March 31st, 2016
Tokyo Swallows 6
Streak: Drew 1 Last 5: LLLWD
(Meiji Jingu Stadium)
Kyle Davies, a former MLB starter who spent the majority of his career with Atlanta and Kansas City (listen to a little more about him in this After Hours podcast), made the first start of his Tokyo career tonight against Hanshin’s veteran starter, Randy Messenger. Messenger lost the season opener to Chunichi after allowing four runs (three earned) thanks to a combination of 10 base knocks and six walks (6.2 innings).
|1||Takayama (LF)||1||Sakaguchi (CF)|
|2||Yokota (CF)||2||Kawabata (3B)|
|3||Hague (3B)||3||Yamada (2B)|
|4||Fukudome (RF)||4||Hatakeyama (1B)|
|5||Gomez (1B)||5||Yuhei (RF)|
|6||Toritani (SS)||6||Ugumori (LF)|
|7||Nishioka (2B)||7||Nishiura (SS)|
|8||Okazaki (C)||8||Nakamura (C)|
|9||Messenger (P)||9||Davies (P)|
It was an interesting start. The first official pitch of the game ended up in the right field stands as Takayama pulled a high heater over the wall.
A warm welcome to Japan, Mr. Davies.
Davies resumed with another fastball, untouched this time, but Yokota singled three pitches later, and Hague followed with a full count walk. With one out and runners on second and third, Gomez grounded out to third on an 0-2 cutter (?) but Yokota scooted home to double the lead.
Kawabata drew a walk with one out, and Hatakeyama doubled with two. Yuhei then leveled the score with a bases-clearing double on a 1-1 fork that stayed up a bit too high.
Hanshin didn’t score again between the second and fifth innings, and the only major story on defense was Sugiura’s leaping snag of a decent Yokota rip.
In the bottom of the fifth, Kawabata doubled to center on the eighth pitch of his at bat (1-2 count with four consecutive fouls balls), and Yamada followed with a looping liner down the chalk in left for a RBI double.
Muranaka relieved Davies (101 pitches) in the sixth and got three straight outs on 13 pitches while preserving the lead. And Sugiura took over in the seventh on a double switch that saw Sakaguchi shifted to left and Ueda inserted in center. However, Sugiura wasn’t quite as sharp as his predecessor.
Takayama singled with one out and Yokota joined him on base with a broken bat infield single. Hague then came up with a single that reached the wall just out of Sakaguchi’s reach on a 1-0 slider which scored Takayama from second.
Fukudome then drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases and bring Gomez to the plate.
Just need a ground ball here. First pitch, ball in the dirt. Second pitch, ball in the dirt. Third pitch, bender outside. Fourth pitch, low heat. That’s eight consecutive balls, and the Tigers regained the lead.
Sugiura finally refound the strike zone again on his first pitch to Toritani, and Hanshin’s captain nearly capitalized but he pulled his long ball right of the foul pole. He made good on the next pitch though, lifting one to the warning track in center that allowed Hague to tag up and score from third.
Sugiura walked Nishioka on a full count to reload the bases, but he struck Okazaki out looking to suture the wound.
But your birds made it a game again. Ueda singled to start, but he was thrown out at second (controversial) on a fielder’s choice which left Sakaguchi safe at first. Kawabata followed with a single of his own, and Yamada cashed in with his second RBI base hit in as many at bats.
After Hatakeyama fouled out on the first pitch, Yuhei dropped one behind first base that scored Kawabata from second base.
Tokyo threatened a bit in the bottom of the eighth, but a pair of base-running miscues short-circuited the momentum.
Ondrusek took the mound for the top of the ninth, and he retired all three batters he faced including two strikeouts.
And with the meat of the Tokyo lineup ready to bat in the bottom of the ninth, Mateo took the mound for Hanshin. And he got Kawabata on three pitches with his ever-so-slightly Nomo-esque twist in which he shows the back of his head during his windup on many pitches. Yamada went down swinging on four pitches, also having his tempo at the plate disrupted by the subtly increasing swivel in Mateo’s delivery. Everyone’s swinging late. Hatakeyama also went down swinging on four.
On to extra innings.
At this point in the game, Tokyo led Hanshin in hits 11-8, but they trailed in walks issued 3-7.
Furuno took the mound for Tokyo in a double-switch which saw Araki take over at first. He had a high pitch count, but he looked as good as we’ve seen him. He retired the side to bring Mateo back to the mound.
Mateo looked rickety the second time around. Like a totally different pitcher. Amid sustained consternation from both sides, he was granted a long set of extra pitches after walking the first batter of the 10th. He ended up wiggling out of the bind after benefiting from a Tak-bunt, a put-out, and a pop fly.
Furuno didn’t look the same either when he took the mound in the top of the 11th. He allowed a single and two walks before Toritani came to the plate with the bases juiced. The first three pitches were balls before a solitary strike. Then another run walked in.
These is not your 2015 bullpen apparently.
This time the bleeding stopped when Nishioka grounded out to second.
And again we have Mateo. (That’s how thin Hanshin’s bullpen is.)
Sakaguchi drew a one out walk and moved over to second on a balk as Mateo didn’t remain in the set position nearly long enough. Kawabata looked quite a bit better in his second attempt against Mateo. He drove an 0-1 slider to the wall in center, tying the game in the process.
Yamada drew a four-pitch walk which brought pinch-hitter, Morioka, to the plate with one out. He grounded out, but moved both runners over in the process, and Hanshin intentionally walked Yuhei to get to Araki.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Araki fouled off the first pitch. Then he fouled off the second and third pitches. Then balls one and two. Then a quick battery conference at the mound, followed by another foul that was nearly caught, but also nearly the game winning hit. Then another foul. Then, finally, full count.
Then foul numbers I-don’t-know-what and I-don’t-know-what-plus one.
And one pitch number 11 of the at bat, Araki grounded out to short.
On to the final inning.
Terada, who was terrific during pre-season, took the mound to start the 12th. He allowed the go-ahead run to reach base in the form of a Kano pinch-hit single, and then Umeno moved him over with a Tak-bunt.
Terada out, Kyuko in. Kyuko got the final two outs to give Tokyo one final chance.
But with Enokida on the mound, Nishiura (0-6) and Nakamura (0-6) both struck out before Ueda collected his third hit of the game.
Sakaguchi finally put the game to bed after five hours and 12 minutes when he popped up to right after a decent battle with Enokida.
- **Game Notes:
I watched this game from home, and I was quite pleased with the home plate umpire. I can’t remember the last time I saw a regular season game in which I so rarely said out loud, “I can’t understand why they don’t show every pitch from directly behind the pitcher so that we can see the zone!” The players seemed to agree as there was almost no quibbling about the zone. Except for Fukudome. Twice. Oh, and that bit where Mateo was allowed to take extra warm-up pitches in the 10th after walking the first batter. But hey.
- Hatakeyama seems to be trying to re-earn his old nickname, “Fludge.” Fly-ball, pudge boy twice popped out harmlessly in front of the visitor’s dugout.
- Yuhei loves to swing and miss on balls in the dirt like Balentien goes after sliders outside the zone. If I were Manaka, I’d make him hold a golf club any time he’s sitting the dugout until he learns to lay off.
- Ueda had a single in the eighth, but he got picked off standing up at first. Just. Just. I don’t know.
- Kawabata was the offensive leader with three hits, two walks, and one RBI.