftly to second, and he was somehow able to beat the throw at first to avoid the

Hirotoshi's three children greeted him after the game. Instant heart-melter.

double play while Fujimoto scored from third on the fielder’s choice. All tied at one.

With runners on the corners and Fukuchi pinch-hitting for Noguchi (who was covering third for Miyamoto), Fukuchi swatted a low 2-1 changeup into left to score the winning run and surprise the hell out of everyone in the stadium. 2-1 Tokyo walk-off win.

Oshimoto got the win for his scoreless ninth inning, and Ishii gave a post-game speech that drew tears from several in attendance (not me).

The Tokyo Swallows now have a few final days to prepare for their upcoming home series against the Yomiuri Giants who will venture to Jingu from Suidobashi this Saturday for game one of the first stage of the Central League Climax Series. The game starts at 6:30PM. See you there.

Notes:

For the record, tonight was Ishii’s first top team appearance since 2006. His best year, for those that like to reminisce, was 2005 when he amassed 37 saves and a 1.95 ERA in 61 appearances.

Balentien came up with a very nice sliding catch in the top of the third to keep things in check for Tateyama. It was arguably one of his finer defensive plays of the year in right field.

Hiroshima fans are awesome. They stayed for Ishii’s retirement speech and many of them were still in the left field stands when he finished his tour around the field to thank the fans. After that, they shouted across to us (in unison) wishing us luck in the Climax Series. Very classy folks.

Balentien finished the season with a batting average of .228 which meant that Kozo won the bet and Mac had to buy him a beer after the seventh inning.

Balentien finished the 2011 campaign top of the Central in home runs (31), slugging (.469), and strikeouts (131). He also finished fourth in RBI (76).

Aoki finished first in games (144), at-bats (583), and runs scored (73).

Tanaka took first in Tak-bunts (62).

Hatakeyama led the league in walks (78).

The Tokyo Swallows finished the 144 game season 2.5 games behind Chunichi and one game ahead of the third place Yomiuri Giants.

The Swallows scored more runs than any other team in the Central (484), but were second worst in runs allowed (504).

Nice way to end the regular season.

About Christopher Pellegrini

Christopher is a budding sabermetrician and long-time supporter of Tokyo's more lovable team, the Swallows. He has publicly volunteered, several times, that he plans to buy the team at some point in the future. When he finally runs the joint, it is likely that he will fine any player who swings at the first pitch or sac bunts (unless it's a pitcher, of course). Follow him on Twitter: @chrispellegrini

  • Anonymous

    Enjoyable game to finish the regular season and hopefully a positive boost for the weekend’s action.  Nice to meet you all last night too.

    Fingers crossed for more of that 9th inning fighting spirit next weekend!
    James

  • Rob

    Same here – I was really impressed with the Carp fans for staying through Ishii’s speech (and with Ishii for thanking them). Touching to see that.

  • Great exchange with the Carp fans. Having a common enemy helps, but still.

    And the walk after the obligatory strikeout by the retiring pitcher reminds me of kicking the ball out of bounds in soccer with your player down with injury, and getting the ball back after restarting play. Neat.

    Didn’t someone like Shinjo actually get a hit off a retirement pitch one time? 

    • Shinjo hit a walk-off single off an intentional walk pitch by Giants pitcher Makihara in 1999!

  • Missed the game entirely, but how was Tony? Was he as bad as his 1 inning stats suggests?
    Also, I understand there was some kind of ceremony for Aaron Guiel’s retirement, but how was that?
    I really like what I am hearing about Ishii’s retirement ceremony. Really classy stuff.

    • Tony: Not great, got into a pickle, gave up the run. But he did well to get out of the inning without more damage being inflicted. It was his first game back so, I’ll give him a pass.

      Guiel: There was a video message from him halfway through the game (with the usual quality Swallows video production values/editing…..) and he thanked the fans for his time here, time which he described as the highlight of his career. After the game fans sung his song and waved a bunch of Canadian flags around for good measure.

      Ishii: Classy indeed. Was pretty choked up myself in the stadium (I let Kozo spill the tears on that one). But I have to admit shedding a couple myself when I watched it back on TV. Especially when he took the mound and the likes of Tateyama, Matsuoka among others were all in tears watching him pitch. Such a shame the way things turned out in his career. Such a waste.

      Plus watching him on the mound again made me feel awfully nostalgic for the team and times of that era. It was the first time I’d got to see someone who’s prime years I’d witnessed first-hand retire.

      All in all a really nice way to end the regular season.

      • Thank you very much, David.
        Wish I could have gone…

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