8/14/12 – Hiroshima (Away)

August 14h, 2012 

Tokyo Swallows 4

 Hiroshima Carp 2

Streak: Won 2       Last 5: WLLWW

(Mazda Zoooooooom Zooooooooooooooooooooooooooom Stadium, Hiroshima)

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Tokyo0030000104101
Hiroshima010001000261
W: Nakazawa (1-0; 1.80 ERA) L: Maeda (11-5; 1.41 ERA) S: Barnette (1-1; 21 S; 2.50 ERA)

We here at Tsubamegun have been searching for things to remain positive about of late. And tonight, Tokyo gave us some reasons for positivity, with a performance in which each department of the team did their part to bring home an important win away in Hiroshima.

TokyoOrderHiroshima
Ihara (RF)1Akamatsu (CF)
Ueda (CF)2Kikuchi (2B)
Milledge (LF)3Soyogi (SS)
Hatakeyama (1B)4Eldred (1B)
Kawabata (SS)5Dobayashi (3B)
Tanaka (2B)6Mukae (LF)
Morioka (SS)7Hirose (RF)
Aikawa (C)8Ishihara (C)
Nakazawa (P)9Maeda (P)

Tonight’s first pitch was delayed by an hour as the ground staff cleared away the wet from a day of rain. Rain which would return to play it’s part later in the evening.

Nakazawa

Masato Nakazawa was the latest in the line of pitchers called up to the top team in an attempt to bolster the flagging starting corps, and like Shichijo the week prior, he delivered. And it wasn’t going to be easy for him to pick up his first win since 2010 (Nakazawa made just the one appearance in 2011, giving up four runs in two innings of work) as he was facing arguably the CL’s finest starter in Kenta Maeda.

But there were grounds for hope for Tokyo, being as they’d got to Maeda before this season, moreso than the CL’s other four teams had managed, with his ERA of 3.5o in his three prior starts against the Swallows the highest than against any of the other four.

And Maeda was under threat from the 1st, as a two-out walk for Milledge and subsequent steal put a man in scoring position, but he struck out Hatake to escape the inning.

But it was Nakazawa who, as expected, looked most vulnerable early on. In the bottom of the 1st, the rookie Kikuchi got on base via an error from Morioka, but he was later thrown out by Aikawa as he attempted to steal second. A double from Soyogi then put the Carp’s own runner in scoring position, but Eldred played the Hatake role by striking out to end the inning and threat.

The Carp took the lead in the 2nd, with a little help from the Swallows battery. Dobayashi got things underway with a leadoff double and he made it home from third one out later as a pitch in the dirt from Nakazawa bounced off the inside of Aikawa’s foot and away allowing the run to score for 1-0 Hiroshima.

Lastings lets fly in the 3rd

But Tokyo would strike straight back in the top of the 3rd with a two-out rally. The returning Ihara got on board via an almost identical error at short to that of Morioka in the 1st from Soyogi, but unlike the Carp, the Swallows would punish their opponent’s mistake dearly. Ueda then hit a single to right, which with help from some poor fielding from the Carp (the ball ended up at second anticipating a double, instead of home) allowed Yasushi to make it home from first to tie things up at 1-1. But the birds weren’t done yet as Milledge blasted a changeup over the fence to the left of the scoreboard for his 16th long ball of the year to make it 3-1 Tokyo. Maeda was visibly shaken by this turn of events (all three runs were unearned due to the error), and he then gave up back-to-back second pitch singles to Hatake and Kawabata. But alas the party came to an end as Tanaka flew out to right to end the inning.

Nakazawa gave up more hits (two in the 3rd, another in the 4th) but he did enough to end his five innings of work with a final line of 5 IP / 82 P / 5 K / 2 K / 1 BB / 1 ER. So it was handed over to the bullpen to try and bring home his first win in some two years.

And the possibility of that happening appeared to diminish in the 6th, as with Masubuchi on the mound, the heavens opened, the rains returned, and Soyogi hit the third pitch of the inning into the left field stands for a 3-2 scoreline. As soon as he crossed home plate, both teams were called off the field for what would be around a thirty minute rain break.

After the rain had subsided and the second clean-up of the night had finished, Oshimoto appeared in place of Masubuchi on the mound, and he was, in a word, immense. Three consecutive strikeouts followed to exit the inning, and another followed in a 1-2-3 7th.

And the offense chipped in to relieve some of that pressure on the bullpen in the 8th. A one-out single from Tanaka off ace-reliever Imamura, a Morioka sac-bunt and a ground-rule double to right from Aikawa added a priceless insurance run to put the score at 4-2.

Yamamoto came in to work a fairly smooth bottom of the 8th, despite hitting Akamatsu to start the inning.

A one-out Ueda double and Milledge single against Mikolio in the top of the 9th presented a men on the corners chance to further extend the lead to Hatake, but he could only hit into an inning ending double play to keep the lead at two.

But in the end those two runs were enough as Tony Barnette worked an uber-efficient seven pitch bottom of the 9th (with a bit of help from some superb fielding from Morioka) for his first save in a month and a 4-2 Tokyo Final.

The return of Ueda could be key down the stretch

Notes

  • Nakazawa, despite control issues, did well and got his first win since 2010. In his post-game hero interview he gave props to the calling of Aikawa which he said helped him no end on his return to top team duty.
  • Every non-pitching starting member bar Morioka registered at lead one hit this evening. The standouts were Ueda with three hits and one RBI, and Milledge with two hits, including the key two-run shot in the 3rd.
  • Every member of the team, bar Masubuchi, contributed to the win tonight (and even he was unlucky with the sudden change in weather). We need plenty more nights like this with each department of the team working in tandem if we have any aspirations of a second place finish.
  • Tokyo are now just half a game behind third-place Hiroshima.
  • A healthy 31,406 Obon-Holiday crowd turned out to see this one, which came to a close just before 11pm.
  • But it’s not going to get any easier, as tomorrow the Swallows will have to face rookie phenom Nomura on the mound. They will counter with Shichijo who will be trying to repeat the success of last week’s return to the top team.
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