October 31th, 2011
Tokyo Swallows 3
Series: Swallows Win 2-1
(Meiji Jingu Stadium)
|W: Akagawa (1-0) L: Gonzalez (0-1) S: Muranaka (1)|
Based on the comments received in yesterday’s game report, you don’t need to read this report to find out that the Swallows won game 3 of their series against the hated Giants. The raw details of what happened and the sequence of events that lead to the victory are available elsewhere. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to offer a game report with my own personal insights watching as a fan from the right field stands of Jingu…
|1||SS Sakamoto||1||CF Aoki|
|2||2B Terauchi||2||2B Tanaka|
|3||CF Chono||3||LF Whitesell|
|4||C Abe||4||1B Hatakeyama|
|5||LF Ramirez||5||3B Miyamoto|
|6||1B Ogasawara||6||RF Balentien|
|7||RF Tani||7||SS Morioka|
|8||3B Furuki||8||C Aikawa|
|9||P Gonzalez||9||P Akagawa|
No matter how well I had tried to mentally justify our position prior to the game, I did not come into tonight’s game cofortable with the idea that we could win. Call it pessimism or realism, I did go to the game tonight mentally preparing for the possibility that our season would end. The negatives (injuries, lack of offense throughout the series, losing momentum after game 2, starting a young pitcher in a pressure game, etc.) had piled higher in my mind than the positives (Akagawa has been effective, Dicky Gonzalez is not the second coming, we’ve come back from a lot of bad positions all year, etc.)
The Monday night crowd was less than that of the 2 weekend games, with an announced attendance of 31,687. But with clear skies and the moon in the sky I knew it would be a beautiful night for baseball even if the crowd was a touch smaller. Akagawa allayed my fears that he would buckle under the pressure with consecutive 1-2-3 innings culminating with strikeouts to start the game. On offense, our inability to score runs right away let the doubt monster creep into my head, but the fact that we managed to get the first hit of the game in the first (Whitesell infield single no less) helped keep the paranoia from taking over.
Doubt began to manifest again when the Giants got their first hit from Furuki with 1 out in the top of the third. The Giants gave us a free out by bunting Furuki over to second, and Akagawa got Sakamoto to ground out to third for the final out. When Aikawa started the bottom of the inning with a solo homerun down the left field line, and drew first blood for the Swallows for the first time in the series, I started to believe that we could win. 1-0 Swallows
That belief would get tested in subsequent innings, as Akagawa allowed consecutive 2 out walks (on 8 pitches no less) in the fourth, consecutive 1 out hits to put on the corners (to the pitcher no less) in the fifth, and a lead off single to start the sixth. But each time, Akagawa regrouped and managed to get the Giants to end the inning without any damage. While Akagawa continued to put up zeros on the top of the scoreboard, the Swallows were unfortunately doing the same thing.
When Akagawa’s night came to an end with 2 outs and a man on second in the seventh, another thought of uncertainty crossed my mind as Oshimoto made his way to the mound. Would we see the reliable Oshimoto or the tired and overworked Oshimoto? These toxic thoughts weren’t able to take root as Oshimoto struck out Sakamoto on just 4 pitches to end the threat.
Things got wild in the bottom of the inning. Miyamoto got on base via a 1 out infield single, but it looked like Balentien had ended the inning with a double play when he grounded out to short. Fortunately, Terauchi wasn’t able to turn the play as his throw missed first base by a mile. Balentien, who had ran hard to try to beat the throw, was half way into right field before he turned to take second base. Ueda came in to run for Balentien, and Morioka came up to bat. Morioka fell behind 0-2, but managed to lace a liner into left field while Ueda was running on contact. Ueda ran towards home and dove in head first, narrowly avoiding the tag, to score the insurance run. 2-0 Swallows
Muranaka came into the game and shut down Giants in the eighth on just 7 pitches. While it seemed like the Swallows were getting closer to closing out the series, there was palpable nervousness in the air as the lead was still relatively small. The Swallows offense gave us a chance to forget about failure as a wild series of events further extended our lead. Aoki started things off with a 1 out double down the left field line that most of us in right assumed was a foul ball. Hiroyasu followed with a hard hit to second that Terauchi let get past him for an error. Aoki turned the corner and headed to home but his barrel roll of a slide into home apparently did not avoid Abe’s tag. (It was too far for us to really determine.) Hiroyasu advanced to second on the throw, and Fukuchi was up with 2 outs. Before any thoughts of changing of momentum could take root, Fukuchi took the first pitch he saw and hit it into right. This time the runner was able to score from second without problem. 3-0 Swallows
So it was up to Muranaka to close out the game and prevent us all from having an aneurism. Things started off nicely with a 3 pitch strikeout of Ramirez. At this point I was huddled shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow Tsubamegun friends. Unfortunately Ogasawara had to add some drama to the proceedings with a solo shot to right field. 3-1 Swallows But unlike Saturday, Muranaka would stay in the game even as Tateyama could be seen warming up in the pen. Despite the home run, the Swallows crowd did not lose any energy. Muranaka battled Tani and got a ground out to third to make it 1 out from the win. The Giants sent Yoshinobu Takahashi to the plate and he got ahead 2-1. Then we channeled nervous energy to start a Muranaka chant that was quickly picked up by our section and then propagated by the ouendan. The sight of half the stadium chanting for Muranaka and drowning out the Giants cheers was moving and can’t be adequately described in words. Muranaka responded by getting a foul ball, and a massive wiff from Takahashi to end the game and the series.
The next few moments were a flurry of high fives and hugs. I’ll be honest, I cried a little. Not as much as Ishii’s retirement, but the feeling of unity with my friends and thousands of strangers tugged at my heart strings. While the Swallows will move onto Nagoya, I will have to remain in Tokyo. Regardless of what happens at Nagoya, those games won’t be able to beat the emotion I felt in the packed crowd tonight. I hope to see the Swallows bring the action back to Jingu for the Japan Series. Even if they can’t bring it back, I will always have tonight’s game to remember… I feel lucky to have been able to share this moment with many great people of various backgrounds, and I thank the Swallows and this site for that opportunity.