November 3nd, 2011
Chunichi Dragons 1
Series: Chunichi 2-1 Tokyo
|W: Ishikawa (1-0) L: Chen (0-1) S: Tateyama (1)|
With the team already down 2-0 in the series, it goes without saying that tonight’s game was a must win for the Swallows. Amidst much speculation, the Swallows started Ishikawa on 3 days rest against the Dragons’ Chen. But that call wasn’t the only roster move made by Ogawa.
|1||(SS) Yamada||1||(SS) Araki|
|2||(LF) Ueda||2||(2B) Ibata|
|3||(3B) MIyamoto||3||(3B) Morino|
|4||(CF) Aoki||4||(1B) Blanco|
|5||(RF) Balentien||5||(C) Tanishige|
|6||(1B) Whitesell||6||(LF) Wada|
|7||(C) Aikawa||7||(RF) Hirata|
|8||(2B) Tanaka||8||(CF) Oshima|
|9||(P) Ishikawa||9||(P) Chen|
The most surprising decision made by Ogawa was to send down Masubuchi for last year’s 1st round draft pick, Tetsuto Yamada. Not only did Ogawa put Yamada on the roster, but he gave the 19 year old his first ichi-gun start in a must win game batting lead off. Ogawa was also true to his word, benching Hatekeyama after he failed to perform in the Climax Series. It seems that Ogawa has decided to go against conventional wisdom in the playoffs and make roster changes designed solely to motivate his players to rise to the occasion.
Unfortunately, it seemed that the moves backfired as the Swallows offense struggled against Chen’s pitching, as the offense managed only 3 hits in 7 innings. But while the offense struggled, Ishikawa rose to the occasion and held the Dragons to only a single hit in his 7 innings. As the game moved briskly because of the pitchers’ duel, the real action only began in the eighth.
With Chen still looking strong on the mound, the Swallows had the bottom third of their lineup come up in the eighth. While they both made Chen work for the outs, Aikawa and Hiroyasu both eventually fell harmlessly to the Taiwanese southpaw. With the pitcher’s spot in the lineup up, Ogawa decided to send Iihara into the game and ended Ishikawa’s night. Iihara, he of the .126 season average and supreme impatience at the plate, was probably not inspiring the Swallows’ faithful with hope. In fact, I joked to my bar mates that “Iihara would be a hero if he homers here,” a factual statement, but so ridiculous that it could only have be taken as a joke. But life is funny sometimes, Iihara actually took the first 2 pitches from Chen and got ahead of the count 2-0, one of the few Swallows to do so tonight. After taking strike 1, and fouling off another pitch to make the count 2-2, Iihara took a low pitch and floated it to left field. The ball barely made it into the stands, reminicint of Aikawa’s homerun on Monday, and into the hands of a fan to give the Swallows the lead. 1-0 Swallows
After Iihara’s improbable homerun, Ogawa surprised Swallows’ fans again in the bottom of the inning by electing to send Tateyama to the mound. While the move certainly sent the message that the Swallows where intent on winning NOW, it certainly begged the question WHO THE FUCK IS PITCHING TOMORROW? But in the here and now the move paid off as Tateyama got the Swallows out of the inning despite walking a batter.
With Chen having been taken out for a pinch runner in the bottom of the eighth, the Swallows had the opportunity to face the lesser Dragons’ pitchers for the first time this series. The first such pitcher was the 10 year veteran Takahashi, making only his third appearance this season. Ueda immediately took advantage by taking the third pitch he saw back up the middle for a single. Miyamoto bunted Ueda over to second for the first out. Aoki took the second pitch he saw from Takahashi and smashed it hard against the hard turf to get an infield single, and put men on the corners with 1 out. The Dragons changed pitchers and sent Kawahara to the mound, while Fujimoto came in for Balentien. Fujimoto got jammed hard on 2 pitches, and the ball got picked up by Ibata who managed to get Ueda in a rundown. Aoki managed to get to third and Fujimoto got to second during the rundown to make it 2 out with men in scoring position for Hatakeyama. The big boy wasted little time and hit one back up the middle to score 2 key insurance runs. 3-0 Swallows
With the Swallows up 3, Tateyama was called to pitch another inning to finish off the game. He managed to get Ibata to foul out after 9 pitches for the first out. But Morino managed to hit a Ogasawara-esque solo home run to right to get back 1 run. 3-1 Swallows But that was it as Tateyama got Blanco and Tanishige out to end the game in the Swallows’ favor.
Ishikawa and Tateyama combined to allow only 2 hits to the Dragons. While the Swallows managed to get 7 hits (4 in the last 2 innings) on the night.
The Tateyama appearance makes the Swallows rotation for the rest of the series very unpredictable. Ogawa’s willingness to use his big starters in the reliever’s role and use starters like Ishikawa on short rest make it hard to tell who will pitch when. I guess we’ll just have to tune in tomorrow to find out how things go…