8/5/09 — Yokohama (Away)

August 5th, 2009

Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3

Yokohama BayStars 8

Streak: Lost 1  Last 5: WWLWL

(Yokohama Stadium)

Ichiba made his first start for the Swallows in quite a while (partly due to some tinkering with this delivery–he’s now throwing from a 3/4 stance), and the result was interesting. I think he set a new record for most sliders in the dirt.

Welcome back, Ichiba.

Tokyo’s lineup:

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

The birds got on the board first in the top of the second after Guiel reached on a bloop single off of a Miura curveball to put a man on first with no outs. Miyamoto then grounded one right between Miura’s legs and the pitcher wasn’t able to come up with it in time to throw anywhere. Runners safe at first and second. Aikawa, after faking a bunt, ended up drawing a walk to load the bases, and Kawashima followed with a single to bring Guiel home from third. 1-0 Tokyo.

Ichiba would go down swinging, luckily (a double play would have sucked), so that was the first out of the Ichiba is working through a change in his pitching motion.inning, and Aoki quickly followed him into the dugout by swinging foolishly at the first pitch he saw. That one was a high pitch that ended up right in the shortstop’s glove. Two outs with the bases still loaded.

But the Swallows were able to squeeze one more run out of the inning when Tanaka brought Miyamoto home from third with a single between first and second base. 2-0 Swallows.

The Baystars, much like last night, would get themselves back in the game. With Ichiba’s control never really returning to where it was in the first inning, the Baystars started to make good contact on a bevy of mistake pitches. With two outs and nobody on, Yoshimura singled before Ishikawa took one on the left foot to put runners on first and second. Hosoyamada then came through with a double, his second hit of the game, to score both runners and tie the game at 2-2.

Things got worse in the fifth. Just like in the fourth, Ichiba was able to get those first two outs without too much trouble. But then he ran into some quality hitters–guys that are capable of punishing sliders that hang a bit too long. Uchikawa hit a double off the corner in left, and then Murata destroyed the best pitch he saw to put the home team ahead by two with a huge shot into the seats in right. 4-2 Yokohama.

Not to be outdone, Johnson, who has played very well in the field this series (as he always does) and against whom the only knock is the fact that his swing looks like a less-open version of Petagine’s, hit one so hard that the ball nearly embedded itself in the scoreboard high above the center field wall. 5-2 home team.

In the sixth, with the end to Ichiba’s time on the mound quickly approaching, he gave up a leadoff single to Ishikawa before Hosoyamada drew a walk. After Miura’s sac bunt moved the runners over to second and third, Ichiba’s return to first team pitching finally ended, and middle-reliever, Hye-cheon Lee, found himself in the middle of a less than welcoming situation.

After starting well, things got tougher and tougher for Ichiba.Lee (3.66) then gave up a triple to Kinjoh that cleared the bases to make it 7-2 Baystars. Kinjoh soon reached home plate on a two out Uchikawa single to right. 8-2.

In stark contrast to the Swallows’ pitching, Miura kept getting better and better. It took him a massive 49 pitches to get through the first two innings, but only 56 to get through the next five.

Kida (3-4, 5.40) came in to pitch the seventh and Yoneno replaced Aikawa behind the plate to make only his second appearance of the season. Kida would have been out of the inning pretty quickly (on only11 pitches) if Aoki hadn’t overran a pop fly in left. It was ruled a hit, but the guy making that call in the scorer’s box behind home plate is obviously an Aoki fan. Kida struck out the next batter he faced and no damage was done.

Kida stayed in for the eighth as well and made quick work of the three batters he faced (thanks, in part, to Miura standing five feet from home plate and swinging at all three pitches he saw, half a second late).

Guiel led off the top of the ninth with a solo home run to right, his 17th, to make it 8-3 Yokohama.

Up until that point. Miura had given up only one hit over the previous six innings.

After Miyamoto struck out, Yoneno hit the first pitch he saw into left field. It was his first hit of the season in only his second at-bat. A Miura wild pitch moved him over to second, but that was as far as Yoneno would get as pinch-hitter, Hatakeyama, flew out to center to end the game.

Guiel and Tanaka were the two brightest sparks for the Swallows on offense. Both had two hits and an rbi.

Other than that, Miura had a great game, and that’s all there was to it.

It’s good that Ichiba reentered the fray against the Baystars because a more high-powered offense would have completely destroyed him inside of three innings. He was able to face 27 batters and get a lot of quality work in, so there’s definitely a silver lining to the pummeling that the team took tonight.

After all was said and done, Ichiba gave up seven earned runs off of eight hits. He had four strikeouts, two walks, a hit batter, and one wild pitch. He definitely had his moments, and there is definitely potential there for him to eventually become a fifth starter (next season?), but our pitching coach, Araki, definitely has his work cut out for him. Ichiba’s record moved to 1-4 in seven starts, and his ERA blossomed to a generous 7.58.

If nothing else, it’s good that Ichiba is around to give Muranaka, Yuuki, and Kawashima a little competition for that last starting slot. And to be fair to the guy, he is having his pitching motion tinkered with right now. At the risk of making an extremely unfair comparison, Tiger Woods took a while to work through changes to the mechanics in his swing before coming back better than ever…Ichiba probably deserves at least half as much patience as Tiger received (damn, I wish he played for us!).

Game three of the series will be played out in Hiratsuka in a home-away-from-home game for the Baystars. Will the Swallows finally win a series against the Baystars? Probably not, but check back here tomorrow night either way.

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