April 20th, 2012
Tokyo Swallows 2
Streak: Won 1 Last 5: WLWLW
Tokyo entered this series having just lost an away series at Koshien, and were looking to get things back on track against the very unbalanced fifth-placed Yomiuri Giants.
|W: Muranaka (2-0, 1.93 ERA) L: Utsumi (1-3, 2.43) S: Barnette (1-0, 6 Saves, 0.00)|
This game didn’t start well at all for Muranaka and the birds. Yomiuri lead-off twerp, Sakamoto, drove a 2-1 heater to center to start Tokyo’s wobbly first inning. He was bunted over to second and then walked to third when Muranaka walked both Chono and Abe on a total of ten pitches to bring Murata to the plate with one out.
RBI single to center. Bases still juiced. Ogasawara at the plate.
After a couple of fouls and three more pitches outside the zone, old-man Ogasawara hit a looping liner just to the right of second base that the sprawling Tanaka was able to snare about a foot off the ground and then roll over on top of second base to double up Abe.
Heart attack averted.
Tokyo 0-1 Yomiuri
|1||Sakamoto (SS)||1||Tanaka (2B)|
|2||Tani (RF)||2||Ueda (CF)|
|3||Chono (CF)||3||Milledge (LF)|
|4||Abe (C)||4||Balentien (RF)|
|5||Murata (3B)||5||Kawabata (SS)|
|6||Ogasawara (1B)||6||Miyamoto (3B)|
|7||Kajimae (LF)||7||Hatakeyama (1B)|
|8||Terauchi (2B)||8||Nakamura (C)|
|9||Utsumi (P)||9||Muranaka (P)|
The birds went down in order in the top of the first, but Muranaka got through the top of the second on only six pitches (one hit, runner stranded on second). And his teammates leveled the score in the bottom of that frame.
Balentien, batting cleanup for the first time this season, dug a 1-2 fork out of the dirt and plunked it in center field to get things going. Kawabata lit a red lamp with his botched bunt attempt, but luckily Balentien was still safe on first base.
Miyamoto, working with a 3-1 count, took advantage of one of one of Utsumi’s more pedestrian fastball’s of the evening (only 137 kph/85 mph) and whacked a single to right. Balentien got on his horse and forced a throw from Tani to third, but an error on the play allowed Miyamoto to take second in the process. One out, runners on second and third.
And up came Hatakeyama, starting his first game in a long time outside of the cleanup slot. Second pitch, bang. Single to right.
Tokyo 1-1 Yomiuri
Fludge got thrown out trying to take second like Miyamoto had on the previous play which put a damper on the festivities, but it wouldn’t be the last of Tokyo’s running blunders tonight.
The next one wan’t actually a player error, but a coaching error. After Balentien put the Swallows ahead for good with a one out bomb to right in the bottom of the fourth, Miyamoto got things restarted with a two out single to left. A walk by Hatakeyama once again had the Swallows liking their beaks, but Tokyo’s third base coach, Shiroishi, absent-mindedly waved Miyamoto home on Nakamura’s shallow liner to right. Tani threw Miyamoto out at home by a mile and a half.
Tokyo 2-1 Yomiuri
Muranaka allowed four more batters to reach base over the next three innings, but no more runs scored. Milledge was guilty of committing Tokyo’s final base-running blunder when he blasted a full count changeup off the wall in left center but then got caught in a run-down on his way to third base. He was credited with a double (might have been a homer if the wind hadn’t been blowing in from the outfield), but like Hatakeyama a few innings prior, he got a bit greedy on that one.
It didn’t matter though because Barnette came in for the top of the ninth and struck out all three batter he faced (Ogasawara, Bowker (PH), and Takahashi (PH)). He topped out at 150 kph (93 mph) while recording his sixth save of the season. That’s good enough for a tie with Hanshin’s Fujikawa for second in the Central League.
Muranaka got the win thanks to eight innings of 114-pitch work. He gave up six hits, struck out five, and walked four while surrendering one earned run. His record improved to 2-0 while his ERA sank to 1.93.
Milledge, Balentien, Miyamoto, and Hatakeyama all had two-hit evenings at the plate for your Tokyo Swallows. Balentien’s 2-3 performance with an RBI (HR number three) and a walk helped him earn game hero honors alongside Muranaka.
- Balentien’s line of .333/.468/.542 is tops in the Central League. So far this season he’s swinging at fewer outside pitches and working with the pitches he’s seeing. He’s not blasting every pitch he’s seeing like he did early last season, but he’s getting on base plenty and has crossed home plate a team high seven times. He also leads the team in RBI (8), walks (13), and Ks (11).
- Tanaka’s diving play to rob Ogasawara of an RBI or two in the first was huge. HUGE.
- After two hits today, Miyamoto is just 10 shy of the Meikyukai milestone of 2,000 career hits.
- The official butts-in-seats tally was a paltry 16,352. Should be quite a bit more tomorrow though since the weather forecast is a bit less gloomy.
- The game was over in just two hours and 47 minutes.
- Tsubakurou now has his own song.
- Hatakeyama’s demotion to seventh in the lineup appears to have awoken him a bit. He was 2-2 with a walk and an RBI.
- Muranaka took a few more good swings during his three trips to the plate today. He put the ball in play twice, but didn’t get on base as he did twice in his last start. His batting average is currently .200. Not bad for a starting pitcher.
Game two of the series is tomorrow at Jingu, and the first pitch is scheduled for 6PM. The weather is projected to be clear with temperatures in the low teens (Celsius). See you there.