6/21/09 – Saitama (Home)

June 21st, 2009

Saitama Seibu Lions logoTokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Saitama Seibu Lions 5

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 6

Streak: Won 7       Last 5: WWWWW

(Jingu Stadium)

Tokyo won their season-best seventh straight game, and their third walkoff victory in a row as they wrapped up their interleague schedule against the Lions.

Today’s pitching matchup saw Ishikawa start for the birds with Kishi taking the mound for the cats. Tokyo’s starting lineup looked like this:

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

Just as during his start at Seibu Dome, the Saitama bats found Ishikawa easy to solve, but unlike that game, today he got a bit of run support to help him out.

Seibu took the lead in the top of the 1st, with a Kataoka leadoff double being followed up one out later by a two-run shot from shortstop Nakajima and it was 2-0 Saitama.

But Tokyo got back in it in the 3rd. Keizo led off with a single and was moved to second on a Ishikawa sacbunt. Next man up Takeuchi hit hit second homer of the year into the rightfield stands and we were all square at 2-2.

Ishikawa allowed Seibu to take the lead right back in the top of the 4th, with back to back solo homers from Nakajima (number two for the game, number ten for the season) and Nakamura (number twenty two for the year) making it 4-2 Saitama.

Guiel hit his eleventh homer of the year in the bottom of the 4th, a shot to centre to reduce the deficit to one and it was 4-3 Saitama.

And they would tie things up in the 5th. Consecutive one-out singles from Ishikawa, Takeuchi and Tanaka loaded the bases for Aoki. The centrefielder hit a grounder to second for out number two, but one run scored and it was 4-4.

Tokyo had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the 7th. Consecutive two out singles from Takeuchi and Tanaka put men on the corners for Aoki. He could only hit a grounder off pitcher Kishi’s leg, but Seibu just about managed to the turn the play at first for the third out. Worryingly for Yakult, Aoki appeared to hurt his ankle making a lunge for the bag at first, and was replaced by Ihara on the field for the top of the 8th. Initial guesses were that he could be out from anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month but nothing has been confirmed yet. Bad news indeed.

Igarashi (1.271) relieved Ishikawa for the top of the 8th, meaning Masanori finished his 7 innings having given up four runs off eight hits (including three homers). He struck out four and walked one as his ERA rose to 3.918. He wasn’t involved in the final decision today, but his form is on a definite downward curve at the moment.

The Swallows scored what appeared to be the decisive run in the bottom of the 8th. D’Antona hit a leadoff double off Lions reliever John Wasdin and was replaced by pinch-runner Fukuchi. Guiel then flew out in foul territory for out number one before Miyamoto singled to put men on the corners for Aikawa. The catcher then singled to right, scoring Fukuchi and putting Tokyo ahead 5-4.

And so to the 9th and Lim took the mound. GG Sato got on base via a Takeuchi error at first. The other Satoh then attempted to move the runner along with a bunt, but Yakult made the play at second to leave a man a first with one out. Ohsaki then flew out to right and Tokyo were one out away from their seventh win on the spin.

But pinch-hitter Uemoto had other ideas, as he hit the ball along the first baseline deep into the corner allowing the runner to score from first to tie things up at 5-5. It was the second run Lim had given up this year, but as with the last run he gave up (also against the Lions at Seibu Dome) it was unearned due to the error.  Then Lim showed signs of fatigue as he walked Kataoka and Kuriyama to load the bases for the red-hot Nakajima. With the count full Nakajima hit a groundball at some speed to the gap between forst and second. It was brilliantly fielded by a diving Tanaka who made the out at first and Lim’s 0.00 ERA lived to fight another day.

With Tokyo ducking a bullet in the top of the 9th, and with the way things have been going for them of late, you always had the feeling they may punish Saitama for their wastefulness. Hsu took the mound for the Lions and Yuichi pinch-hitting for Lim hit a leadoff double to put a man in scoring positon with no outs. Yuichi was replaced with pinch-runner Kawamoto. Takeuchi worked a walk before Tanaka bunted the runners around for out number one. Ihara was hit by a pitch and the bases were loaded for Fukuchi. He hit the second pitch he saw to firstbaseman Nakamura, who threw home to try to make the out at the plate. Only his throw missed the catcher and Kawamoto reached home on the error and Tokyo had themselves another sayonara victory: 6-5 Final.

Lim took the victory, his second of the year as Yakult won their seventh straight game to put them just two games behind Yomiuri (who lost today).

Takeuchi was the standout performer with the bat, going 4 for 4 with two RBIs as he raised his batting average to .343.

Tanaka also did well, going 2 for 3 as his average sits at .278.

With the Interleague schedule now at an end (look for a recap post sometime this week), Tokyo get a much deserved rest before resuming Central League hostilities with a trip to the Temple of Doom to play the Giants on Friday. That should be must-see viewing as a sweep would see them replace Yomiuri at the top of the CL. And with the rest we’ll be going there with a probable Tateyama, Kawashima and Ishikawa trio of starters.

Exciting times indeed.

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

  • Ryota Igarashi’s scoreless 8th broke a club record for consecutive appearances without allowing a run.

    It was his 21st shift in relief without allowing the opposition a sniff and his ERA is now down to a minuscule 1.271.

    Igarashi has recently qualified for international free-agency, and he has expressed a desire to play in the MLB so this could well be his last season with Tokyo.

    Lets hope not as he’s in his best form (not to mention the best health) for many a year.