8/18/09 — Hanshin (Home)

August 18th, 2009

Sanshin TigersTokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Hanshin Tigers 4

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1

Streak: Lost 1     Last 5:  LLLWL

(Jingu Stadium)

Let it never be said that chances weren’t created in this game. Tokyo put plenty of runners on base, but they were phenomenally unsuccessful at getting them to cross home plate. Such is the overriding theme of this game report.

I will say, however, that I did meet a trio of very nice people at the game today, so it wasn’t all bad.


Ishikawa started this one for the birds, and he sat the Tigers down quick in the top of the first. Real quick.

In the Swallows’ first, Kawashima led things off with an infield single that ended up as a two-bagger when the throw from third bounced past Brazell at first. Fukuchi immediately started flashing the bunt and was awarded with two quick strikes. He struck out swinging.

**Just a thought, but we really need to start keeping track of how many times attempting to bunt puts the batter on their heels and works out to be a wasted at-bat anyway (as in the case mentioned above). It seems to happen a lot to us, but that’s probably partly because we happen to bunt more than most other teams in the world Japan.

With Kawashima on second and one out, Aoki moved him over with a fly ball to right. Unfortunately, Hatakeyama played copycat and also hit a fly ball to right, so the first runner of the evening was stranded. Yippee!

Arai contributed the initial bit of damage by collecting both the Tigers’ first hit, rbi, and run of the game. He pelted a gimme pitch over the left field wall with one out in the second. Sakurai also reached base on a two-out single to left, but Yano grounded out to second to end the threat of a second run scoring. 1-0 Tigers.

Following some other-worldly patience at the plate the other night in which he walked three times in a row, Guiel drew another full-count walk in his first at-bat this evening.

Takeuchi proceeded to foul off four pitches before a hit and run was called and a rather tough bouncer was lined right at Brazell which he couldn’t get his glove on. Brazell was, of course (because if he’s a foreign power-hitter, then it must have been his fault for not coming up with it!), charged with an error. Guiel moved over to third as the ball bounced into right, and then Takeuchi also moved over a bag when Tanaka took a pitch in the back.

So it was the slumping Aikawa’s turn at the plate with no outs and the bases loaded. Double play?

Believe it or not…no. After working the count full, Aikawa managed to draw a walk and push Guiel across home plate. All square at 1-1.

Ishikawa then grounded out (force at home), but luckily he was able to beat the double-play throw to first. Kawashima came up and hastily punted the first pitch he saw straight up in the air. It eventually landed in very shallow right field.

With the bases still loaded and two outs, Fukuchi grounded out to short. Four stranded runners so far. Nice nice!

Aoki led off with a single in the bottom of the third, but nobody was able to find a way to bring him home. Stranded runner number five. And there would be several more.

But before Tokyo could strand more runners, Ishikawa got into some serious trouble in the top of the fourth when he started off by walking Kanemoto and plunking Arai.

Brazell then doubled to bring Kanemoto home. The first out wasn’t recorded until Yano grounded out to second. After that, Andou politely struck out for out number two, and then Akahoshi grounded out harmlessly as well to limit the damage. 2-1 Tigers.

With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Ishikawa had a single to shallow left, but that was it in terms of highlights.

Aoki came up with a one out double to get things started in the bottom of the fifth, but again the Swallows weren’t able to create any magic.

Sakurai gave the visitors another run on a two out, full-count bomb to left. Ishikawa gives up homers with the best of them, that’s for sure. 3-1 Tigers.

For the record, Ishikawa leads the team in home runs allowed (21), and he leads the league in earned runs (57).

Lee came in to pitch the top of the seventh and things got rough pretty quick. A leadoff hit by Asai was followed by a terribly congested fielding effort that allowed Akahoshi to reach base as well. Hirano moved the runners over on a groundout, so it was runners on second and third with one out. Toritani then struck out after fouling off about 500 pitches. Or maybe five. Whatever.

After a team conference on the mound it was time to go for out number three.

Kanemoto, thankfully, popped up to shallow right. Phew!

With Egusa on the mound, Kawashima came to the plate to start the Swallows seventh. Keizo led off with a push bunt down toward first base that allowed him to reach base safely. The very next offering from Egusa was bouncy enough that Kawashima was able to move over to second freely.

Unfortunately, Kawashima got a little bit greedy on Fukuchi’s liner to short and was consumed in the rundown. Another wasted opportunity.

With Fukuchi on first, Aoki came to the plate in a rather critical situation. But yet another passed ball allowed the runner to move to second. Too bad kawashima wasn’t still on base…

But it didn’t really matter because Aoki flew out to center. So it was two outs, Fukuchi on second, and Hatakeyama at the plate. You will remember that he has been developing his pop fly skills as of late, and the inning ended on a very soft fly ball that was caught on the line in right field. Yet another runner stranded.

Hagiwara came on to pitch the top of the eighth. Arai popped up to center before Brazell drilled the first pitch he saw into the right field bleachers. I’m very nearly about to start calling Aikawa to task on his pitch calling because the number of solo home runs is getting a bit disturbing. Luckily they were all solo home runs. Sakurai struck out, but it was hardly consolation for the number of long balls offered up to the folks in yellow and pink.

Fortunately, Yano didn’t put up much of a fight, and Hagiwara was through with that matchup in three pitches.

4-1 Hanshin.

Atchison came in to defend for the Swallows’ eighth. His no-nonsense, ‘I can throw 100 pitches in 100 seconds’ approach worked wonders against the middle of the Tokyo lineup, and everyone from Guiel to Tanaka were retired inside of 2.5 seconds. Why nobody tried to change the pace up a little and throw him off his rhythm is beyond me.

Oshimoto came in to pitch the ninth for the Swallows. Hiyama flew out to right on the first pitch he saw, and then Akahoshi eventually, after like 30 foul balls (seriously), grounded out to second. Hirano then lined out to left field.

With the score at 4-1, and Aikawa the next scheduled batter at the plate, it was only logical that the ridiculously ineffective catcher would be replaced in the batting order against Hanshin’s closer, Fujikawa. Even Takada was able to surmise the ridiculousness of the matchup. Noguchi came in to face Hanshin’s most fearsome right arm.

Unfortunately, h quickly got behind in the count and probably discovered just a bit too late that it’s probably best not to swing at all. Strike three was swift and nearly invisible.

Iihara came in for the next round of arresting heaters. Yasushi watched three successive pitches sail wide of the mark before taking a pitch for strike one. He seemed, at first, to understand that swinging is not really necessary. However, he hacked away at the next two pitches to strike out easily and let Fujikawa off the hook.

Kawashima also swiped at the first pitch he saw and fouled it off. Strike two was a very generous call for Fujikawa on a glacially-paced pitch that was a bit high. Keizo avoided the next two pitches, but he couldn’t resist the next offering and he grounded it weakly to third to end the game.

Final: 4-1 Tigers.

Only Kawashima and Aoki had a mult-hit game to tonight. I’m kind of getting used to typing that now.

Additionally, and to his credit, Aikawa drew a pair of walks.

Other than that, not a whole lot happened.

The birds were found wanting in their ability to bring runners around from third this evening. Miyamoto and D’Antona were very sorely missed, and they will continue to be missed during the rest of this week. The Swallows face two more games against the Tigers, and then a trio of home games against cross-town rival, Yomiuri, to finish off a crucial six-game home stand.

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