8/28/09 — Chunichi (Home)

August 28th, 2009

Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Chunichi Dragons 7

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 5

Streak: Lost 3    Last 5: LWLLL

(Jingu Stadium)

I’m beginning to suspect that the team is losing on purpose in order to make Takada look bad in the (foolish) hope that he won’t be asked to stick around next season.

And just to get it out of the way, here it is:

TAKADA COUNT: 9

Tokyo’s starting lineup:

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

With Yuuki on the mound, the birds got behind from the get-go. The on-fire Morino singled in Araki from second base to make it 1-0 Dragons.

And things only got worse from there. In the third, Yuuki was assessed with an error after walking the lead-off man which set the stage for a bases-loaded conundrum that eventually yielded three runs. 4-0 Dragons.

The birds kept it close, however, by answering with two runs in the bottom of that inning. Aoki’s sharp one out single was followed by a booming home run by Guiel (his 19th of the season) to make it 4-2.

But with two outs and a man on in the fourth, Chunichi put together a pair of singles and a Morino double to plate two runs and extend the lead to 6-2 Dragons.

And that would be the end of Yuuki’s evening. He gave up six runs, three of them earned, in four innings of work while taking the loss. He gave up nine hits during his 80-pitch effort, and he struck out two, walked one, and beaned another to take his 2009 season record to 3-4. His ERA rose to 3.82.

Both teams went hitless in the fifth and sixth with Matsui (3.60) claiming both of those scoreless innings for the Swallows (although he did walk two batters).

In the top of the seventh, the ever pesky Morino put a little bit of an exclamation point on the board with aGuiel came to play. solo shot off of Tokyo’s second reliever, Takagi (1.50). 7-2 Chunichi.

But to his credit, the 26-year-old Takagi didn’t allow another runner reach base after that and the same was true of his work in the eighth innings as well.

Guiel came through again in the bottom of the seventh with his second home run of the game, this one a chip shot on an outside pitch that landed in the 1,900 yen seats in right. It was his second homer of the game and 20th of the season. 7-3 away team.

And Iihara added one more run in the bottom of the eighth with a two out homer to left (his fifth) that made it 7-4.

Kida (5.59) retired all three batters he faced in the top of the ninth.

And here’s where my memory fades a little bit, so I’m going to need a little help with the details. Somewhere along the line, Miyamoto was subbed out and Yoshimoto was put in the lineup. If it happened after the end of the eighth, which is what I suspect happened, then fine. But if it happened during the bottom of the ninth, then that’s a big problem.

When he was taken out of the game is beside the point actually. It is generally inadvisable to take your best players out of the lineup during a close game. Takada did the same with Aikawa, unfortunately, so instead of Miyamoto and the recently in-form Aikawa in the lineup for the crucial bottom of the ninth, we had Yoshimoto and Yoneno. Yes, Yoneno.

With Iwase on the mound to protect the three run lead, Fukuchi and Aoki put two quick hits up on the board to make things menacing.

Guiel popped up to shallow left, but in general the Swallows hitters are to be commended for being patient and allowing Iwase to get behind in the count. And to Yoshimoto’s credit, even though I just argued that Miyamoto should have been at the plate instead of him, he was able to draw a walk and load the bases with one out.

And then Hatakeyama stole the show…almost. He hit a shot to right that came within two meters of leaving the park, and the consolation prize was that Fukuchi was able to scamper home from third. 7-5 blue monsters.

Second baseman, Tanaka, after whom I am thinking of naming at least one of my future children, then drew a walk to rejuice the bases and bring the whole deal to a climax.

Now, a week or so ago, people would have packed it in right there because our catcher, Aikawa, was swinging a fan up there. But somehow, somewhere, the man has regained his swagger and looks a bit more like his old self. So all of a sudden, Tokyo fans were brimming with justifiable hope.

Except…wait! Why the hell is Yoneno coming to the plate?! How did he get in the game?! No. Stop! We don’t care if Yoneno went 2-2 on Wednesday against the Carp when he came off the bench as a sub after the team was already down 11-0!!

Takada!!! Takada!!! What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Takada!!! (It’s helpful if you imagine Dave’s voice for that last bit).

But Ochiai made Iwase hit the showers anyway, and pint-sized, Asao, one of the best pitchers in the country at the moment, came in to face our fearsome third-string catcher.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Asao’s first pitch ended up as a feeble fly ball to second base. Game over.

7-5 Final.

The star of the game for Tokyo, obviously, was Aaron Guiel who provided three rbi’s with his two home runs. Both he and Aoki reached base three times apiece. Additionally, both Miyamoto and Aikawa reached base twice in this contest. Otherwise, nothing all that impressive happened for the home team.

I’m not exactly sure what happened to the “Just Play to Win” mantra, but that’s definitely not what Takada is doing right now.

Case in point: what’s the deal with bringing Yuichi straight up from the farm to start (over Takeuchi and Hatakeyama) at first?

I’ve still got a little bit of love for the guy (even though he has hardly improved at all during the past six years), but if he’s good enough to come straight up and start, then he never should have been on the farm team in the first place.

Furthermore, there is some serious negative energy running through the team right now, and it looks as though they can’t remember how to play win. I would have a little bit of confidence that the team could pull out of this tailspin if it weren’t for the instability that has infected our starting rotation (partly of Takada’s own doing). My prediction is that the team maintains this funk for at least the next couple of weeks.

And if something doesn’t change quickly, then I don’t think it’s too much to say that the birds are a shoe-in for another fifth place finish.

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

  • I have a seriously sore throat from all that shouting/booing in the 9th and at Takada as he left the field.

    Nice to see some others joined in with me. Even the usually mild mannered Swallows fans are starting to realise what a chump they have as a manager.

  • Rob

    Always looking for upside – we chased Iwase!
    More upside – the two beers/inning bit works! Last night wasn’t as painful as the previous couple of losses. But no need to make hasty conclusions – further research tonight.
    And, hello, one of Guiel’s homers was against lefty Takahashi, so could we please stop benching him against left-handed starters?

    • Rob,

      We can definitely use the positive spin on things around here, so keep it coming!

      And I didn’t even twig that Guiel’s second homer came off of a southpaw. Hopefully he provides a few more hits off of lefties to help keep himself in the starting lineup!

      I love Iihara, but I feel safer with Guiel’s arm in right.

  • Mac

    For me, we lost this game in the fourth innings. Even my Dragons fan mate could not believe that Yuuki wasn’t pulled after three.

    I wasn’t in the Onedan for this one. Although I won’t make a habit of it, that view from right behind home plate is pretty special.

    Fatakeyama’s ‘almost’ is a memory that will haunt me for a while, methinks.

    I managed 18 beers in this game. Then I got in a taxi, went home, and passed out. This was the only upside for me.