September 15th, 2013
Tokyo Swallows 9
Streak: Won 2 Last 5: LLLWW
(Meiji Jingu Stadium)
He did it! Balentien now holds the single-season NPB home run record.
|W: Ogawa (14-5; 2.80 ERA)
L: Enokida (4-9; 3.61)
But Wladimir Balentien didn’t just break the NPB home run record. He destroyed it.
|Nishioka (2B)||1||Yamada (2B)|
|Shibata (CF)||2||Kawabata (3B)|
|Fukudome (RF)||3||Iihara (RF)|
|Toritani (SS)||4||Balentien (LF)|
|Arai Sr. (1B)||5||Yuichi (1B)|
|Hidaka (C)||6||Aikawa (C)|
|Arai Jr. (3B)||7||Kawasaki (CF)|
|Shunsuke (LF)||8||Kawashima (SS)|
|Enokida (P)||9||Ogawa (P)|
Hoping to win its second September series since getting swept by Hiroshima earlier this week, Tokyo sent rookie phenom, Yasuhiro Ogawa, to the mound. Kiya was phenomenal last night, but Ogawa has been Tokyo’s only consistent hope for a quality start this year.
And he didn’t disappoint tonight…although if not for Nishioka’s tender base-running skills, the Tigers would have scored one run in the first.
Nishioka drove the first pitch of the contest into the gap between n center and left to make things uncomfortable for the good guys. He ended up on second, and things quickly turned grim for the Swallows when Shibata bunted him to third. But the bad luck piled on, as it so often does following an unnecessary bunt. Nishioka turned back to third on Fukudome’s sac-fly attempt because he (probably) mistakenly thought that Ueda was patrolling center. He was wrong–Kawasaki was on duty. And although Kawasaki hit the cut-off guy, Nishioka would have slid home easily if he had actually gone for it. But, when all is said and done, I guess we should all be thankful that Aikawa didn’t take another knock at home plate.
Ryoji Aikawa, you can send the holiday cake to the following address:
Homuizufa 8-2 Kowaiyo
Tokyo blew the game open from there.
Yamada, back in the leadoff spot, got things started with a single. Kawabata Tak-bunted Yamada over to second, and then Iihara hit a beautiful double up the line in left to score the opening run.
Then Balentien entered the batter’s box. Unlike his final at-bat last night, Coco actually got to look at a couple of decent pitches. The first offering from Enokida, likely a mistake, was right over the plate. Enokida breathed a sigh of relief because Balentien didn’t swing, but it wouldn’t be long before both players would be etched in history.
After taking a couple of pitches, Balentien finally took a swing at pitch number four, an outside fastball that was just a bit to easy to reach for Tokyo’s third year slugger.
Can you hear that? That’s the sound of history searing its way towards the bleachers in left.
At this point, the game was basically over. Balentien, visibly relieved to have gotten such an amazing milestone out of the way, pumped his fist as he rounded the bases. The crowd went absolutely berzerk. There were hugs and high-fives galore as Coco got back to the dugout. He even got to run out towards first base to grab a commemorative placard from his long-time penguin-pal, Tsubakuro, displaying his name and the number of home runs that he had hit so far.
And that is no mean feat. Sadaharu Oh’s record of 55 home runs in a single season had stood for nearly half a century. Two other players, Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera, had previously equaled the mark, but nobody had beaten it.
But Balentien did so in just his 113th game of the season. That’s better than a home run every two games. Coco even broke the Asian single-season record tonight, and he still has several games left to play.
After Coco’s record-setting home run, that was basically it from the Tigers.
Hanshin scattered six hits and a walk over its nine innings of dealing with Ogawa, but things never got scarier than in the first when Nishioka inexplicably gave up on his charge for home.
Instead, Tokyo kept the offense coming.
After a quiet Swallows second, Balentien entered the batter’s box for a second time with one out in the third. He watched three straight inside pitches to work the count to 3-0, and then he pounced on a slider that stayed up just a touch too long.
We’ll refer to that one as number 57.
After that, Kawasaki, Kawabata, Iihara (2RBI HR), and even Ogawa came through with big hits to extend the lead. When all was said and done, the Swallows had won the series and blanked the Tigers for a second straight night.
Ogawa went the distance and recorded the third complete game shutout of his rookie season. He threw 106 pitches over nine innings while allowing just six hits. He also mixed in five Ks and one walk while recording his 14th win of the year. His ERA sank to 2.80.
After the typhoon tomorrow, Tokyo heads to Yokohama for a three-game set starting on Tuesday.
- Balentien went 2-4 (2RBI HR, HR) with three RBI and a walk.
- Kawabata went 3-4 (2B, RBI 1B, 1B).
- Iihara went 3-4 (RBI 2B, 1B, 2RBI HR).
- And Aikawa had a trio of hits as well (2B, 1B, 1B).
- Yuichi only had one hit tonight (1B), a bit of a yawner by his standards as of late.
- The only starter who didn’t reach base was Kawashima (SS). He was 0-4 with a GIDP to end the first inning.
- The typhoon held off, and 30,319 people had tickets for this historic game.
- The Swallows are still just 6-14 against the Tigers this season.
- Murton was forced to sit this game out because he was ejected for the second time this season after yesterday’s scuffle with Aikawa.
- Nishioka, despite being slightly daft on the bases for at least the second time this series, was 3-4 at the plate.
- Balentien now trails Yokohama’s Blanco by five in the RBI race. Blanco leads 125 to 120. If Balentien can overtake Blanco, then he has a good shot at winning the triple crown this year.