July 15th, 2012
Hanshin Tigers 2
Streak: Win 1 Last 5: LWDLW
|W: Muranaka (5-3; 3.81 ERA) L: Nohmi (5-7; 3.41 ERA)|
Your birds were a bit relentless today and banged out a total of 15 hits while partially making up for yesterday’s wastefulness.
|Murton (RF)||1||Milledge (CF)|
|Yamato (CF)||2||Tanaka (2B)|
|Toritani (SS)||3||Kawabata (SS)|
|Arai the Elder (1B)||4||Hatakeyama (1B)|
|Kanemoto (LF)||5||Miyade (RF)|
|Arai the Younger (3B)||6||Miyamoto (3B)|
|Hirano (2B)||7||Noguchi (LF)|
|Imanari (C)||8||Nakamura (C)|
|Nohmi (P)||9||Muranaka (P)|
Milledge led off the game with a blast to left-center on a 1-1 offering from Hanshin starter, Nohmi. It was his 11th dinger of the season.
But things got ugly in the bottom of that frame with Murton reaching base on a bloop single, and then Yamato finding a bit of luck after botching his Tak-
bunt attempt. His sliced pop-up was a bit too much for Hatakeyama to handle behind first base, and both runners were safe.
That was enough to knock Muranaka off the rails a bit. He walked Toritani, which is not so strange since Toritani leads the league in walks, and then Arai the elder hit a sac fly to right that allowed Murton to trot home easily from third.
And then with runners on the corners, Kanemoto came through with another sac fly to right.
Muranaka finally got out of the inning when Arai the younger grounded out to Kawabata at short.
I’d like to take this moment to point out that for a veteran outfielder, Miyade displayed some surprisingly bad footwork today. His throw home on Kanemoto’s fly was commendable, but the delay between catch and throw might have made the difference on that one.
But the birds showed a little bit of two-out fight in the top of the second. Nakamura reached on a full count walk before Muranaka stole a little bit of Hanshin’s bloop-hit mojo by spinning one over Toritani’s head. Things got interesting when Milledge loaded the bases by drawing a walk without putting up much of a fight.
Tanaka then drilled one toward third that the newer Arai did well to get his glove on, but he wasn’t able to hold on to it.
Nakamura scored from third to level the game.
Muranaka allowed a runner in the bottom of the second, but Nohmi helped his opposite number out by laying his bunt down right in Muranaka’s path so that he was able to throw Imanari out at second. That was the end of the (mild) threat as Murton grounded out to second to end the inning.
And from a pitching perspective, the worst of it was over. Muranaka improved as the game wore on.
Hatakeyama led off the top of the third with an impressive solo homer to left to put the Swallows back in the lead. It was his second homer in as many days, third in the last four games, and seventh this season.
Muranaka started off the bottom of the third by walking Yamato on five pitches. And after getting ahead of a very patient Toritani, he was eventually able to erase both runners care of a 4-6-3 double play. Arai Sr. lined out to Kawabata to help Tokyo’s starter get through his first inning without surrendering a hit.
No strikeouts yet though.
Surprisingly, Nohmi wasn’t on the mound to start the fourth. Tsuru, making his 18th appearance of the season, began his outing by inducing Nakamura to fly out to center. Muranaka then sat down looking, and Milledge popped out to short for the game’s first 1-2-3 inning.
Mini Arai broke up Muranaka’s attempt at securing a 1-2-3 inning of his own with a one-out double into the gap a bit left of Miyade.
Hirano was able to move Arai over to third on a hard grounder right at Hatakeyama, but Kawabata saved the day when he tracked 20 feet behind second base to grab Imanari’s attempt at squaring the game once again.
Tsuru was back on the mound for the top of the fifth, and he continued to look sharper than Nohmi. He created a little bit of bad luck for himself as he decided to get in the way of Hatakeyama’s two-out come-backer that Hirano behind him easily could have handled. Tsuru wasn’t able to close his glove on it, and Hatakeyama waddled all the way to first safely before pinch-hitter, Matsui, grounded out to the older Arai at first to end the inning. Nice diving grab by the way.
Muranaka got ahead of pinch-hitter, Asai, to start the bottom of the fifth inning, but the latter still managed to hit a well-placed grounder between short and third that Kawabata was able to get to but not make a very adult-like throw on. Asai was safe, but Murton followed with a helpful 4-6-3 grounder. Yamato also kindly hit a bouncer into Tanaka’s zone for an easy third out.
Watanabe was Hanshin’s next selection for relief duty. The righty made his 32nd appearance of the season and faced Miyamoto first. Miyamoto grounded out to first, but Fukuchi, pinch-hitting for the utterly ineffective Noguchi (0-2; K, G4), quickly found his way to first by plugging the first pitch he saw into left field. Nakamura wasn’t able to advance him, but Muranaka did the job when he somehow drew a walk without ever swinging the bat. Milledge followed suit with his second free pass of the game to juice the bases.
And for the second time today, Tanaka found himself at the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. He responded the same way he did last time–hit a hard grounder at somebody and hope that he can’t handle it. This time he opted for the pitcher, Watanabe, and managed to bounce it off the reliever’s throwing hand for another RBI infield-single. That was the end of Watanabe’s evening, by the way.
Muranaka allowed another hit in the bottom of the sixth, but luckily it was with two outs already on the board this time. Little brother Arai grounded out softly to second to end the threat and the inning.
After throwing just one pitch to record the final out of the sixth (Kawabata was overly-aggressive in swinging at the first pitch), Katoh retook the mound for the top of the seventh. Hatakeyama led off by taking him all the way to the warning track in left, but it was about 10 feet short of where Swallows fans were hoping it would land.
But Matsui followed that up with a triple to the gap in left-center that made Katoh look very vulnerable.
However, Matsui somehow got himself thrown out at third during Miyamoto’s at bat. It was a heads-up play by Imanari behind home, and I’m wondering how much of the fault is to be laid at our famous third base coach’s feet. At any rate, it was pretty damn wasteful, the bases were clear, and Katoh looked like he was going to make it out of the inning unscathed.
But Miyamoto and Fukuchi poked back-to-back singles through the gap in the left side of the infield to put a runner in scoring position for Nakamura.
Nakamura made it back-to-back-to-back hits through the infield gap a couple of pitches later, and Miyamoto was waved home from second due to the fact that Muranaka was in the on-deck circle. Fortunately Kanemoto’s throw didn’t have a whole lot of heat on it even though he picked the ball up in very shallow left. Fukuchi sacrificed himself in the process between second and third as the throw was cut off by Toritani near the pitcher’s mound, and Miyamoto was safe at home.
For the record, that was four hits in a row starting with Matsui’s triple.
5-2 Good Guys.
Muranaka followed that up with his best inning of the game. His 1-2-3 mastery of Hirano, Imanari, and Uemoto (not exactly the most fearsome trio one could imagine, but hey) involved Ks for outs two and three. They were the first two strikeouts of the game for Muranaka.
Hanshin’s Kojima sat the Swallows in order in the top of the eighth. The only plate appearance of note was a hard-hit ball by Milledge that was unfortunately hit into Yamato’s general vicinity.
With Barnette warming up in the pen, and a pitch count of 95, Muranaka took the mound to start the eighth inning.
Murton bounced a friendly grounder at Morioka (third base) for out number one, and Yamato sat down after an infield fly ball. The uber-patient Toritani once again was in the driver’s seat during his at bat and drew his second free base of the game with two outs.
But Arai the slightly wrinkled chased a pitch in the dirt to give Muranaka his third and final K of the game.
Kojima was again on the mound for the top of the ninth, and he got Kawabata to ground out for the first red lamp. Hatakeyama also sat down after striking out swinging while Matsui did very well to work an outside offspeed pitch into right field for his second hit of the game.
Time for a little more two-out magic? Very nearly. Morioka followed with a single to left to put runners on first and second for Fukuchi. Already 2-2 today, Fukuchi rapped a 2-1 pitch into shallow left to once again load the bases for Nakamura.
Nakamura watched a ball and then two strikes on the outside edge of the plate before fouling off a pitch down the middle. He then took ball two, and it was at that moment that we noticed that Muranaka was in the on-deck circle.
Foul ball numbers three and four followed before Nakamura finally succumbed to a low outside offspeed pitch.
Muranaka resumed his flirtation with heartbreak in the bottom of the ninth with Kanemoto at the plate. With the team up by three runs, the thinking had to be that the potential boost in Muranaka’s confidence from getting a complete game win was worth the risk of sending him back in the game.
Plus, his control was much better today than it was during his last couple of outings.
Anyway, threw three straight balls to Kanemoto (a renowned Swallows killer) before finally getting an unencumbered look at the strike zone to stay in it. Strike two soon followed on a foul down past the home dugout, and Muranaka finished the job three pitches later on a fastball over the outside edge of the plate.
Arai Jr. then grounded out to Miwa at third for the second out and Muranaka’s first look at a complete game this season.
Hirano, however, decided to make things interesting by collecting Hanshin’s seventh hit of the game, a double, which brought Sekimoto to the plate for the home team. Meanwhile, Brazell was in the on-deck circle warming up.
Muranaka started this confrontation masterfully though. He painted the inside corner first, then the outside, for two quick strikes that Sekimoto chose not to go after.
Two pitches later, the veteran grounded one right back at Muranaka for the final out of the game and Muranaka’s first complete game victory since last September.
Tonite was arguably Muranaka’s best outing that we’ve seen this year. He threw 125 pitches (personal season high), gave up seven hits, struck out four, walked three, and allowed two runs (both earned).
His ERA dropped to 3.81, and his record improved to 5-3.
Tonite was the first time in three years that he has beaten the Tigers, and it was his first ever pro victory at Koshien Stadium.
Fukuchi was 3-3 at the plate tonite. Can anyone recall the last time Fukuchi had three hits in a single game? Yeah, me neither.
Matsui had a triple and a single, and Tanaka was 2-5 with two RBI from two separate two-out, bases loaded situations.
Hatakeyama chipped in with a solo homer and a single, and even Muranaka reached base twice thanks to a single and a walk.
Milledge reached base three times thanks to two walks and a solo homer to welcome Nohmi to the game.
Every starter except for Miyade and Noguchi had at least one hit. And five of the team’s starters reached base at least twice.
Tokyo’s offense came up with 15 total hits tonight.
Your Swallows will be in Yokohama for the next three days. All three contests are slated for a 6PM start.
The Swallows are 5-4-1 so far in July.
Tokyo’s offense has scored at least five runs in six of the team’s 10 games so far this month.
The offense collected at least 15 hits in four of those games.
Today was the first time since June 2nd that a Swallows starter notched a complete game victory. Ishikawa was the last starter to do it when the team was playing the Hawks down in Fukuoka about six weeks ago.