June 18th 2016, vs Saitama

June 18th, 2016

LionsSaitama Lions 4

Tokyo Swallows 5

Streak: Won 2      Last 5: WLLWW

(Meiji Jingu Stadium)

Interleague. Ugh.

Your birds have settled into an annoying pattern of winning the first game of the series, but then dropping the next two. After last night’s W, the faithful were excused for expecting the worst.

But fans were treated to an unexpected surprise today, a hard fought come-from-behind victory despite some meatheadedness in the outfield.

W: Lueke (3-2; 3.13 ERA); L: Nogami (2-6; 4.02 ERA)
S: Ondrusek (3-1 11S; 2.30 ERA)

Saitama put freshly-signed pitcher, Felipe Paulino, on the mound for his first crack at some NPB action. He was released by the Cleveland Indians on May 20th after making 10 appearances at AAA Columbus. He posted a 2.77 ERA over 13 innings.

His opposite number, Davies, has allowed either one earned run or four in his first four starts this season. His last appearance, June 7th, ended in a loss after allowing four earned runs over five and two-thirds innings. He had a 1-1 record and 4.09 ERA through his first four starts.

 Saitama Tokyo
1Akiyama (CF)1Ohbiki (SS)
2 Kuriyama (LF)2Sakaguchi (CF)
3Asamura (2B)3Kawabata (3B)
4Mejia (1B)4Yamada (2B)
5Sakata (RF)5Yuhei (RF)
6Onizaki (SS)6Iihara (LF)
7Kaneko (3B)7Nishida(1B)
8Sumitani (C)8Nakamura (C)
9Paulino (RHP)9Davies (RHP)
RPNogami (R), Takekuma (L)RPMuranaka (R), Lueke (R), Akiyoshi (R), Ondrusek (R)

Balentien was on the bench after tweaking something while running to first yesterday.

Tokyo got on the board first when Nishida singled with runners on first and second and one out. Yuhei scored from second, and that left runners on the corners for Nakamura. Tokyo’s backstop laid a sac bunt down the first base line that gave Iihara enough space to slide in safely at home.

2-0 Tokyo

The top of the fourth was the first time that Davies didn’t allow the first batter on base, but events conspired against him. After walking Kaneko with one out, the little guy stole second with a good jump on the 0-1 pitch to Sumitani. Two pitches later, he stole third as well (outside pitch in the dirt that Nakamura couldn’t glove cleanly).

Then he scored on Sumitani’s liner  to right on 3-2 heater. Yuhei made one of his typical meat-headed judgments in right and the ball bounded past him. Sakaguchi picked it up in front of the wall and was able to get it back in before Sumitani could attempt an inside-the-park home run. Fielding error assessed on the play, but Kaneko would have scored anyway, so the run was earned.

Davies recorded two successive outs to strand Sumitani on the corner.

2-1 Tokyo

Davies allowed a runner to start the fifth, but then got two quick infield flies to win back the momentum. Then we had another outfield brain fart.

Iihara, despite being equipped with shades, lost an easy pop fly in the sun and it landed behind him. The runner (single, wild pitch) scored from second, and Sakata was credited with a triple, and Iihara was somehow spared an error on the play. The way I saw it, he was expecting another infield fly and was unprepared when Ohbiki indicated that the hit was headed to left.

The replay confirmed that at no point was he actually tracking the ball.

Unfortunately for Davies and the Swallows, former Swallow Onizaki followed with a real triple, this one down the line in right. Another run scored.

Four pitches later, Kaneko grounded one past a diving Ohbiki for the third run of the inning.

2-4 Saitama

And that was it for Davies. Matsui made his first appearance of the year, pinch hitting for Davies to start the Swallows’ fifth. He singled. Davies was tagged with four earned runs through five full innings.

Muranaka induced three ground balls for a perfect sixth inning.

On to the bottom of the sixth where the Swallows had two runners on and no outs for the first time all game. Yamada and Yuhei hit back-to-back singles, and Iihara moved them over with a well-placed sac bunt.

Nishida was less effective in his third at-bat of the game, striking out swiping at a slider well outside the zone. Two outs.

Nakamura made a push for game MVP when he singled a 2-2 Nogami slider into center which scored both runners.

Balentien made a brief pinch-hit appearance to try and cause some more damage but grounded out to end the inning.


Lueke came in for the seventh and pitched a scoreless inning despite taking a come-backer in the ribs.

Ohbiki started the Swallows’ seventh with an opposite field solo shot, regaining the lead in the process. It was the shortstop’s second of the season.

5-4 Tokyo

Akiyoshi protected the one run advantage with a scoreless eighth, and Ondrusek took the mound for the ninth.

Number two hitter, Kuriyama, struck out looking. Number three, Asamura, did the same. Cleanup batter, Mejia, popped up for the fourth time today to end the game.


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the first and only series win for the Swallows during interleague this year. In fact, it’s the team’s first series win since the May 24-26 home stand against Hanshin.

Lueke got the win after his one inning of relief, and Ohbiki was the game hero thanks to his game-winning homer. He was 0-3 at the plate before that big swing.

Your Swallows will attempt a rare series sweep tomorrow, something they haven’t done since the Golden Week home series against Gomiuri (April 29-May 1).

First pitch is scheduled for 1 PM.

**Game notes:

  • Davies induced a ton of pop flies today, many of them of the infield and foul territory variety. He recorded five outs that way and nearly had a sixth but Nakamura was tripped up at the lip of the visitor’s dugout on a foul fly in the first inning.
  • Davies was wild at times, but he also worked his way through a couple of jams.
  • If it weren’t for Iihara’s blunder in left, Davies would have had a good chance at notching the win.
  • The bullpen and offense deserve credit for persevering and coming back from a self-inflicted two run deficit. It’s good to see that Muranaka-Lueke-Akiyoshi-Ondrusek relay can cover so much of the game for us when things go pear-shaped. Hopefully the starters keep improving and take some of the pressure off of the pen before the All-Star break.
  • This game was completed in a brisk two hours and 50 minutes.
  • 28,524 people bought tickets and braved the afternoon sun at Jingu today.

About Christopher Pellegrini

Christopher is a budding sabermetrician and long-time supporter of Tokyo's more lovable team, the Swallows. He has publicly volunteered, several times, that he plans to buy the team at some point in the future. When he finally runs the joint, it is likely that he will fine any player who swings at the first pitch or sac bunts (unless it's a pitcher, of course). Follow him on Twitter: @chrispellegrini