October 4th, 2013
Tokyo Swallows 2
Streak: Lost 2 Last 5: LLWLL
(Meiji Jingu Stadium)
|W: Matsuda (1-2; 4.03 ERA)
L: Roman (3-6; 4.24)
S: Fukuhara (13S; 1.21)
Miyamoto said goodbye, Coco hit number 60, and the game itself was cold, wet, and ultimately disappointing. Thus this seemed a fitting way to see out the 2013 season at Jingu.
|Uemoto (2B)||1||Ueda (CF)|
|Shunsuke (CF)||2||Miyamoto (SS)|
|Toritani (SS)||3||Kawabata (3B)|
|Murton (LF)||4||Balentien (LF)|
|Imanari (RF)||5||Yuichi (1B)|
|Arai R. (3B)||6||Aikawa (C)|
|Morita (1B)||7||Matsui (RF)|
|Fujii (C)||8||Yamada (2B)|
|Messenger (P)||9||Kiya (P)|
The game itself played out in front of a packed Stadium, with a walk and three hits off Tokyo starter Kiya giving the Tigers a two run lead in the 4th. 2-0 Hanshin.
The Swallows pulled level in the 6th. Ueda drew a walk off Messenger to lead off the inning, and two outs later, Balentien hit a line drive to right that just cleared the fence to send the capacity crowd into delirium. 2-2. It was nice that a) Coco could extend his record to the aesthetically pleasing total of 60, and b) great that he could do it in front of a capacity crowd at home. If that was to be his last of the year (and as he’s been nursing a sore achilles for a week or so plus he was removed from the game on defence after the 60th, it could well be the case) it would be a great end to an amazing story.
After neither side could win it in regulation, the rain and wind starter to intensify as we entered extra frames. In the 10th Yamamoto got ejected from the game for throwing a pitch inside to a bunting Shimizu. The pitch was up and inside, however it did not appear to make contact with Shimizu’s helmet, and even if it did, he was leaning in trying to bunt. In other words it was a bullshit decision.
After Yamamoto had departed, a likely not particularly warmed up Tony Barnette took his place, inheriting a men on first and second pinch in the process. Tony struck out the first man he faced before allowing a grounder that just a diving Miyamoto excellently snagged at short to prevent a run scoring but the bases were loaded on the infield single.
In came retiring outfielder Hiyama, to the delight of both the Hanshin fans in left and, disappointingly, many of the Swallows fans in right. Now I feel we covered this issue this time last year, but while I think it’s fine to show respect to a veteran on the opposition’s team, the time to do that is not during his at-bat with the bases loaded with the game on the line. Many Swallows fans joined in with the Tigers’ fans cheer song for Hiyama, which, and it seems I’m in the minority here, just isn’t on. Either way Tony, much to my delight (but likely many Swallows fans disappointment) struck him out swinging putting him at 2 for 2 in disappointing Tigers fans at Jingu in October, after also walking Kanemoto in his final at bat at Jingu last season. MY HERO.
That brought up the always difficult Toritani, and a clearly now hyped-up Barnette got him on a called third strike to escape the inning with the scores still tied.
In came Roman, who pitched a scoreless 11th, and after two walks in the 12th he found himself facing Toritani with men on first and second with two outs on the board. Toritani hit a chopper to first, Yuichi fielded the ball, but his throw was off the mark by a fraction, therefore the first base covering Roman couldn’t quite reach it, meaning what would be the winning run scored from second on Yuichi’s error. 3-2 Hanshin Final.
Miyamoto started the game at his traditional shortstop position and no.2 slot in the lineup. Unfortunately he went 0 for 5, but did almost craft a fairy tale ending in the bottom of the 11th, making decent contact for the first time. But as it appeared he might be signing off with a sayonara homer to left, the ball lost it’s legs and ended up in the holy glove of Murton at the warning track.
After the game it was all about Miyamoto. A video montage was shown of his career, then messages from his High School manager along with Katsuya Nomura. He then made a speech, which Gen at Yakyu Baka details better than I ever could here.
After the speech, during which he was far from tears, looking full of energy and positivity, he was tossed into the air by his team mates six times before he made his way around the stadium to say his final farewell as a player.
He will be missed. For me he embodies everything I love about a player. He’s toiled for close to two decades, all for the good of the team. He was not flashy, but was an integral part of the team, helping it on it’s way to three Japan Series titles. He did this while flying under the radar of the wider populace outside of baseball circles, never wanted away, never craved fame or attention, never caused trouble, just worked his butt off day after day in service of the Swallows organisation and it’s fans. In today’s world, players like Shinya Miyamoto are a dying breed. A man of true class and distinction. Shinya, for your 19 years of service to the team we love, we here at Tsubamegun thank you. Truly. From the bottom of our hearts.
In his speech Shinya spoke of the team re-grouping and moving on next year after their 6th placed finish this season. As it turns out October the 4th was also the anniversary of the Swallows first Central League title, and so I’ll leave you for this year with a video of the final three outs of that clinching game in 1978, with the hope that Jingu will one day witness scenes like these once more, with the stands full to the brim of fans, all there to celebrate another championship for the finest team in Japanese Baseball, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.