04/07/12 Chunichi (Away)

April 7th, 2012

Tokyo Swallows 2

Chunichi Dragons 1

Streak: Won 1 Last 5: LLDLW

(Nagoya Dome)

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W: Oshimoto (2-0/0.00) L: Yamai (0-1/2.08) S: Barnette (3S/0.00)

If I was to assign a word to each of Tokyo’s opening six games of the 2012 season, I’d likely go with: excellence, spirited, wasteful, meltdown, hill-billy and deja-vu. And so for today’s game we’ll go with……GET IN!!! Oh, that’s two words. Never mind.

 Swallows Dragons
1CF Ueda
12B Araki
21B Tanaka2CF Oshima
3LF Milledge33B Morino
41B Hatakeyama41B Yamasaki
5SS Kawabata5LF Wada
63B Miyamoto6SS Ibata
7RF Balentien7RF Hirata
8C Aikawa8C Tanishige
9P Muranaka9P Kawakami

Ogawa made one change from the lineup used thus far in the season, with the number one and two slots flipping, meaning Ueda was at lead off and Tanaka was back to his more traditional no.2 slot.

In the 1st, after those first two slots in the lineup had each worked a full count out of Chunichi starter Kawakami, to ultimately no avail, Milledge hit the second pitch he saw into the leftfield stands for his first NPB homer, 1-0 Tokyo.

Run number one

And after a comfortable 1-2-3 bottom of the inning for Muranaka, Tokyo were presented with a rare chance to put a  number larger than one up on the Nagoya Dome scoreboard in the 2nd.

Miyamoto led off the inning by hitting one back at Kawakami, the pitcher had to stretch up and to his right to snag the ball, and his throw lacked any kind of power, bouncing just in front of Yamasaki at first, meaning the veteran couldn’t come up with the ball and Miyamoto was safely aboard. It was called an E1, and the reason for the weak throw to first became clear as Kawakami had to leave the game with what appeared to be a tweaked back.

So with their starter out of the game Chunichi brought in rookie Tajima. Next man up Balentien snuck one up the middle to put two on, and then Aikawa layed down a sac bunt for out number one with the runners moving into scoring positions. Muranaka was next up, and he worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. Up came the newly switched one and two batters, but they could only strikeout (Ueda) and flyout to right (Tanaka) and the lead remained at a vulnerable one run.

And vulnerable it proved as a lead-off double from Yamasaki in the bottom of the 2nd was followed up by another two bases from Wada, and we were back to 1-1. Muranaka later walked another man to put two men on, but he would eventually escape the inning with the scores still tied.

After a fairly comfortable 3rd and 4th innings for the rookie Tajima, the Dragons threatened again in the bottom of the 4th. Another Wada double and an Ibata sacbunt put a man on third with only one out on the board, but a strikeout and shallow flyout to third got Muranaka out of the inning unscathed.

Tajima was replaced by the pinch-hitting Tony Blanco in the 5th (he struck out for the record) and so it was another newcomer, Jorge Sosa making his NPB debut, who took the mound in the 6th. He would give up just a solitary hit in his two inning of work, before Muranaka found himself in another pickle come the bottom of the 7th.

A lead-off single for Ibata and a walk for Hirata was followed up by a Tanishige sacbunt to put two men in scoring positions with just the one out on the board. Again Muranaka would dig deep as he got the pinch-hitting Fuji to ground out to second (Ibata didn’t move from third) and then Araki flew out to centre to end the inning.

Muranaka put in a gutsy 7 innings of work

Yamai came on to pitch the top of the 8th, and he made quick work of Tanaka, Milledge and Hatakeyama as the Swallows again failed to mount any real threat of breaking the deadlock.

The sight of Oshimoto on the mound to start the bottom of the inning signified the end for Muranaka, who had put in a gutsy 7 innings of work (116P/5H/4K /3BB/1ER), but a lack of run support meant that his record would remain at 1-0 with his ERA shrinking to 3.00.

And so it was Oshimoto’s turn to dodge a bullet. Oshima grounded out for out number one before the inflatable-faced Morino got on with a hit to right. Yamasaki flew out to left for out number two. Wada then hit his second double of the game, this time to the corner in right, but the Chunichi third base coach held Morino at third. Luckily for Tokyo, as Balentien’s throw from right was not good, and Morino would have likely scored the go-ahead run if he’d have been given the green light. But he wasn’t. Thankfully.

Ibata was then pitched around to load the bases for Hirata. Oshimoto got himself in a three ball-no strike hole with three sliders that missed low and away. But three consecutive fast balls were good enough to strike out Hirata and strand the three Dragons.

And so to the top of the 9th with Yamai still on the mound. And the bespectacled pitcher would make easy work of Kawabata and Miyamoto to bring up Balentien. And Coco hit an absolute monster over the wall in left to make it 2-1 Tokyo!

Thus in the absence of Lim, it was down to Tony Barnette to again try to bring home a win for Tokyo, and he kept the nerve-jangling theme going by walking Yamasaki to get the inning off and running. He was then helped out by one of the Donoue brothers, who after fouling his first two bunt attempts, ended up hitting a grounder to first for a double play. Which was a blow the Dragons just couldn’t recover from, as Araki struck out to make it 2-1 Tokyo Final.

Run number two

Notes

  • 25711 people were there to witness Chunichi’s first loss of the 2012 season.
  • Balentien could be seen post-game in the dugout being told that he was due up for the hero interview. He looked less than keen and tried to suggest that Milledge should go up instead. When told that that wasn’t going to happen, he let out a resigned “Fuuuuck…..” before making his way back on the field. His initial comment about thanking god for the opportunity to take the plate in the 9th wasn’t translated at all. If I remember correctly, god ended up as manager and team. Which is probably quite apt.
  • Tanaka (.233), Ueda (.154), Kawabata (.333) and Miyamoto (.364) all went hitless today. Ueda in particular seems to be struggling at the plate, though he continues to inspire confidence in the field.
  • The two evenly matched teams will take the field again tomorrow afternoon for the rubber game of the series, with Akagawa due to take on Yamamoto on the mound. After that Tokyo get a home series against the struggling Baystars from Tuesday.
About David Watkins

David is a baseball bothering Brummie who spends a fair portion of his life fretting over the Tokyo Swallows and the WORLD'S GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM, Aston Villa. He completes the quartet of abusive sporting relationships by being a die hard New York Knicks and Mets fan. You can find him on twitter: @yakulto