6/08/09 – Hokkaido (Home)

June 8th, 2009

Yakult Cap

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 3

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 4

Streak: Won 1   Last 5: LWWLW

(Jingu Stadium)

A 9th inning timely Takeuchi RBI single broke a 3-3 tie as Tokyo had themselves their first sayonara victory of 2009. It was a great end to a truly absorbing game between two closely matched teams.

Today’s starting lineup’s only change was D’Antona coming in at first for Hatakeyama and batting in the no.4 slot.

Ishikawa started the game for Yakult, looking to rebound from his disastrous outing last week at Seibu. His opposite number for the Fighters was Itokazu.

For the first half of the game, both teams managed to get runners on base, but neither could get anyone past second and the scores remained deadlocked at zero.

It took until the bottom of the 6th inning for that deadlock to be broken as Yakult took a decent lead. Fukuchi got things started with a leadoff single, and made a nuisance of himself during Aoki’s at-bat, eventually stealing second before Aoki was walked. D’Antona then worked another walk to load the bases with no outs. The next man up was Guiel, and with the count at one strike and two balls he hit a line drive to centre, scoring two runs and making it 2-0 Tokyo with men on first and second.

D’Antona was replaced with pinch-runner Noguchi at second before Miyamoto came to bat. He tried to bunt the first pitch from Itokazu and missed for a strike, but Noguchi had crept too far towards third and the catcher Ohno threw to second. But Noguchi had made the dash to third with his speed beating the throw, and allowing Guiel to take second to put men in scoring positions with no outs.

That was all for Itokazu as he was replaced by Ejiri. The reliever then struck out Miyamoto to bring up Hiroyasu Tanaka. The second baseman hit a grounder to second for the second out of the inning, but Noguchi was home and it was 3-0 Tokyo. That was all the runs for the inning, as Ishikawa fouind himself with a tidy lead as he took the mound for the 7th. But he wouldn’t be able to hold onto it.

A single, walk and another single loaded the bases with no outs for Hokkaido shortstop Kaneko. He then singled to bring in a run to make it 3-1. That was all for Ishikawa as Matsuoka came in to try to preserve his lead. And he nearly did. Nearly. He got Tsuboi to fly out to second for out number one, and struck out Jimenez for out number two.

Up stepped Kensuke Tanaka who had already singled twice in the game. Matsuoka fell behind with three straight balls before working the count full. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Matsuoka was an inch away from getting out of the inning as Tanaka just about made contact to foul off the ball and stay alive. But he would hit the next pitch to right, two runs scored and we were all square at 3-3. All this while the Hokkaido fans sung the most godawful fight/chance song I have ever heard to the tune of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. A-Grade ear abuse, take it to Disneyland folks.

Matsuoka then struck out Morimoto to prevent the go-ahead run, but Ishikawa’s hopes of a seventh win of the year had gone. He finished his 6 and 0/3 innings of work being held responsible for three runs off seven hits, with three strikeouts and one walk. His record remains at 6 and 3 with an ERA of 3.750.

Igarashi (1.692) then pitched the 8th, Lim (0.00) the 9th and it was on to the bottom of the 9th as Tateyama took the mound for Hokkaido.

And the Swallows made swift work of the reliever. Aikawa hit a leadoff double to the leftfield fence and was replaced by pinch runner Ihara as Takeuchi came to the plate pinch-hitting in the pitcher’s spot. And he hit the fourth pitch from Tateyama over the infield to left, Ihara was waved around towards home, and his speed beat the throw to spark bedlam on the field as the birds celebrated their first walk-off win of the year.

Lim took the win in relief, his first of the season.

Tokyo had been outhit 11-6, but unlike last night, they made their chances count. Conversely, Hokkaido possibly should have scored more than the three runs in the 7th given their four hits and a walk in the inning. 

So, the season-series between the teams ends at 2-2. Tokyo now have a day off before two two-game series in PL ballparks, starting in Fukuoka against the Hawks on Wednesday before taking on Orix in Osaka from Saturday.

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