July 20th, 2008
Hiroshima Toyo Carp 3
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 4
Streak: Won 4. Last 5: LWWWW
(Meiji Jingu Stadium)
Sunday night capped not only a home sweep of Hiroshima, but put Tokyo at .500 for the first time in ages, gave them a three-game lead over fifth-place Hiroshima, and leaves them only one game out of third place. All in all, a big psychological boost for the birds this weekend.
Matsui started on the mound for Tokyo and let Hiroshima load the bases and score two runs with their first four batters before the Swallows were able to take down the next three and end the inning. 2-0 Hiroshima.
The top of the third inning saw Hiroshima score one more, then take out Tokyo catcher Kawamoto, who was clocked making a play for the third out at home and did not return to the game. 3-0 Hiroshima.
In the bottom of the 3rd, Tokyo continued the trend of the weekend by getting back into it with a big inning. Aoki hit, Hatakeyama advanced him to third on a pop fly, Tanaka was hit by a pitch, Iihara brought Aoki in with another RBI, and Kawashima brought Tanaka and Iihara around. 3-3.
The go-ahead run was scored in the bottom of the 8th, when Miyamoto’s hit to right field brought Fukuchi in, just after Hiroshima had brought in Ueno to relieve starter Takahashi. Ueno wound up taking the loss.
Tokyo made like Hiroshima did Friday and Saturday, plowing through the bullpen: Starter Matsui relieved by Yoshikawa going into the fifth; Yoshikawa handing the ball to Igarashi the next inning, then Igarashi himself being pulled for Matsuoka in the 7th. In the 8th, Matsuoka was relieved by Oshimoto, who wound up being credited with the win. Oshimoto was pulled in the ninth as Lim Chang-Yong came in to get the save. That’s six pitchers for the evening.
In addition to Ono replacing Kawamoto at catcher, Takeuchi made an appearance replacing Hatakeyama in the top of the 8th.
The Swallows are on their longest winning streak of the season headed into a home series against Yokohama, who are still struggling, but took two of three from Tokyo the last time they were at Jingu. If Hiroshima can get their act together and do as well against Chunichi in Nagoya as the Swallows do against the BayStars, Tokyo will be in thrid place by the time they hop over to the Tokyo Dome for a three game series against the Giants starting Friday.
Just to cause unnecessary excitement and to draw accusations of jinxing from David and Chris, it is quite mathematically possible, and even within the realm of reality to say that Tokyo has a chance to be in second place by this time next week.