5/27/09 – Orix (Home)

May 27th, 2009

Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Orix Buffaloes  4

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 5

Streak: Won 1   Last 5: WLLLW

(Jingu Stadium)

The Swallows’ North American contingent of D’Antona and Guiel batted in four of the five Tokyo runs as Yakult’s streak of losses was halted at three.

Yoshinori took the mound to start for the birds and did well enough save for a messy 6th inning, but wasn’t involved in the final decision.

Tokyo’s lineup saw D’Antona return at first base and batting no.5 after being benched for Monday evening’s loss against Softbank:

  1. Kawashima Keizo (SS)
  2. Fukuchi (LF)
  3. Aoki (CF)
  4. Guiel (RF)
  5. D’Antona (1B)
  6. Miyamoto (3B)
  7. Tanaka (2B)
  8. Aikawa (C)
  9. Yoshinori (P)

Tokyo would get men on base in every inning of the game, but it took them until the 4th to pull ahead against Orix starter Yamamoto. D’Antona got on with a leadoff single before being moved round by a Miyamoto sacbunt for out number one. Tanaka and Aikawa then earned walks to load the bases for .000 hitting pitcher Yoshinori. Just as the whole stadium were expecting either a stikeout or double play, the 19 year old hit one deep to centre for out number two, allowing D’Antona to waddle in from third and make it 1-0 Tokyo. Yoshinori looked elated, and so he should have as he had himself a lead.

And that lead was extended in the bottom of the 5th, but not without a little drama along the way. Fukuchi hit a leadoff double to bring up Aoki with no outs. With firstbase empty, the centrefielder worked the count full, before being hit on the shoulder by Yamamoto. Aoki fell to the ground, staring at the pitcher, who barely touched the tip of his cap by way of an apology before turning away. Aoki was not happy, slamming his helmet into the ground before heading to first. It was his 8th HBP of the year, and the first in a while. But a dead ball to the shoulder gave him some grief earlier in the season, restricting his movement in the field and at the plate , and with him currently going through (what I imagine is) the biggest slump of his career,  you can understand his anger and frustration. Aoki would finish the game 0 for 2 with two walks and the HBP and is currently hitting .234 for the season.

But his teamates would punish Yamamoto for him. Guiel struck out for out number two before D’Antona hit the first pitch of his at-bat over the rightfield fence and it was 4-0 Tokyo. D’Antona later said in the post-game hero interview that he was especially keen to bring the runs in after seeing Aoki get plunked again, and deliver he did.

But Yoshinori would have some trouble of his own in the top of the 6th. A leadoff double and then single put runners on the corners with no-outs for ex-Swallow Gregg LaRocca. And he hit a three run shot of his own to left and the lead was down to one as it was 4-3 Tokyo. After Yoshinori had walked the next man, Takada decided that was that for the youngster and called Kida from the bullpen. But after striking out the first man he faced, Kida gave up a run scoring double to pinch-hitting catcher Hidaka and things were level at 4-4, with the run being charged to Yoshinori.

So Yoshinori finished his 5 and 1/3 innings having been responsible for four runs off five hits, with four Ks and three walks. His ERA is now at 5.023.

But Yakult would fight back to score the decisive run in the bottom of the 6th. Kawashima got a leadoff single, Fukuchi grounded out and then Aoki walked to put men on first and second with one out for Guiel. And the Canadian delivered with a line drive to right for his only hit of the evening to bring home Keizo and make it 5-4 Tokyo.

Matsuoka worked the 7th, giving up a hit and allowing a man to reach third but got out of the inning to bring his ERA down to 2.177. Igarashi (1.964) and Lim (0.00) worked their customary scoreless 8th and 9th inning slots, Lim had himself his CL leading 15th save of the year and Tokyo had themselves their first win since last Friday – 5-4 Final.

Matsuoka took the win in relief, his third of the season.

Yakult combined for 12 hits, with 3 for Miyamoto (.291), 2 each for Keizo (.255), Fukuchi (.302) and D’Antona (.234).

Guiel and D’Antona were selected as game heroes, with Guiel commenting that with so many different player vying for a starting place, the fans got to see different heroes each night and he was proud to be tonight’s. He does have a point. The competition for places is as strong as it’s been in many, many years which leads to a lot of hungry players on the team which has been a big factor in Tokyo’s resurgence in 2009.

Weather permitting, the two teams will be back at Jingu Thursday night for the second of their two games in Tokyo.

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

  • Zunlin

    Sorry for the Aoki bad period, but he should not be in the no.3 slot in this period of the season.

    D’Antona seems to suffer against the aces and the smart pitchers, while he can do damage with the “medium” ones.

  • Marc

    Are there any stats in Japan that compare the rank of the batter with how often they get hit by pitches? Too many of these seem almost deliberate attempts to take down the leaders, to my untrained eye.

  • I’m inclined to agree with you, Marc. Aoki’s HBP nos. this season are way out of statistical norms. If such stats are compiled (and they probably are, by someone, somewhere – this is Japan, after all), I haven’t seen them.

  • Rob

    Aoki overreacted a bit to the HBP. Why would a pitcher throw at a guy hitting .23x with no outs, a runner on second, and the clean-up hitter on deck?

    But I think I read Yamamoto went to Keio, so maybe they faced each other in college and had some bad blood there? Not sure about that.

    I’m sure Aoki’s really frustrated, so any little spark, like yet another HBP, could get him riled. Maybe his nice-guy image is working against him? He needs to go after the next pitcher that comes too far inside – like Woods and Igarashi a few years ago, heh.

    But, yeah, it’s hard to justify a .23x batter hitting third. Jamie’s in about the same place, but he has shown more power so far (and he’s been in and out of the lineup, and in different spots in the order).

    Glad they won last night! Losing after blowing a 4-0 lead, then sitting out tonight (if it keeps raining) would just give them more time to brood over the negatives.

    Will Yuki get to start against his old team tonight or tomorrow night? That should be fun.

  • Getting hit 8 times in 41 games puts Aoki on pace to break LaRocca’s record of 28 handily. I wouldn’t blame Aoki for seeing it as intentional. Likewise, I wouldn’t call anything short of charging the mound an overreaction, especially as Yamamoto showed very little remorse.

    I’ve said it before, but it’s disgraceful that Takada appears to be taking this in stride. At what point does a manager stick up for his guys if not when even a skeptic would start to wonder if Japan’s best player, albeit slumping hard, was being intentionally targeted?

    I think it’s significant that pitchers aren’t just hitting a .23x batter, they’re hitting a .23x-hitting Aoki. It would seem to be to be an advantage, esp. for CL teams, to want to keep him sore, keep him off balance, delay his return to being .350-hitting, base-stealing, over-a-hit-a-game Aoki. Or it could be even more simple, even cliche – the nail that sticks up. . .

    Did Aoki say or do something to piss off pitchers around the league? Is there a point being proven? Is going after him some kind of dumbass trend? It’s not hard for a professional pitcher to avoid hitting a batter in the shoulder or the head, even while throwing inside.

  • Zunlin,

    I know what you’re saying, but Aoki is still tied for third on the team in terms of OBP (only counting guys with more than 40 at-bats).

    He’s also tied with Kawashima for most walks drawn (16), and I think it’s fair to say that he’s drawing walks more frequently this season than he has done in the past.

    He may not be putting up ideal numbers for a guy in the number three slot (if we’re going with old school thinking here–batting average), but his other numbers show that he’s right up there with the rest of the team in most other offensive categories.

    Maybe we’re just shocked that he’s still not leading the team in most offensive categories, and that makes his start to the 2009 season look all the more feeble.

  • Leading the team, nothing. Admit it, Pellegrini, we’re surprised he’s not leading the league.

    Deciding batting order should be simple – put whoever you want at the plate most first and proceed from there. The person you want up most is the guy with the best OBP. I won’t say the nice, neat, traditional lead off man/number three/power hitter thinking is completely fatuous, but the fact remains that the nice, neat 1-2-3. . . order is only guaranteed to occur in the first inning. The argument for it is not really any stronger than the argument for putting a good hitter ninth, so he can be followed by the strong first batter – they each have a weakness that deciding batting order by OBP doesn’t.