Jun 2nd 2013, @ Chiba

June 2nd, 2013

Tokyo Swallows 5

Chiba Marines 3

Streak: Won 1 Last 5: LWLLW

(QVC Marine Stadium)


This game was a wild one. There was a little bit of everything going on, but your Tokyo birds ended the afternoon with smiles on their faces.

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Tokyo111000020580
Chiba110000100370
W: Oshimoto (2-3; 4.86 ERA)
L: Fujioka (3-4; 4.54)
S: Yamamoto (0-1 7S; 3.42)

With the win, Tokyo secured the interleague series victory over their neighbors to the east. Tokyo lead the series 3-0 with one game left to play (tomorrow at 6:15 PM in Chiba).

TokyoOrderChiba
Yamada (2B)1Nemoto (2B)
Morioka (SS)2Kakunaka (RF)
Milledge (LF)3Iguchi (1B)
Balentien (DH)4Imae (3B)
Hatakeyama (1B)5Fukuura (DH)
Iwamura (3B)6Kiyota (CF)
Aikawa (C)7Suzuki (SS)
Iihara (RF)8Emura (C)
Hiyane (CF)9Ogino (LF)
Leroux (P)-Ohmine (P)

First off, I’d like to take this chance to officially introduce you to the team’s newest member, RHP Chris Leroux. If you weren’t already aware of the fact that he now dons the number 17 uniform, check the MLB site for some more info on his numbers in the majors before landing with Tokyo last month.

Leroux's debut. Yup, I'm a poet.

Leroux’s debut. Yup, I’m a poet.

Leroux made his first NPB start today, and despite a couple of bumps along the way, he put together a solid debut for his new team.

Today’s game got off to a quick start in the top of the first with Milledge putting Tokyo on the board care of a homer to left (2-1 fastball). But Iguchi leveled the game in the bottom of the first with a homer of his own (1-0 fastball).

1-1.

But then, as they would for the rest of the afternoon, Iihara and Hiyane started to make some noise. Iihara drew a walk with one out, and then he was pushed over to third on Hiyane’s ensuing single to right. Yamada collected the first of his RBI’s when he chopped a grounder to short after Hiyane had taken off for second. Chiba attempted to turn a double play, but Hiyane had too much of a jump to become a part of it, and Iihara was safe at home.

2-1 Tokyo.

Then things got interesting. It was a messy inning as Chiba collected three hits and a walk, but you could easily make the case that no runs would have scored if Leroux hadn’t been assessed with two balks. The second balk ended up giving the runner at third a free trip home to tie the game. Leroux was not at all impressed with the way that things were going, but he managed to get out of the inning when Kakunaka flew out to left.

2-2.

Then something funny happened. The Swallows scored for the third consecutive inning.

Milledge, Balentien, and Hatakeyama drew back-to-back-to-back walks to present Iwamura with an RBI opportunity. He obliged by flying out to left near the warning track which was more than enough room for Milledge to make it home.

3-2 Tokyo.

And with a new lead to protect, Leroux came through with his first 1-2-3 inning of the game. He got Iguchi to strike out swinging, and Imae and Fukuura succumbed to infield groundouts. Iguchi’s four-pitch strikeout was the first of Leroux’s career in Japan.

Tokyo didn’t do much on offense in the fourth and fifth, but they didn’t need to because Leroux continued to work his breaking pitches to great effect. It seems like he has a couple of different sliders at his disposal, and he mixed in an upper 140’s heater to keep Chiba guessing. I could be wrong, but I thought I also say a changeup and sinker (?) get thrown in there at a couple of points. Regardless, he threw several strong innings in the middle of this game.

But there was a little more rockiness in the bottom of the seventh, and Leroux would eventually lose his shot at a debut victory. A one-out walk to Emura eventually turned into a fleet-footed, pinch-running Ishimine on standing on second. He was awarded third base when Leroux got tagged with his third balk of the game, and the tying run came home on Ogino’s sac fly to center.

3-3.

Leroux was replaced by Shoda, but with just one out to go he allowed a single and a walk. Oshimoto was brought in to try and get the final out, a task which took him just three pitches to accomplish (grounder to second).

Iihara and Hiyane would team up for the third time in the top of the eighth with one out. Both outfielders singled, and they were plated on Yamada’s ensuing triple into the gap between center and left.

5-3 Final.

Those ended up being Yamada’s second and third RBI of the game, and this at-bat was his first after striking out on a highly questionable call by the home plate umpire (more on that in the game notes).

And that was basically the end of the game.

Ishiyama worked his way through a slightly hairy eighth, and then Yamamoto came into to work a perfect ninth stanza to notch a seventh save and help break Chiba’s six-game winning streak.

The final game of this mini-series is scheduled for tomorrow night starting at 6:15 PM.

Game Notes:

  • 22, 067 fine folks had tickets for this contest on one of the most beautiful afternoons so far this year (and it’s allegedly rainy season).
  • The game lasted three hours and 42 minutes.
  • Leroux threw 117 pitches during six and two-thirds innings of work. He struck out six, walked two, and allowed five hits (one homer). He gave up three earned runs, but two of them were directly attributable to his three balks today. He did not factor into the final decision, and I’d be willing to bet that he’s not happy with his performance, but overall I think I speak for everyone who watched today’s game when I say that there’s a lot to be optimistic about in Chris Leroux starting games for the Tokyo Swallows.
  • Yamamoto needed only seven pitches to get through the ninth.
  • Milledge’s homer was his fifth so far this season. He was 1-3 with a walk and one RBI.
  • In addition to the second and eighth innings (as mentioned above), Iihara and Hiyane both got on base in the top of the sixth. That left the bases juiced for Yamada with one out. Yamada ended up watching a called third strike, and Ogawa came out of the dugout to actually argue the call. In case you’re wondering, that’s pretty rare. It was so rare that they immediately (and probably accidentally) showed a replay of the pitch, and it became immediately clear that the ump had been fooled by Emura’s drastic glove snap-back after the catch. In other words, both Yamada and Ogawa were right to be upset with the call. Ogawa came out again at the end of the inning (Morioka flew out to right to strand all three runners) to remind the home plate ump that he needed to do his job a little better. Iida (first base coach) dutifully restrained him.
  • Hiyane was 3-4 (all singles) and scored one run. He also boosted his average to .214 today (he had started the day with an average that started with a one).
  • Balentien and Iihara also reached base three times each (single and two walks).
  • So did Hatakeyama (three walks).
  • All told, Tokyo drew nine walks this afternoon. It’s just a shame that we couldn’t do a little more damage in the process.
  • Morioka and Aikawa were the only starters that didn’t get on base today.

About Christopher Pellegrini

Christopher is a budding sabermetrician and long-time supporter of Tokyo's more lovable team, the Swallows. He has publicly volunteered, several times, that he plans to buy the team at some point in the future. When he finally runs the joint, it is likely that he will fine any player who swings at the first pitch or sac bunts (unless it's a pitcher, of course). Follow him on Twitter: @chrispellegrini

  • Andy

    You’re going to have to talk me through balks next time I see you because watching it live I was totally confused. I was sitting next to the giant scoreboard in the outfield, right behind Leroux, and have no idea what he did that was any different to any of his other pitches. He was very unlucky not to get the win. Shaky first few innings, but settled down really well after that. Anyway, great win. Yamada found the gap perfectly in the 8th.

    • The ump’s argument was that Leroux wasn’t in the set position long enough, a call that is basically based on nothing more than his subjective opinion. Seems to be a more rigid interpretation of the rule than in MLB.

      I seem to remember Roman getting targeted last year. Can anyone verify that?

      • The rule is that after both hands come together in front of the pitcher’s body (Leroux pitched from the set position with his left shoulder towards the hitter), he must come to a “complete stop.”

        The duration of said stop is, of course, the umpire’s call entirely.

      • Kozo

        I seem to remember a JBW podcast in which Jim and John discuss the difference of how the rule in interpreted in NPB and MLB. I think what they were saying was that in NPB there’s a set period of time you must set (1 second?). While in MLB umps will let you set a pace and you just have to stick to that pace for the rest of the game. (i.e. if you set for 0.5 secs, you need to set for 0.5 secs the rest of the game.) Because the MLB interpretation allows a shorter set, it takes some adjustment for new pitchers.

      • I also seem to remember Roman having balk issues early on too.

  • Highwaythe3rd

    There were some tense moments not long after that second balk when Leroux gave the home plate ump some commentary on the NPB interpretation of the balk rule and had to be restrained by Aikawa and even the translator come out of the dugout to join the ensuing group near home.

    • Indeed. He also kicked the wall after returning to the dugout. Saw some snarky comments on twitter about him getting angry too.

      But in his eyes, he was being randomly punished for pitching the same way he’s pitched his whole career to this point, which begs the question, why wasn’t he prepared better for this particular aspect of the NPB game by the coaching staff? Or was this ump just being a dick bit of a dick?

      • Kozo

        You can see the balks and wall kick at the Central League YouTube channel.

        • Andy

          Nice find. The second one, where he actually gave up a run, seems really harsh.

          • Agreed.

          • Kozo

            Compared to how slowly and deliberately most Japanese pitchers set, I could see how that one looked fast. The commentators in the clip also mention how umps scrutinize pitchers making their debut.

            While that sucked, I’m sure he can get over it quickly.

  • Andy

    Thanks for the explanation. Makes perfect sense. Given how many times it happened to him in key situations today, impressive composure really, particularly in his first game. Lots of Ku-Ri-Su chants today from the Swallows fans – made me glad I’m not called Chris!!!

  • Count Fistula

    The pitching staff should have been on to this weeks ago.

    • Players are absolutely warned about this when they come to Japan, but I would imagine that it’s an aspect of a pitcher’s move to the plate that takes time to adjust.

      Now that Leroux has seen firsthand how anal the umps get when there are runners on base, I’m sure that he’ll figure it out sooner rather than later.

  • Dr. No

    If my scorecard and math is correct, of the 20 outs Leroux recorded, 12 of the outs were groundballs, 5 were K’s. Not bad at all.

    Umps seemed to be against the birds all day..

    Got some bad sunburn yesterday. Bleh.

    • Dr. No

      Also, who got sent down to make room for RaRu-? Roman?

      • Yes. But that was purely because of the four out-of-towners rule.

        Matsuoka was also sent down on the day that Leroux was officially added to the roster.