8/16/09 — Chunichi (Away)

August 16th, 2009

Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3

Chunichi Dragons 1

Streak: Won 1    Last 5: LLLLW

(Nagoya Dome)

Takada is largely avoiding the bunt these days, but that’s partly because the team hasn’t been hitting and giving him many chances.

Ironically, now that there’s a green light to swing, two of our best hitters are injured and on the farm team.

So it was up to a very familiar lineup, and a 19-year-old pitcher, to salvage a game from the Chunichi series.

Strong eight innings from Yoshinori today.

Here’s the Swallows’s starting lineup. A couple of key changes were made today:

1. Kawashima (SS)
2. Fukuchi (LF)
3. Aoki (CF)
4. Hatakeyama (3B)
5. Guiel (RF)
6. Takeuchi (1B)
7. Tanaka (2B)
8. Aikawa (C)
9. Yoshinori (P)

The differences in the lineup are quickly apparent. Kawashima, one of the hottest hitters on the team right now, has been moved up to the leadoff slot to replace the streaky Fukuchi. Tanaka has been bumped down to lower in the lineup and moved the ice-cold Aikawa into the number eight slot.

The birds didn’t display a whole lot of patience in the first inning. Leadoff batter, Kawashima, and cleanup hitter, Hatakeyama, both recorded outs when putting the first pitch in play. Fukuchi laid off the first pitch he saw, but he grounded out on the second one. The only batter to work the count a little bit was Aoki who aimed one right at Nakata’s ear on its way up through the middle into center field. This is his seventh game in a row with a hit.

Nakata escaped from the inning after throwing only 10 pitches.

Guiel led off the second with a full-count walk, and Takeuchi then fouled off four pitches before finally tagging a forkball into right field. Guiel was able to make it to third on the hit. No outs, men on first and third, and Tanaka at the plate.

Unfortunately, Tanaka’s grounder to third caught Guiel off the bag, and he was quickly run down to record out number one and put runners on first and second.

Aikawa, who hasn’t had a hit in the last five games, came to the plate for the Swallows and quickly got behind in the count. He eventually punted one up in the air that was caught easily behind second base. With two outs, Yoshinori grounded out to second to end the inning.

Yoshinori pitched well during the second frame as well. However, this time he was a little more efficient. Whereas the first inning cost him 22 pitches, the second was over in 12. Aoki had a very nice running, rolling catch in center to get Wada out at the beginning of the inning.

Inning number three started off with leadoff hitter, Kawashima, at the plate. Kawashima grounded out again, this time on the second pitch, and Fukuchi knocked one into right to reach first. Aoki stroked a full-count pitch into center to help Fukuchi just barely make it to third.

With runners on first and third and one out, Hatakeyama drilled the first pitch he saw straight up in the air for out number two. Guiel again showed excellent patience at the plate and didn’t swing once as he worked the count full. Nakata then threw one in the dirt to load the bases and give Guiel his second walk of the game.

Takeuchi came to the plate not having notched an rbi since June. This at-bat would not break the streak as he grounded a fastball right at Araki to end the inning and strand all three runners. Biggest crime of the inning, however, was Hatakeyama’s wasteful at-bat which put that second out on the board.

Yoshinori started the third by getting Chunichi’s catcher, Tanishige, to strike out swinging, and Nakata also struck out to put two quick outs on the board. Ibata then broke up Yoshinori’s no-hitter with a double down the line in left.

Fukuchi then made a nice diving catch in left to keep the score at 0-0 and rob Araki of a possible rbi.

Tokyo didn’t put up much of a fight in the fouth with Tanaka and Aikawa grounding out and Yoshinori striking out swinging.

Tanaka rbi single in the sixth.Yoshinori started leaving pitches in the middle of the plate after that. Morino hit a slider that Guiel caught just in front of the warning track in right, and then Blanco crushed the first meatball he saw into right field to reach first base. Luckily Wada grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Impressively, Yoshinori made it through the first four innings on only 57 pitches.

Kawashima led off the Swallows’ fifth with a chip-shot into center field to set the table for Fukuchi, but he struck out swinging on a cutter. Interestingly, Fukuchi wasn’t asked to bunt where Tanaka nearly always is.

Aoki then forced Kawashima into out number two on a grounder to third. Hatakeyama followed by again popping up, this time in fair territory, for out number three.

Yoshinori started off the fifth with a three pitch strikeout of Lee. Fujii, who loves hitting against the Swallows and has recorded nearly 25% of his hits this season against our team, grounded out to second before Tanishige appeared and struck out for the second time today.

After five innings, Yoshinori had thrown 69 pitches and allowed only two hits. His five strikeouts were attended by only one walk, and he looked like he might be able to put in another seven inning outing. Now if he could only get some run support.

In the sixth, Guiel led off with his third walk of the game, again controlling the strike zone beautifully and allowing Nakata to try and hit the corners. Guiel again didn’t swing and quickly found himself on first.

Takeuchi followed with a sharp liner into right field that allowed Guiel to reach third again. So once again, the Swallows found themselves with runners on first and third.

And finally, Tokyo was able to make something happen. Tanaka poked one into left to score Guiel from third. 1-0 Tokyo.

Aikawa thankfully recorded his out without involving anyone else and Tokyo was left with men on first and second and one out.

Yoshinori then started flashing the bunt, but did well to get ahead in the count with two balls and no strikes. However, he then fouled off three successive bunt attempts to make it out number two.

Hirata led off the sixth with a full-count swinging strikeout on a 95 mph fastball. Ibata then drew a walk on a full-count to put Araki at the plate with one out and Ibata on base once again. But Araki grounded into a very nicely executed 6-4-3 double play to eliminate the danger and send Yoshinori to the dugout without an earned run and 88 pitches to his credit.

The Swallows again sat down quietly in the top of the seventh against Chunichi’s middle-reliever, Takahashi.

Yoshinori was allowed to soldier on and try to protect the one run lead. He started the seventh by getting Morino to ground out for out number one, but Blanco reached base again by drawing a walk. Wada avoided a repeat of his earlier double-play by bouncing one to Aoki to put men on first and second with one out.

Lee then grounded out to a high-speed Kawashima who got the force at second to maintain the same situation but add an out. Then the bird-killer came to the plate to test the 19-year old. Yoshinori managed to get him to strike out on an inside forkball in the dirt to preserve the 1-0 scoreline.

Yoshinori’s made it through seven complete innings on 109 pitches and only three hits. He also mixed in seven strikeouts and three walks.

With Takahashi still pitching, Guiel finally decided to swing on a low 1-1 pitch in his fourth at-bat. His second swing since his first at-bat was the one on which he struck out. Takeuchi and Tanaka followed in a similar manner.

A little bit surprisingly, Yoshinori again came to the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Chunichi’s manager, Ochiai, wisely reacted by putting Tatsunami in to pinch-hit for the utterly ineffective Tanishige. However, the switch didn’t work, and Tatsunami grounded out easily to short. But Ochiai’s second pinch-hitting choice, Koike in for the pitcher, was a good one. Koike drove through to center field to put a man on first for Ibata.

Ibata got ahold of a pitch but Aoki tracked very quickly to his left to run it down and keep Koike on first. Two outs and Araki at the plate. Although ahead in the count, Araki grounded out to Kawashima who threw to Tanaka for the force at second.

After eight innings, and with Lim warming up in the bullpen, it was clear that Yoshinori’s night was over. Yoshinori finished his evening after throwing 122 pitches and giving up four hits. Tonight turned out to be one of his best starts ever in a Tokyo uniform.

Kawahara came on to pitch the top of the ninth for Chunichi. He’s still sporting a 0.50 ERA which ain’t too shabby for a setup man.

Aikawa chased an outside pitch and grounded out to first for out number one. Kawabata, hitting for Takeuchi had a big day at the plate.Yoshinori, popped up to center for out number two. Kawashima popped up to Lee in right field to end the inning.

And then it was Lim’s turn. Protecting a one run lead, number 12 came in to face the roughest part of the Chunichi lineup.

Morino began by popping up to center on the first pitch he saw. One out.

Blanco launched the second pitch he saw into the right field bleachers. 1-1.

Poor Yoshinori.

Lim then appeared to pitch around Wada a little bit and ended up walking him to put the winning run on first with only one out.

Lim got Lee to ground into a 3-6-3 double play to end the inning and send the game to the 10th.

With one out, and the crazy-good Asao on the mound for Chunichi, Aoki poked the second pitch he saw into right field to get things started for the Swallows in the first extra inning.

Takada brought Yoshimoto in just so that he could bunt. Aoki moved over to second with two outs.

Guiel lucked out big time and was able to reach first on a pitch that he spiked into the turf in front of home plate. That put runners on first and third for the hot-hitting Takeuchi who was 2-4 in the game up to that point.

Bang. Takeuchi came through with the go-ahead rbi single that scored Aoki from third. And just for good measure, Tanaka had an rbi single past first base that put the Swallows up 3-1.

And that would just about do it. Amazingly, and against the odds, the Swallows were able to score two with two outs.

Igarashi (2.58) came on to deal with the Dragons in the bottom of the 10th. He made things really interesting by allowing the first two batters, Fujii and Hidenori to reach base with no outs. But then Ryota buckled down and got the next three batters out and preserve the lead. He earned his third save of the year while Lim (5-1, 0.59) got the undeserved win.

Yoshinori didn’t end up getting the win, but he saw his ERA improve to an admirable 3.14.

Both Aoki and Takeuchi had 3-5 days at the plate. Singnificantly, Aoki saw his batting average rise above .270 since April. He still leads the team in terms of on-base percentage at .376.

Also worthy of praise is Aaron Guiel who drew three walks in his first three at-bats of the night.

Tanaka also came through with two clutch hits this evening and tallied two of the team’s three rbi’s.

It was a very welcome win even though Yoshinori didn’t get the W that he deserved. It was only the fourth win of August for Tokyo, but hopefully it was a small sign that the team is on its way to working through the worst funk experienced yet this season.

The birds have tomorrow off before a six game home stand versus Hanshin (Tues-Thurs) and Yomiuri (Fri-Sun).

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

  • flick

    Happy for the win, but feel bad for Yoshinori. He is certainly our future though.
    I have noticed Takeuchi to come through a lot in clutch situation, and always wonder why he doesn’t get to play more often.