May 25th, 2014
Tohoko Golden Eagles 3
Tokyo Swallows 2
Streak: Lost 2 Last 5: LLWLL
(Meiji Jingu Stadium)
The Swallows brought their 1-3 Interleague record with them back to Jingu today, and they were met by the best Pacific League team they’ve yet encountered in 2014, the defending NPB champions.
|W: Blackley (1-0; 3.60 ERA)
L: Yagi (2-2; 3.78)
S: Falkenborg (0-2 7S; 2.08)
When I say best, I mean fifth place in the PL, but they have the fourth best team ERA and the third best team batting average. Chiba and Saitama, the two teams that helped deal the birds those three losses, fall below the Eagles in both of the mentioned metrics (even if they don’t mean poo at this early juncture in the season).
|Okajima (RF)||1||Yamada (2B)|
|Fujita (2B)||2||Hiyane (CF)|
|Nishida (SS)||3||Kawabata (3B)|
|Jones (DH)||4||Balentien (DH)|
|Makida (LF)||5||Yuhei (RF)|
|Matsui (3B)||6||Hatakeyama (1B)|
|Iwasaki (1B)||7||Iihara (LF)|
|Koseki (C)||8||Nakamura (C)|
|Hijirisawa (CF)||9||Araki (SS)|
Yagi started the game with a crisp, six-pitch first inning. And while his opposing number, Travis Blackley, walked the first NPB batter he’s ever faced, he got the next four batters to pop the ball up. Three of those balls ended up in defenders’ gloves. It was uninspiring.
It’s neither here nor there, but the official NPB website has done a fantastic job with Mr. Blackley’s official profile. Here’s a screenshot from just now:
Unfortunately, Blackley got some run support in the top of the second. Four base knocks (including two doubles) and one walk were mixed to the tune of three runs for the visitors.
Tokyo began a drawn-out fightback after that. One run came in the fourth when Balentien and Yuhei’s singles were followed by a Hatakeyama double.
And they grabbed one more in the bottom of the fifth after Araki and Yamada both got on base. Hiyane bunted them over, and Araki later scored on Kawabata’s ground out to short.
But your birds suffered from a certain GIDP affliction this evening. A double play ended both the second and seventh innings, and neutered the sixth.
Meanwhile, aside from that fateful second inning, Yagi was pitching one hell of a game. Despite errors by Kawabata at third in the fourth and fifth innings, Yagi became increasingly efficient as the game wore on. It took him just 29 pitches to retire the nine batters he faced in the 7th-9th innings.
But veteran Takashi Saito (yes, the former Dodgers All-Star who also played for the Red Sox, Braves, Brewers, and D-Backs) came in and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for Tohoku which effectively put all of the pressure on the bottom of our order with Falkenborg waiting in the wings for the visitors.
Bottom of the ninth, Nakamura struck out swinging at a forkball in the dirt, but Araki came through with his third hit of the game, a single to right on a forkball that stayed up a little too high. Ueda took his place at first to try and put some extra pressure on the 6′ 6″ former Softbank righty.
Ueda stole second safely on the 1-1 pitch, a third consecutive heater that was high enough to give the catcher a shot. Yamada then worked the count full and took a free base after pitch number six (forkball in the dirt).
But then Yuichi, pinch hitting for Hiyane with runners on first and second, grounded into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play on an 0-1 fastball.
Yagi took the loss but he deserves wads of credit for throwing a complete game. He allowed three runs (all earned) off of six hits while throwing 129 pitches, striking out six, and walking one.
Tokyo host Tohoku once again tomorrow night with first pitch scheduled for 6 PM at Jingu. If the rain holds.