4/4/09 – Hanshin (Away)

April 4th, 2009

Sanshin TigersTokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Tokyo Swallows 5

Hanshin Tigers 1

Streak: Won 1     Last 2:  LW

(Kyocera Dome)

Tokyo put it’s first win of 2009 on the board at the second attempt as they beat the Hanshin Tigers on Saturday afternoon.

The win came off the back of a quality start from the 19 year old Yoshinori, who pitched six innings of one run baseball, giving up just three hits while striking out four, walking three and plunking two men just for good measure. Hanshin were outhit by the birds for the second game running (10-6) but this time Tokyo made those hits count to back up Yoshinori’s performance.

Yakult took the lead in the top of the 1st off Hansin starter Nohmi, as Kawashima got his first hit of the season, a solo home run to left that made it 1-0 Yakult.

They added another in the 2nd. Hits from Miyamoto and Tanaka were followed by a RBI single from Aikawa that brought Miyamoto home to make it 2-0.

And it was 3-0 in the 3rd. Guiel came to the plate with one out and men on the corners and hit a grounder to short, but the Tigers couldn’t turn the double play in time and Aoki scored to extend the lead.

After a hitless first two innings Yoshinori started to wobble in the bottom of the 3rd, falling behind in counts early and losing his command a little. He gave up a walk, hit a batter, two hits and a run to make it 3-1. Fortunately for the youngster and the Swallows, Kevin Mench struck out for the final out with the bases loaded to stop the bleeding.

Tokyo would make it safe in the top of the 5th.  Miyamoto hit a timely triple with two men on to bring home two runs and extend the lead to 5-1.

And so it was handed over to the bullpen to try to hold the win for Yoshinori. Igarashi worked a ten pitch hitless 7th, Matsuoka gave up three hits in the 8th and got himself in a bases loaded jam but would escape the inning unscathed, and finally Lim shut down the game in the 9th to make it 5-1 final.

Other points of note:

Aoki and Fukuchi are the only two Tokyo starters to remain hitless after two games. Tanaka is on fire, with two singles today to go with his three doubles yesterday.  Aikawa continued his promising start for Tokyo, going 1 for 2 with two walks and a RBI. D’Antona went 1 for 4.

The two teams square up again tomorrow afternoon for the final game of the series.

About David Watkins

David is a baseball bothering Brummie who spends a fair portion of his life fretting over the Tokyo Swallows and the WORLD'S GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM, Aston Villa. He completes the quartet of abusive sporting relationships by being a die hard New York Knicks and Mets fan. You can find him on twitter: @yakulto

  • Christopher

    Fukuchi seems to be struggling and has wasted several scoring chances. Tigers were lucky yesterday to have a poor Ishikawa and Swallows had a poor Nohmi. I though Yoshinori did well but needed to tighten up on his control a bit.

  • You’re right Christopher.

    The two poor starts were the keys. Yoshinori did well but as you say, control can be an issue. Luckily he is still 19, and thus the promise he shows far far outweighs the concerns.

  • Luckily it’s only two games for Fukuchi. He and Aoki are both working hard to replicate Ichiro’s futility during the majority of the WBC. Admittedly, the bottom third of the order is putting the top third to shame at the moment.

    But mark my words: just after Aoki et al. snap back to life, Miyamoto, Tanaka and Aikawa will hit a serious dry spell. That’s generally how it works for us Tokyo fans.

    Yoshinori’s control has always been a bit exciting. But he’s 19. He’s kind of like a certain someone who now pitches for the Red Sox (at the dire risk of exaggerating Yoshinori’s worth/talent at this stage of his career). He lets tons of guys on but to date has gotten out of a majority of the heart attack-inducing jams that he concocts.

    It will be interesting to see where he is come July. One thing that he has going for him is that he doesn’t seem to get flustered with guys on base.

    All things considered, hooray for Tokyo’s bullpen. It’s (still) only two games, but we’ve already seen decent performances from just over half half of the arms sitting back on the I-wanna-be-a-starter bench. I daresay that there are several other talented pitchers waiting for their chance (thank you, Mr. Araki!?. The competition for regular appearances is shaping up to be the sharpest it’s been in nearly nine years.

    If stability is finally found in the starting rotation (and that could be a big if), then not even Takada (Tokyo’s manager) can keep the team from a serious assault on third place in the division.

    After all, offense has never really been a major concern for the yogurt birds. Even though they didn’t win very often, they scored the second most runs in the central league last year (after Yomiuri) if you can believe that (despite the ghastly lack of power in the lineup). The offense will do something similar again this year. And that may sound like a bold prediction, but it’s really not if you look at Tokyo’s offensive numbers over the past 15-plus years. They have always had a knack for putting runs on the board.

    The big question is: can they keep their opponents from doing the same?

    The middle part of the rotation is going to be especially clutch. Can Tateyama have another good year? Can Kawashima build on what he did last season? How is Hye-cheon Lee going to adjust? Will we see Kida starting games in July? What role are the youngsters Shun Takaichi, Kyouhei Muranaka, Mikinori Katou, Yuhei Takai, and Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi going to play?

    As can be seen, the potential is enormous, and pitching coach Daisuke Araki has been a savior in terms of increasing the efficiency of the pitching corps as a whole. However, as we have seen several times in the past, acknowledgment of potential is occasionally the first step to cardiac arrest.

    We’re only two games in, but it should be a lot of fun to see how it turns out.