8/11/09 — Yokohama (Home)

August 11th, 2009

Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Yokohama BayStars 4

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 5

Streak: Won 1  Last 5: LLLLW

(Jingu Stadium)

The birds have had a dismal start to the second half of the season, winning only four of their last 12 games. They were able to take a series from Chunichi, but they’ve gotten whupped by everyone else. Everyone else includes the Yokohama Baystars.

The Swallows looked to get their season back on track this evening at home against their neighbors from Kanagawa.

Aoki unloads home run number nine in the first inning.

Tokyo got off to a quick start. In the bottom of the first, with two outs, Aoki ripped one over the wall in left. 1-0 Tokyo.

Then in the third, Kawashima led off with a shot that stayed just inside the foul pole in left to make it 2-0.

Next man up, Ishikawa, struck out on a 94 mph fastball, but Fukuchi followed that with his first hit since early in the Yokohama series last week.

Fukuchi then stole second (and might have taken third as well if he hadn’t been mauled by the shortstop on the errant throw), and he came up limping. However, he shook it off and took third on a mishandled pitch by Yokohama catcher, Takeyama.

Tanaka, who had watched Fukuchi move from first to third during his at-bat, and probably very relieved thatHome run number 10 on the season for Keizo. he was allowed to swing away for once, rewarded Fukuchi’s fleet feet with a simple trot home when he singled to make it 3-0.

The inning came quickly to an end, however, when Tanaka got caught trying to steal second, and D’Antona popped up after Aoki had drawn a walk.

Yokohama starter, Terahara, K’d several people early on, including all three batters he faced in the second inning. That first run in the third was his fault, but the second one kind of wasn’t. However, he was lucky that Tanaka chose a bad time to steal because that made things a lot easier when D’Antona came to the plate–two outs and one man on rather than one out and two on.

Things got a little dicey for Ishikawa in the fifth. With two outs and men on first and second base, Takeyama roped one to center that scored Yoshimura. 3-1 Tokyo.

In the fifth, Kawashima outran some bad footwork and an even worse throw at short (error) and was then bunted over to second by Ishikawa, but that out would quickly come back to haunt them. Fukuchi lined the first pitch he saw straight at the pitcher, who gloved it easily and threw to second to double Keizo up. Oops. Credit where credit is due though. Good job by Ishikawa bunting with two strikes to move the runner over.

The top of the sixth was a little messy for Ishikawa as well. Kinjoh singled before Nishi bunted him over. With one out, Uchikawa reached base on an inflield single, but Kinjoh was kept at second. Then Johnson appeared to toss his bat while grounding out to first to put runners on second and third with two out.

Saeki came to the plate for Yokohama and just watched the first three pitches before hitting one to shallow left that Fukuchi couldn’t get his glove on. Two runners scored to tie it up at 3-3.

The Swallows’ went quietly in the sixth, and then Ishikawa came on to try and get through the seventh unscathed. After giving up three hits in each of the previous two innings, Ishikawa stormed through the last third of the Baystars lineup in about two and a half minutes.

The Swallows seventh began with Aaron Guiel, and he singled to center.

Before I forget, Guiel’s at-bat in the fourth was a pop fly to center, but it was a broken bat pop fly. If that bat hadn’t broken, the ball probably would have ended up in Saitama. Anyway, Miyamoto bunted Guiel over and the right field bleachers started the ‘washoi‘ chant (rally cry). With one out, Aikawa struck out to bring up the (recently) rather dangerous Keizo Kawashima.

Yokohama wisely walked him because either way they would have gotten a rather weak/unproven batter. Ishikawa got pulled in favor of…wait for it…Kawabata. And the gamble worked for the birds. Shingo Kawabata drew a walk because the Stars were pitching around him to get to Fukuchi. Bases loaded. Nothing happening in the Yokohama bullpen.

So then it was Terahara versus Fukuchi. Two outs, bases loaded, and Fukuchi struck out swinging.

Game still tied 3-3.

With the game on the line, Igarashi (2-2-2, 2.76) was brought in to handle the eighth. He got some good help on defense.

Kawashima had a great play at short, throwing to his right after a grab near second to nail Kinjoh at first. One out. Kawashima then had another great fielding play with a sharp throw to record out number two, and Tanaka handled a hard grounder easily for out number three. The whole thing took seven pitches and about 90 seconds.

Tanaka then came up to try and get something going in the bottom of the eighth. A single up the middle brought Aoki to the plate with no outs. And finally we had some action in the Yokohama bullpen. Aoki sac bunted to move Tanaka over. For the record, I think that’s first time I’ve ever seen him do that.

Guiel then came up with two outs and Tanaka still on second. That’s when, of course, Yokohama decided to bring in a lefty. Which meant, naturally, that Takada pulled Guiel in favor of a righty.

Iihara came to the plate instead of Guiel, and Yokohama walked him on four pitches. Couldn’t they have done that to Guiel?

Whatever. Takada needs to remember that Guiel is a starter for a very good reason. If he’s going to be yanked in important situations every game in favor of a farm team player (although Iihara was admittedly an improvement over several recent choices), then maybe he shouldn’t be starting.

Do you see my logic? Because Guiel is the day-to-day right fielder, he should be trusted enough to handle two-out situations against a lefty. Subbing him out has not yielded runs, and it’s not helping Aaron perform to his full potential, much as it would distract any other player on the team.

Anyway, after Iihara walked, Miyamoto lined out to short to end the inning.

And on came Lim (4-1-24, 0.41) for the top of the ninth to face the only team that can score runs off of him. Johnson struck out, and Saeki followed with a single to right. Yoshimura popped up to second, and Ishikawa followed with a strikeout to bring up the bottom end of the Swallows lineup for a chance at a little come-from-behind action.

And here’s what I mean about sticking with your starters because, well, they’re the best players on the team.

With two outs, the Baystars again walked our number nine batter, in this case Takeuchi, in order to get to Fukuchi. Fukuchi, as you’ll remember, has been striking out like it’s his job recently, but Takada thought best to stick with him. And it paid off. Fukuchi singled to keep the inning alive and later stole second to put two players in scoring position for Tanaka…who struck out looking.

But that’s not the point. What might Guiel have done an inning before? Maybe a grounder to second? Or  a double? We’ll never know. At any rate, his recent numbers show that he’s a far safer bet that Fukuchi.

Anyway, things got very bad in the top of the 10th when Matsuoka gave up a home run to Shimozono to put the Baystars up 4-3.

Do or die situation. The Swallows tenth started with Aoki who got pegged pretty hard in the leg on the first offering by Yokohama’s closer, Yamaguchi. Unsurprisingly, Aoki immediately took off for second and slid in safely before the tag. Then, after two strikes and a ball, D’Antona sliced one through the infield to score Aoki from second. 4-4.

Noguchi then came on to run for D’Antona, and Iihara immediately started flashing the bunt. Iihara laid down a good one and moved Noguchi over to second.

Miyamoto then came up with another very crucial situation in front of him. He ended up grounding out to third which meant that Noguchi wasn’t able to go anywhere. However, Noguchi later stole third to push success that much further under Aikawa’s nose. After a prolonged battle, however, Aikawa struck out to end the inning with the score still tied.

Lee came on to pitch for Tokyo in the top of the 11th. Saeki collected another hit, this time with one out, before Yoshimura popped up for out number two. Ishikawa politely struck out.

Kawashima started the Tokyo attack in the bottom of the frame with a single to center, and it looked like Kawamoto (batting for Lee) would be doing the usual bunting. Luckily it didn’t work and he ended up having to swing instead. The ensuing grounder was slow and bouncy enough for Kawamoto to make it to first. Kawashima, meanwhile, was safe at second.

Aoki comes through in the 11th.It was an interesting change of strategy for Yokohama because they had walked our number nine batter (Kawamoto in this case) in order to get to Fukuchi the two last times he came up. The first time (7th inning) it worked, and the second time (9th inning) Fukuchi was able to punch a single through the right side of the defense. So this time, Yokohama walked the bases full (with no outs) in order to get to Tanaka who was 2-5 up until that point.

The strategy worked out, and Tanaka lined one right to first base. Still loaded, one out.

And up came Aoki. He waited patiently for something good to swing at, and he nearly ended the game with a drifter toward the wall in left but it fell a bit foul. Then, with two strikes against him, he ran one through the gap between first and second base. Kawashima reaches home, and the Swallows win on a walk-off Aoki single! 5-4 Tokyo.

Lee ended up getting the win (1-0, 3.27), his first of the season.

Ishikawa (9-5, 3.67) didn’t factor in the decision but pitched reasonably well for most of his seven innings in the game. He gave up three earned runs off of eight hits, struck out one, and didn’t give up any free bases.

On offense, four players had multi-hit games–Fukuchi, Tanaka, Aoki, and Kawashima had two hits each. Aoki and Kawashima contributed their ninth and tenth homers, respectively, to the cause, and both players found their way on base an extra two times via various giveaways by the Baystars–a walk and a beaning for Aoki, and a walk and an error for Keizo.

In addition to Aoki’s walk-off single in the 11th, D’Antona came through with a life-saving rbi in the 10th to keep the home team’s hopes alive.

Even though we won this game, I’m going to have to raise the Takada Count again. The team won in spite of him even though he did his best to snuff the offense’s momentum. There were four sac bunts laid down, and none of them helped produce a run (not even when Aoki was asked to bunt). Kawamoto would have added a fifth if he hadn’t had two strikes against him. Furthermore, his personnel decisions continue to be suspect.

TAKADA COUNT: 5

Hopefully the birds can finally win a series against the Baystars, but you won’t see me holding my breath. At the very least it was nice to win one in extra innings. And it was especially satisfying to get that fourth run which helped keep us alive (thank you, Jamie!).

The Dragons and Giants also won tonight, so we didn’t make up any ground, but at least the team snapped their nasty streak of losses.

Game two is tomorrow at Jingu starting at 6pm.

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