10/12/08 – Yokohama (Home)

October 12th, 2008

Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Yokohama BayStars 3

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 4

Streak: Won 1 Last 5: WWLLW
(Jingu Stadium)

The special thing about tonight was that several of our veterans were being treated to their sayonara game. Manaka (OF), Ono (C), Kawabata (P) and Watarai (IF) are all former Tokyo players as of next year.

There was a very nice tribute to the players at the end of the game, and several people in the outfield were disappointed that Shiroishi (IF) and Takada (manager) didn’t decide to retire as well. I guess we’ll just have to wait until next year for that.

Anyway, Tokyo stepped out of character and won their last game of the season. I’m not sure that I remember seeing that happen before in all the years that I’ve been going to Jingu (due to rainouts, Tokyo’s final game is nearly always at home.) And it was a very subdued game that featured this year’s retirees towards the end of the contest. Also of note were Murata’s home-run-king clinching three run dinger in the seventh (which was his 46th and tied the game up, by the way) and Ishikawa’s one out of relief that earned him the Central League ERA title (which, for the record, is 2.677.)

Takaichi, in his first appearance of the season, started this one for Tokyo and lasted five innings. He gave up only one hit (65 pitches), struck out six and walked one. He ended up with an ND because Oshimoto (3.34), two relievers later (after Kawabata, also in his first appearance of 2008, took the mound and ended his career with a strikeout), surrendered Murata’s two-run homer. Ishikawa and Matsui (3.27) followed, and then Matsuoka (1.39) got the win in relief after working a scoreless eighth. Lim got his 33rd save of the season on twelve pitches (including two Ks) in the ninth.

On offense, Ono had the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the 8th. Of interest: the man homered in both his debut and sayonara at-bats in the league. It was his first-and-only hit and RBI of the season.

Iihara also had a home run, a solo shot, in the fifth. It was his ninth of the season.

The Swallows finished the season with a 66-74-4 record which was good enough for fifth place in the Central League. Despite having a positive run differential, the team’s winning percentage stalled at the .500 mark earlier in the season and will go down in history as being .471. For the record, that’s slightly better than last year, but not what it might (or should) have been.

Tokyo finished 19 games ahead of 6th place Yokohama, 3.5 games behind fourth place Hiroshima, 5.5 games behind third place Chunichi, 15.5 games behind second place Hanshin, and 17.5 games behind Central League champions, Yomiuri.

The following are Tokyo’s records versus their five CL rivals (win-loss-draw):
vs. Yomiuri 6-18
vs. Hanshin 10-13-1
vs. Chunichi 13-9-2
vs. Hiroshima 11-12-1
vs. Yokohama 15-9

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

  • Rob

    Otsukaresama, everyone.

    Nice first-pitch ceremony, with Watarai’s kids and Manaka’s kids pitching and catching.
    Everyone sitting in the two or three rows ahead of me seemed to know each other. They were all chatting and sharing food and taking of pictures of each other. Kind of weird, like I’d stumbled onto a picnic or something. But then I recognized two of the kids with them had been in the first-pitch ceremony – I was sitting behind the Watarais! That kind of changed the color of the game for me.
    David – The kids have wonderful Watarai smiles!

    Game chat: Why was Fukuchi playing first? To give Hatake and Takeuchi more time at other positions if the Swallows get a foreign player in at 1B next year (Tyrone! Or bring Guiel back?)?

    Kudos again to Tokyo for pitching to the contender for the HR title.

  • Tyrone would have to take one hell of a pay cut! I read that he made at least 600 million yen this year while Aoki made only 220.

    Power can be taught (just look at what Seibu did with their lineup during the off-season). I hope that Tokyo’s front office doesn’t do anything too drastic.

  • Wouldn’t that be. . . I can’t even think of the word – Ironic? Weird? A blessing and a curse? . . . if Tokyo broke the bank for Woods or another power hitter after having considered Rami-chan not worth it?

    There’s promise in the line-up for next year – a few guys who could really step up and play a big role with the right prep and more regular game time, a few guys who could show some more power next year, and a few guys who will remain threats on the basepaths as long as they don’t lose a step. Unfortunately, Takada will be back, so the team will again have to compete not only with opponents, but with the destructive incompetence coming from the end of their own bench and a front office that appears to hold them in only slightly less contempt than they hold their fans.

    I think the top of my off-season acquisition wish list would be relief pitching. The failure to bring runners home that cost us so many games can be worked on given the group of guys on the team now, but more depth in the bullpen would go a long, long way in making up for a weakness. Araki seemed to do well this season, once he came in. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with moe time to work with the pitching staff.

  • Claudio

    Thank you for your reports, game by game; with your words people like me can still follows our birds even if not in Japan.
    Very good job!
    Opposite of what Mr Takada did….

    Claudio

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  • Rob – Thanks for relaying your story about the game with the Watarais, and I’m pleased to hear they’re just as smiley as we were led to believe!

    Another thing to note about his game was that the stadium as a whole seemed to cheer Murata’s 3 Run HR as it meant that Ramirez was deprived of thie title – very bizarre.