8/20/09 — Hanshin (Home)

August 20th, 2009

Sanshin TigersTokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Hanshin Tigers 10

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2

Streak: Lost 1     Last 5:  LWLWL

(Jingu Stadium)

Well, I was wrong about who would be pitching today. I thought, and kind of hoped, that it would be Yuuki. Unfortunately, it was Ichiba.

So it is probably necessary for me to think of a couple of positives before getting into the report of the game. Here’s are a couple of things to be happy about at this point in time:

a) many of the fair-weather Hanshin fans are staying home these days, so the police presence has been reduced quite a bit.

b) Jingu has temporarily suspended their tolerance of those balloons due to the health hazard that they pose (swine flu, etc.). Hopefully the stadium authorities will join the growing number of stadia that ban their use outright.

But that’s about all there is to be happy about at  this point. Today’s game was nothing short of brutal.

The wheels fell completely off.

Tokyo’s lineup:

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

As you can plainly see, every other guy in the lineup is second string, so run production was again a rather significant issue. The biggest issue, however, was the man in the number nine slot.

Hanshin’s Akahoshi and our Kawashima were both taking a rest today after getting pegged in yesterday’s game. That was a good ‘ole beanball fest with Hanshin hitting us three times and the Swallows retaliating with two hit batters of its own.

The first inning wasn’t very exciting aside from a nice hit up the middle by Kawabata. Aoki nearly hit into a double play, but was quick to the bag. The end of the inning came on a nice leaping grab by second baseman, Hirano.

Ichiba started the second by walking Kanemoto despite being way ahead in the count from the start. Arai popped up to right for out number one, Sakurai drew a second full-count walk from Ichiba.

Allow me just a moment to say, “Holy crap Ichiba takes a long time to get ready to throw!” I’m not exactly sure why he needs that much time to throw pitches in the dirt, but…

Ichiba saw a third batter work a full count on him, but luckily Katsuragi struck out swinging to put a second out on the board.

Unfortunately, for the team, but luckily for Ichiba’s ERA, the ensuing ground ball that was hit to third was bobbled, and Hatakeyama made a terrible hash of getting the ball to first. He was tagged with an error on the play, and the bases were loaded.

Amazingly, Hatakeyama snagged another error on the very next hitter, and run number one scored while the bases stayed loaded. 1-0 Tigers.

Asai then came through with Hanshin’s first hit of the inning when he drove one through the middle to score two. 3-0 Hanshin.

And the crowd started to get very, very restless.

Somehow, Ichiba got Hirano to strike out swinging to finally put an end to the inning.

Guiel started the second by striking out after chasing a very low outside pitch, and Takeuchi followed with a full count grounder straight to second for out number two. Tanaka managed to beat the throw to first on a lengthy grounder between third and short, but Kawamoto forced a full-count swing and struck out to end the inning.

The top of the third was also a mess. Ichiba started responding to the unending abuse from right field and sped up his tempo. For the record, it didn’t help one bit.

Toritani and Kanemoto both came up with solo home runs to put the Tigers ahead 5-0.

Arai very nearly put a third one over the wall in right, but Guiel caught it right at the warning track for the first out. Sakurai then destroyed a pitch but luckily it seared straight at Fukuchi in left.

Katsuragi then drew a two out walk, and Kanou hit one that bounced off the wall in center to score Katsuragi from first. Kanou made it to second on the hit. 6-0 Hanshin.

Hanshin pitcher, Kubo, then bounced one at Hatakeyama who again did a terrible job of throwing to first. However, the scorer got tired of assigning him errors, and it was called a hit. With two outs and runners on first and third, Asai popped one softly into the seats in left to clear the bases and make it 9-0 Hanshin. Hirano mercifully struck out to end the inning.

I don’t know how much Kawamoto had to do with all those home runs, but damn…I think that the last time I saw someone get hit that hard was in high school.

The Swallows got things started in the bottom of the third with consecutive hits from pinch-hitter Yoneno (in for Ichiba) and Fukuchi. Kawabata then singled to right to load the bases and give Aoki a huge chance at being a bit of a hero for the home team. A hit would have been preferable, but Aoki managed a sac fly to center field that scored Yoneno and moved Fukuchi over to third.

With runners on first and third and Hatakeyama at the plate, there was some hope that he would atone for all of that nasty fielding during the first three innings of the game with a big hit, but all he could come up with was a potential double-play ball. Luckily for the less than speedy third baseman, Kawabata made a good hard slide into second that slowed down the throw and allowed Hatakeyama to reach safely. Fukuchi scored from third in the process. 9-2 Hanshin.

Guiel then worked the count full before popping up to first base to end the inning.

With Matsui (2.25) making his second appearance of the season for Tokyo, only Toritani was able to reach base as the Tigers had their least productive inning since the first.

The only good thing that happened during the next couple of innings was Takeuchi’s leaping grab of Katsuragi’s line drive over his head. That was a nice play, but they didn’t show it again on that nice, big, shiny scoreboard in center field. Don’t you just love those huge, red car navi advertisements that bookend both sides of the scoreboard?! Sorry.

Lee (3.81) pitched the sixth and got through it without too much pain, and Takagi made it through the seventh without conceding a run in his first appearance of the season. However, the Tokyo bats weren’t able to get anything going on offense.

Takagi stayed in to pitch the eighth as well and struck Asai out to get things started, but Hirano reached safely on a single between first and second base. Luckily Toritani hit into a 3-6-3 double play to finish thing off for Takagi and maintain a triple-bagel ERA.

In the bottom of the eighth Aoki had a double, but the only other excitement was Tanaka reaching second base on a passed ball third strike. I may be mistaken, but I think Kanou did the same thing last night. No runs scored, of course.

Here’s the question of the day: how long before Hagiwara’s (4.93) arm falls off? He’s pitched an awful lot recently, especially now that the team is struggling.

Kanemoto and Arai quickly reached base with no outs to make things interesting. A little bit of Yoneno-can’t-catch-the-ball action later, and suddenly there were runners on second and third.

Guiel came up with another nice defensive play in left to snag a foul ball, but a run scored because he was on his back when he caught it. 10-2 Hanshin.

And that’s how things ended. Both Fukuchi and Kawabata had three hits apiece, and both Guiel and Tanaka added a pair each, but the Swallows were found lacking in their ability to bring runners around. The overall discipline at the plate with runners in scoring position appears to be backtracking, but that’s likely just because there are so many backups playing at the moment.

To be fair to Ichiba, I don’t think that this debacle was totally his fault. First of all, Aikawa should have been catching. That might have helped a little bit. Secondly, he was keeping his pitches down, and that’s why a lot of them ended up in the dirt. But at least they were down. Finally, if that first Hatakeyama error hadn’t happened, then there may have been a very different result because Ichiba would have gotten out of the third unscathed. That second error didn’t help either.

But the guy still needs a lot of work. Unfortunately, it’s likely that he’ll get sent down to the farm team after tonight’s performance, and that’s not really going to help a whole lot. Who knows, though, maybe he can spend some time figuring out how to locate his pitches against less accomplished hitters, and then return with a bit more confidence in late September.

In the end, it took Ichiba 85 pitches to get through three innings. That’s not great. And it’s not good either. Six earned runs crossed home plate on only six hits, three of which were home runs. He also issued three walks. His record now stands at 1 win against five losses, and his ERA is 7.89, which is roughly the same as Dave’s fitted hat size.

Hanshin’s Kubo had a decent outing and also deserves some credit for keeping runs off the board. Hopefully we’ll have our normal lineup in there the next time we face him.

A disaster-riddled series now awaits the birds as Yomiuri travels down the Sobu line for a three-game series starting tomorrow night at 6pm. Fun fun.

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

  • zunlin

    At the moment Ichiba and Muranaka are automatic a humiliating loss.
    I would prefer to have a discotinue Kawashima and Yuki instead of them.

    The difficult we have on scoring more than 1 or 2 runs in the last games starts to be embarassing.

    Let’s see the next games, maybe we can change the flow in the next 3 😛

  • Christopher

    Your problem has been RBIs. The two run third was really not enough facing nine runs and summed up the Swallows problems. You need to drive in runners. Even the victory of the night before was due to Hanshin errors rather than Swallows hitting. D’Antona’s absence is causing a lot of problems at the moment.

    On jettos – it’s time to bring them back and the Jingu authorities need to reintroduce them post haste (they’re fun and that’s what baseball is about). Maybe the reduced police presence was because more were needed to control the violent Giants fans?

    • On jettos – it’s time to bring them back and the Jingu authorities need to reintroduce them post haste (they’re fun and that’s what baseball is about).

      Precisely why the teams that have copied Hiroshima’s inane and obnoxious practice are free to litter up their own parks – it’s just bad form to throw slobbery garbage around other people’s grounds. The last thing any place needs is more instant plastic garbage. Among the last things any stadium in NPB needs are yet more things to slow down games.

      As for the Giants fans, I find myself in the very odd position of kind of defending them again. Was there some incident that I missed at the Big Egg?

      I can only say that, over the past eight years, in a few different parks, in dozens of games, “violent” is about the last word I’d use to describe the Yomiuri crowd. In fact, they could do with a good deal more passion.

  • Mac

    I can’t face Jingu tonight. After watching Tuesday and Thursday’s ‘classics’ (and as always missing Wednesday’s victory) I am not brave enough to bet against the probabilities and suffer the humiliation of another rinsing by the kutabare. Especially as my last Tokyo Derby was the 10-7 drubbing away a few Fridays ago surrounded by Yomiuri ‘fans’. That won’t stop me hoping for a 20-0 victory in my absence.

  • Rob

    Wow, Ichiba usually teases us by doing well for two or three innings before he flies off the rails. Didn’t even make that this time. Not that it mattered – can’t win if you can’t score, and we can’t do that right now.

    Why use Hagiwara and Lee last night? They are part of the staff you’d expect to see in games where we’re ahead or where it’s close. If we need somebody for mop-up, that’s where the lesser-known quantities should get a chance to show what they can do. Takada did use Matsui and Takagi, great, but why waste Hagiwara and Lee in the process?

    Upside from tonight – the Gnats probably don’t care about this series with TYS and are gearing up for next week with the Dragons, so maybe we can catch them napping. Okay, I’m grasping at straws….

    • Rob,
      I know what you mean about Lee, but I’m of the opinion that Hagiwara should rarely be used to protect a lead.

      He’s been used consistently and incessantly whether we’re winning or losing, and he’s been largely ineffective in both situations (partly because his arm is about to fall off from overuse).

      His ERA through 38 1/3 innings is 4.93, and opposing batters are hitting .329 against him. To be honest, I’m not quite sure why he’s on the first team at all.

      Actually, I take that back. I know exactly why he’s on the first team. He’s there because he was a Takada import.

      But that’s beside the point.

      Ruining veterans’ arms is fine if you’ve got a backup plan, but we don’t…unless you call Kida a backup plan.

      I’m sure we’ll be seeing Kida on the first team again before too long. We’ve tired out plenty of shoulders already this season…

  • flick

    Haha, as promised, dude has been sent down to the minors. http://www.sponichi.co.jp/baseball/news/2009/08/21/09.html
    I am beginning to miss Miyade… a lot….

  • Christopher

    Of course Jettos are fun and a spectacular sight – you are a bit of a killjoy aren’t you? It also creates a great feeling of togetherness among the fans. Given that fans create all sorts of rubbish anyway and Swallows fans don’t even clean up after themselves (unlike the Tigers Gaia) one shouldn’t get hung up about balloons which dry themselves out as they fly around. Less puritanical spirit

    Yes, Giants fans have been getting more violent, smashing up railway stations and attacking other fans. This has been chiefly when they lose though. It’s a recent trend though, really this past season but it’s happening.

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree,

    Swallows fans don’t even clean up after themselves (unlike the Tigers Gaia).

    Your overgeneralizations make me smile.

  • Christopher

    Yes it was a bit of an over-generalisation wasn’t it?