April 30th, 2012
Tokyo Swallows 7
Hiroshima Carp 1
Streak: Won 1 Last 5: DWWLW
(Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima)
Yesterday Tokyo ran headlong into a masterful performance by early rookie-of-the-year candidate, Yusuke Nomura. The 22-year-old drafted out of Meiji University threw his slider wherever he wanted and induced 14 groundouts from the 25 batters he faced (1 H, 4 K, 2 BB).
And today looked like it might be another long day for the Tokyo bats as Hiroshima’s ace, Kenta Maeda, brought his own lethal slider with him as he took the mound on a rainy afternoon at Mazda Stadium.
Maeda (3-1, 0.97 ERA) had won his last three decisions and hadn’t given up more than one since his opening day start at Nagoya Dome back in March. Yikes.
|W: Tateyama (3-0, 1.85 ERA) L: Maeda (3-2, 1.67 ERA)|
Tokyo’s ace, Shohei Tateyama (2-0, 2.00 ERA) started for the Swallows and hoped to win his third consecutive start.
Yuhei was called upon to roam center field in place of Ueda who was perhaps being dealt some thinking time on the bench after his rather inexplicable error in center field yesterday.
|1||Tanaka (2B)||1||Soyogi (SS)|
|2||Yuhei (CF)||2||Higashide (2B)|
|3||Milledge (LF)||3||Hirose (RF)|
|4||Balentien (RF)||4||Stavinoha (LF)|
|5||Kawabata (SS)||5||Maru (CF)|
|6||Miyamoto (3B)||6||Iwamoto (1B)|
|7||Hatakeyama (1B)||7||Dohbayashi (3B)|
|8||Nakamura (C)||8||Shirahama (C)|
|9||Tateyama (P)||9||Maeda (P)|
You may recall that Maeda no-hit the Baystars back on April 6th. Well, he painted both sides of the plate with his slider early on and had a no-hitter going against us through four this afternoon.
His opposite number, Tateyama, didn’t get through the innings with quite as much ease as Maeda, he faced a bases-loaded jam in the second but got Maeda to strike out swinging to preserve the scoreless tie.
Kawabata was the first Tokyo bat to finally get to Maeda in the fifth. It kind of makes sense that it was Kawabata since he hit .636 against Maeda last season. He grounded a 2-2 changeup just to the right of second base that the sprawling Higashide did very well to get to but was in no position to throw Kawabata out at first. Miyamoto quickly popped up to second for the first out, but then Hatakeyama sliced an outside slider into right field which allowed Kawabata to reach third standing up.
With runners on the corners, Nakamura very nearly surprised everyone with a safety squeeze bunt that drifted wide of the first base line. But three sliders later, he was able to bloop a single just behind first base that scored the crucial first run.
Maybe watching all of those sliders yesterday when Nomura was pitching was good practice for the birds because they came right back at Maeda in the sixth. Yuhei grounded out for the second time in as many at-bats, but then Milledge worked a full count and ended up poking an outside slider into the corner in left for a stand-up double.
Balentien got ahead in the count during his ensuing at-bat and was able to wait for the fastball that he knew would be coming. He drove it to center field and Milledge was able to motor home from second.
Balentien was able to hustle to second as Milledge was busy beating the throw home, and that brought Kawabata to the plate again with just one out on the board. Shingo drew a five pitch walk, and then Miyamoto juiced the bases with a single to center.
That brought Hatakeyama to the plate. Tokyo’s pudding-filled first baseman protected the outside of the plate marvelously in a nine pitch encounter that was 2-2 after four pitches but never budged after that. After that fourth pitch, Hatake fouled off four consecutive pitches and had Maeda scratching his head. The man who inspired the shape of the Tsubakuro costume came through on the ninth pitch with another hit to right which scored both Balentien and Kawabata.
And that was it for Maeda. He was replaced by Nakamura in the seventh, but that did nothing to stop the bleeding. Tanaka and Ueda (batting for Yuhei) both grounded out to start things off, but Milledge reignited things with a single to left, and Balentien followed with a five pitch walk.
Kawabata punched a 1-1 fastball into left which was enough for a double and a plus-one on the board for the good guys as Milledge was once again able to score from second.
With Balentien on third and Kawabata on second, Miyamoto drove a 1-0 fastball into right which cleared the bases and allowed him to reach second safely.
And that was it for the offensive onslaught from the Tokyo Swallows. But it was more than enough, and more than expected.
Tateyama surrendered a consolation run in the bottom of the seventh when Dohbayashi’s double was followed by a one out Matsuyama single.
Tateyama got the win, his third of the season, on seven innings and 106 pitches of work. He gave up six hits, struck out four, walked three, and gave up one earned run. His ERA is now 1.85.
Masubuchi pitched a perfect eighth, and his ERA is now down to 3.00.
Hidaka worked the ninth for the birds and had a minor fielding hiccup, but didn’t allow a runner past first. His ERA is still 0.00 through 11 appearances.
Milledge, Kawabata, Miyamoto, and Hatakeyama all had multi-hit games. Kawabata and Hatakeyama earn extra praise for reaching base a third time thanks to drawing a walk each.
Maeda hadn’t given up a run since the seventh inning of his start against Hanshin on April 12th. The four earned runs he gave up today were the most he’s allowed so far this season.
Maeda was perhaps a bit unlucky to give up that first run as nobody was hitting him hard. If Nakamura’s hit had sailed six inches to the right it would have been foul.
Tateyama is tied with Tokyo’s Muranaka for the Central League lead in wins (3) and perfect winning percentage. He’s also currently tied for the team lead in innings pitched (34 with Akagawa), and leads outright in both strikeouts (23) and K/9 (6.09).
Tokyo won the series 2-1 and are now 4-1 against the Carp so far this season.
With Chunichi’s win against Yokohama this afternoon, the birds are still tied for first place with a 15-8-2 record.
Tokyo are now off to Yokohama for a three-game set