August 10th, 2013
Tokyo Swallows 3
Streak: Won 4 Last 5: LWWWW
(Komachi Stadium, Akita)
Ogawa was gunning for his CL-leading 13th win of the season, and after an excellent eight innings he was likely just one pitch away from achieving said goal. Unfortunately, Blanco was in the batter’s box taking a look at that one pitch.
|W: Ishiyama (3-1; 3.13 ERA)
L: Ota (1-3; 3.00)
With Milledge now on the DL for next 6-8 weeks with ligament strains in his left ankle, the entire offense seemed to quiet down a bit. To be fair, however, Tokyo’s hitters did draw a combined 11 walks to complement their three hits on the evening.
|Ishikawa (2B)||1||Ueda (CF)|
|Kajitani (SS)||2||Miwa (LF)|
|Morgan (CF)||3||Kawabata (3B)|
|Blanco (1B)||4||Balentien (RF)|
|Nakamura (3B)||5||Hatakeyama (1B)|
|Aranami (RF)||6||Morioka (SS)|
|Shimozono (LF)||7||Nakamura (C)|
|Tsuruoka (C)||8||Yamada (2B)|
|Corcoran (P)||9||Ogawa (P)|
But Yokohama’s game plan mostly worked. Just pitch around Balentien, and make the rest of the lineup manufacture runs. At times today it felt like the Swallows had suddenly been transported back to the offensive doldrums of April-June.
But enough moaning. A win is a win. And here’s how it went.
Despite allowing base runners in nearly every inning, Ogawa was aided by some timely double-plays, and some nice marksmanship from Nakamura in gunning down two attempted steals. The first one doesn’t count because it looks like a miscue sent Blanco on his way to second, but we’ll take it nonetheless.
Tokyo’s first hit didn’t appear until the sixth inning. We had the bases loaded with one out in the fourth thanks to three walks, but Morioka chose to swing at the first pitch he saw and grounded into an easy 4-6-3 double play.
But the sixth turned out just a bit better. Ueda’s walk was followed by a Corcoran balk during Miwa’s at-bat. A bit harsh by my judgement, but we’ll certainly take it considering the treatment that our own Chris Leroux received in Chiba. With Ueda on second, Miwa bunted him over safely, and Kawabata fouled out harmlessly to the catcher for the second red lamp. Yokohama gave Balentien a free pass to the unoccupied first base, but Hatakeyama, against all expectations, came through with Tokyo’s first hit of the night, a blooper deep into left field. Ueda trotted home easily, and the Swallows had drawn first blood.
Ueda collected Tokyo’s second hit of the night with a surprisingly powerful blast down the right field line that landed towards the top of the picnic slope. It was his third homer of the season.
And after that, it looked like Ogawa was going to have it wrapped up. Maybe he didn’t need Balentien’s help this time (Balentien had played in 14 of Ogawa’s previous starts and posted 28 RBI (13 HR) while hitting .519).
But how often have we seen it come down to just one pitch?
In the top of the ninth, Ishikawa hit his third single of the evening off of Ogawa before Tokyo’s rookie phenom calmly struck out both Kajitani and Morgan swinging.
Up came Blanco, and the first pitch he saw, a slider that stayed up a little too much, was retrieved by a delighted Yokohama fan in the left field picnic area about four seconds later.
Kyuko came on a couple of batters later and beaned Aranami. Yamamoto finally buttoned got out of the inning without any further damage.
Barnette pitched a 1-2-3 tenth inning, but Yokohama’s Sosa kept Tokyo’s offense from threatening.
Ishiyama came on for the 11th, and despite throwing 33 pitches and loading the bases, he was finally let off the hook by Kawashima’s glove when he tracked nicely to his right to glove a bullet off the bat of Yokohama’s Miyazaki.
With Ota now on the mound for Yokohama, Balentien led off by drawing his third walk of the game, and he was promptly replaced by Hiyane on the base paths. But then Tokyo’s number one (?) pinch runner was Tak-bunted over for the first out. Yokohama elected to pitch around Morioka to fill the vacant base, but Morioka’s walk was soon followed by a free base for Nakamura.
With the bases now juiced, and Yamada in the batter’s box, our only fear was that Yamada would duplicate Morioka’s impatience in the fourth and ground into another inning-ending double play. But he hung tight. He waited, he whiffed, he waited again, he fouled, he waited yet again, and then he walked in the winning run sayonara-style.
Not the most glamorous way to win a baseball game, but again, we’ll take it. Yamada deserves praise for his poise in that situation, and he was awarded with a bucket full of ice water over the head and a trip to the hero interview platform.
Ishiyama got the win for his extended and nerve-wracking effort in the top of the 11th, and Ueda was my MVP of the game. Despite his three strikeouts, he crossed home plate for both of Tokyo’s runs in regulation. And his homer in the bottom of the seventh was bigger than I thought he was capable of.
I’ll say it again, it’s nice to have a bit of stability in center field again. It took a season and a half, but hey.
Game two of this brief home-away-from-home series is slated for 5PM, once again in Akita Prefecture.
Chris Leroux (0-1, 6.63 ERA) will be activated on Sunday and is scheduled to make his fifth start of the 2013 campaign. Mishima (4-6; 4.09) will take the mound for Yokohama.
Ogawa didn’t factor into the final decision, but he pitched another nice game. He threw 119 pitches through eight and 2/3 innings. He allowed two earned runs from nine hits (one homer), struck out eight, and walked one. His ERA dropped slightly to 2.63.
Hatakeyama also had a decent game with two walks and an RBI single.
Yamada was 1-4 with a walk (RBI).
Morioka also reached base twice with a pair of walks.
With the win, your birds are now just half of a game behind Yokohama and fifth place in the Central League. A win tomorrow will move the team just barely off the cellar floor.
The current four-game winning streak is Tokyo’s longest since winning six in a row April 23rd-29th.
Hanshin beat Chunichi 6-5 in Nagoya.
Hiroshima and Yomiuri drew 5-5 in Hiroshima.