May 1st, 2012
Yokohama BayStars 0
Streak: Won 2 Last 5: WWLWW
The last time the birds played the stars, they lost two on the trot. That ugly set of events transpired April 10th, 11th, and 12th, and it was the first time this season that any club dropped two in a row to the team from Yokohama. Hanshin has since repeated Tokyo’s performance at Yokohama Stadium, and the Swallows traveled a bit south of the Yamanote Line today hoping not to relive that embarrassment.
The Baystars are coming off a week in which they dropped four straight–overall they’ve lost five in a row following their glorious back-to-back wins over the Tigers. Also, they didn’t score more than three runs in any of those five games, and they were blanked in two of their last three games at Nagoya Dome.
In case you missed it, this week’s Snapshot has a complete summary of what’s been going on recently in the Central League.
|W: Ishikawa (2-3, 3.43 ERA) L: Yamamoto (1-3, 4.64 ERA)|
Tokyo, on the other hand, are coming off of a week in which run production was less of a concern than it had been during the first weeks of April. The birds plated at least four runs in four of their last six games and are 10-3-1 since last meeting the Baystars.
|Tanaka (2B)||1||Ikki (RF)|
|Ueda (CF)||2||Morimoto (CF)|
|Milledge (LF)||3||Nakamura (3B)|
|Balentien (RF)||4||Ramirez (LF)|
|Kawabata (SS)||5||Yoshimura (1B)|
|Miyamoto (3B)||6||Watanabe (SS)|
|Hatakeyama (1B)||7||Yamazaki (2B)|
|Nakamura (C)||8||Tsuruoka (C)|
|Ishikawa (P)||9||Yamamoto (P)|
Also in Tokyo’s favor was the fact that Yokohama finished the month of April with a team batting average of .192–worst in Japan by quite some margin.
On to the game report.
After Yamamoto pitched a perfect first, Balentien opened the scoring for Tokyo with a home run on a full count pitch that eventually landed in the bleachers in left. It was his seventh of the season.
Kawabata hit a double down the line in right immediately after that, but nothing came of it when he was caught in a rundown between second and third on Miyamoto’s come-backer to the mound.
The Swallows threatened again in the top of the third thanks to Tanaka drawing a walk, getting bunted over to second, and advanced to third on Milledge’s grounder to short.
Balentien came out swinging and managed to drill the first pitch he saw right at Shiroishi in the third base coach’s box. It appeared to get him in the leg, but Shiroishi bounced back up. Balentien worked a walk after getting behind early 0-2.
With runners on the corners and two outs, Kawabata got tricked on an inside pitch and struck out swinging as he half hopped out of the way.
So the highlight of that inning was Shiroishi getting cracked in the leg.
In the top of the fouth, Miyamoto and Hatakeyama opened with back-to-back singles to left to make things interesting, but then Ogawa had another brain fart and asked Nakamura to bunt with the pitcher waiting in the on deck circle. To make matters worse, Nakamura’s bunt didn’t wander far enough from home plate, so Tsuruoka was able to pick it up and gun Miyamoto down at third.
Ishikawa was asked to bunt as well, and while he was successful at moving the runners over, a second red lamp was illuminated on the board.
But everything turned out OK as Tanaka was there to save the day. He did well to protect the plate and stay alive at 2-2, and he eventually pounced on a fastball, sending it over the head of former Swallow, Alex Ramirez, to clear the bases and leave Beavis standing safely on second.
And just for good measure, Ueda followed with a stand-up triple for Tokyo’s fourth run.
One more would have scored on Milledge’s hit to left center, but unfortunately he was robbed by Morimoto with a nice sliding catch the like’s of which once broke Hideki Matsui’s wrist back when he played for the Yankees.
The scoring resumed in the top of the fifth when Balentien blasted home run number eight into the very top of the bleachers in left center just a few feet shy of the picnic area at the top.
And before the travelling Swallows fan could even pick up their plastic bangers after putting down their mini umbrellas, Miyamoto and Hatakeyama had once again strung together back-to-back hits which left runners on the corners for Nakamura. No more runs scored, but Miyamoto’s second hit of the game means that he’s only two away from induction into the Meikyukai.
The big question now becomes whether he’ll reach the milestone in Yokohama or when the team returns too Jingu this weekend.
There has been talk of keeping him out of the lineup if he looks likely to reach 2,000 hits away from Jingu. Normally I’m against putting individual accolades ahead of the everyday business of winning baseball games, but we’re currently dicking on Yokohama, so I’m willing to listen to other opinions today.
Kobayashi replaced Yamamoto on the mound for Yokohama in the sixth, and Tanaka quickly welcomed him to the game by slapping a single into left.
Nothing else of consequence happened during the inning, but the Swallows continue to look pretty confident at the plate.
The big question going forward is whether or not Ishikawa can keep the ball in the park. He nearly gave up a huge home run to Yoshimura earlier (drifted foul) on a ball left up in the zone.
But since I’m typing this as I watch the game, I must admit that Ishikawa made the bottom of the sixth look pretty easy. It only took six pitches.
Miyamoto was at the plate for his scheduled at-bat in the top of the seventh with Fujie now pitching for the Baystars. He once again grounded past the diving Watanabe at short (Nakamura’s defensive range is just slightly wider than the circumference of his generous gut), leaving him just one hit shy of 2,000 career hits.
This also marked his second three-hit game of the 2012 season.
Our Nakamura also singled, but with two outs on the board and Ishikawa at the plate, there wasn’t much else that we could ask for.
The first time that Yokohama got two runners on base was in the bottom of the seventh when Nakamura (Yokohama’s pudgy third baseman, not our fantastically talented catcher) singled for his second hit of the game, and then Ishikawa beaned Watanabe to put runners on first and second.
But Ishikawa worked his way out of trouble as he always does and joined his teammates on the bench having thrown 113 pitches through seven shutout innings.
Shinohara took the mound for Yokohama in the top of the eighth and gave up a one out single to Ueda, his second hit of the evening. Milledge flew out in foul territory over by the wall behind first base, but Balentien decided to leave a parting shot. 1-2 fastball, BANG. Round-tripper number three of the game for Coco.
Shinohara retaliated by pegging Kawabata in the ribs (he tried to hit him on the first pitch, but it wasn’t far enough inside). The second pitch got him. But that didn’t dampen the party for the contingent of Swallows fans in the left field stands.
Yamaguchi took the mound for the Baystars in the top of the ninth, and allowed Hatakeyama’s third hit of the game, a single to right.
Is it just me, or is Hatakeyama hitting almost exclusively to the opposite field so far this season? Two of his three hits tonight were to right field. Can someone check on that and get back to me?
Anyway, no runs scored in the top of the ninth, and Ishikawa again took the mound in the bottom of the ninth to try and go for a complete game shutout.
Moirioka and Noguchi came in as defensive replacements at third and first, respectively.
Unfortunately, Yokohama’s Nakamura was the first man up, and he smacked his second double of the game off the wall in right. Of Yokohama’s five hits tonight, Nakamura had three of them.
Two outs later, Watanabe drew a rare Ishikawa walk (ie. sorry for hitting you in your last at-bat), but it wasn’t enough as Yamazaki popped up harmlessly to Noguchi at first to end the game.
It was Ishikawa’s first complete game shutout since September 28th of 2010. That game also took place at Yokohama Stadium.
Ishikawa threw a gargantuan 145 pitches today while going the full nine innings in his strongest showing since opening day against Yomiuri.
He gave up five hits, struck out five, gave Watanabe two free trips to first (HBP and BB) while shutting out Yokohama. His record improved to 2-3 and his ERA dropped significantly from 4.45 to 3.43.
OK, Balentien was the obvious standout here, but there are several players worthy of praise here. After all, the birds banged out a season high 15 hits today.
Balentien – three home runs (7th, 8th, and 9th of the season), four RBI, one walk. Crazy.
Hatakeyama – three hits, four total bases.
Miyamoto – three hits, just one more until he makes it into the Meikyukai.
Tanaka – two hits from five plate appearances today, one walk, two RBI. Plus a nice catch in shallow right field early in the game.
Ueda – also 2-5 with a run-scoring triple.
In 12 games at Yokohama Stadium last year, Balentien hit .372 (16-43 at the plate) with seven homers and 16 RBI. Judging by today’s game, it’s perhaps fair to think that last year’s numbers were not an anomaly.
Interestingly, as soon as the game was over, Balentien grabbed all of his gear in the dugout and hurried out of sight so as not to be called back onto the field to crowd Ishikawa’s hero interview. Respect.
If the next two games go ahead as planned, and Miyamoto starts both of them, he will likely reach 2,000 hits in Yokohama. Not that that’s a bad thing.
Yokohama is apparently on pace to lose 100 games this year.
Chunichi beat Hanshin 1-0 tonight, so the birds and blue dragons are still tied at the top, eight games above five hundred.
Tomorrow’s game, if it doesn’t get rained out, will feature Yokohama’s Brandon (0-3, 3.98 ERA) versus Tokyo’s Muranaka (3-0, 2.18 ERA).
Tokyo tied the season series with the Baystars 2-2 with tonight’s win. Game five of the series is tomorrow night in Yokohama, and if it doesn’t rain too hard then the game will start at 6 PM.