October 1st, 2012
Tokyo Swallows 5
Streak: Won 1 Last 5: WLWLW
(Meiji Jingu Stadium)
Tokyo finished out its regular season schedule against crosstown rival, Yomiuri, in some style with a rather uneventful win over the 2012 Central League champs.
Yomiuri 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 9 0
Tokyo 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 1 X 5 11 0
W: Yagi (1-0; 1.80 ERA) L: Houlton (12-8; 2.50 ERA)
The win brought Tokyo’s regular season record against the Giants to nine wins, 11 losses, and four draws.
|Yuhei (CF)||1||Chono (RF)|
|Tanaka (2B)||2||Edgar (1B)|
|Balentien (RF)||3||Sakamoto (SS)|
|Hatakeyama (1B)||4||Abe (C)|
|Kawabata (SS)||5||Murata (3B)|
|Miyamoto (3B))||6||Ota (CF)|
|Fukuchi (LF)||7||Yano (LF)|
|Aikawa (C)||8||Fujimura (2B)|
|Yagi (P)||9||Houlton (P)|
With Yagi making his third appearance of the season, perhaps the biggest question early on was how effective he would be at keeping the Giants off the base paths. And after walking Chono to start the game, he quickly sat Edgar and Sakamoto care of back-to-back-strikeouts.
But that was the best inning he had early on as he would go on two allow two base runners in each of the next four innings.
Fortunately for him, Tokyo’s defense held up (key double play with two on and no outs in the top of the fourth), and its bats stepped up.
With only Kawabata’s walk in the second to show for it’s efforts, the team finally got things going in the third. Fukuchi singled to right and then stole second on the first pitch of Aikawa’s at bat. Aikawa then followed with a single to left which put runners on the corners for Yagi.
Despite his lack of experience with the bat (which would reveal itself disastrously in his second and final at bat of the game), he was able to lay down a bunt that moved Aikawa over safely to second.
Yuhei then succeeded in moving the runners over another base, with Fukuchi scoring in the process, on a broken-bat groundout to third.
And Tanaka chipped in with a full count single to center to bring Aikawa home from third.
After another two-inning (mostly) dry spell at the plate, the crowning moment of which was Yagi’s attempted sac bunt with Aikawa on first that ended in a 2-3 pop-fly double play, the Swallows gave their 22-year-old starter further assurance that he would get his first pro win.
With Sawamura now pitching, and desperately attempting to regain his old form before the start of the playoffs, Balentien and Hatakeyama slapped outfield singles with one out, and Kawabata doubled to bring Balentien home from second.
Morioka, who had earlier been brought in as a pinch-runner for Miyamoto and was now playing shortstop, was able to get Hatakeyama across home plate with a grounder to first.
And the birds added one insurance run in the bottom of the eighth with a couple of extra-base hits from the middle of the order. Kawabata knocked his team-leading fourth triple of the season with two outs on the board, and Morioka brought him home with a double to right for Sawamura’s seventh hit (allowed) and third earned run of his three inning effort.
After Yagi performed a 1-2-3 seventh inning, he was pulled on offense in the bottom of the inning. Yamamoto (1.24 ERA) and a newly-promoted Matsuoka (0.00 ERA) pitched wobbly but ultimately scoreless innings to close out the game.
In front of a published crowd of 10,018 folks (I call BS), Yagi took the stage as the MVP of the game. And deservedly so. He threw 118 pitches over seven complete innings while allowing five hits and four walks. He also struck out five and had the longest outing thus far of his very short season.
And while he was pitching against a Giants team that didn’t have much more to play for than individual player stats (Abe’s chase of the Triple Crown being a notable concern for the baseball-loving world), he was able to deal effectively with Yomiuri’s usual suspects. Chono, Sakamoto, Abe, and Murata were a combined 2-11 at the plate against Yagi with the two hits being singles (Chono also drew a pair of lead-off walks).
At the plate, Kawabata and Aikawa both had two hits, a walk, and scored a run. Kawabata’s night was the better of the two, however, as he added a RBI and had five total bases (double, triple). Morioka also deserves love for his two at bats that generated an RBI each.
Tokyo (65-62-11) head to Yokohama (45-79-13) for two make-up games which will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday at 6PM.
In Tuesday’s matchup, Nakazawa (1-0, 1.93 ERA) will take on Yokohama’s veteran, Miura (9-7, 2.74 ERA).
Kawabata leads the team with a .318 batting average with runners in scoring position.
With only six games remaining in the 2012 regular season, the Swallows have no hope of equaling their record from 2011. The birds finished the 2011 campaign 11 games above .500, but the best that they can do this year will be nine games.
Balentien has struck out 88 times in his 404 plate appearances so far this season. That means he is striking out 21.78% of the time, and it’s an improvement over last year when he struck out 23.6% of the time (131 Ks in 555 plate appearances). That improvement has come in large part to his improved patience at the plate and better control of the strike zone (which I’ve mentioned again and again). He has drawn more walks this season (62) than last year (61) even though he has 151 fewer plate appearances with just six regular season games left to play. He drew a walk in roughly 11% of his plate appearances last season, but he’s earning a free pass in over 15% of his PAs in 2012. Nice nice.
The Swallows are guaranteed to finish the season with a winning record against Yokohama. With two games scheduled between them this week, the Swallows lead the season series 12-9-1.
The Swallows will end up level with the Carp in their season series if the Carp win all three of the games scheduled between them this week. Tokyo currently leads 11-8-2.