9/1/09 — Hanshin (Away)

September 1st, 2009

Sanshin TigersTokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1

Hanshin Tigers 6

Streak: Lost 5    Last 5:  LLLLL

(Koshien)

The Tokyo Swallows kicked off an absolutely enormous week in defense of their ever-weakening hold on third place (and a playoff spot) by traveling down to Hanshin territory for a series versus the resurgent Tigers.

Refreshingly, the lineup finally looked like it did before the slump began in earnest (just a little while before D’Antona and Miyamoto went down with injuries).

Doh!

Yes, that’s right. D’Antona was back in the lineup tonight for the first time since a little over two weeks ago. The original prognosis was that he would be out for three weeks, but he appears to have rehabbed at an impressive pace.

Tokyo’s starting lineup:

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

Toritani put the home team on the board in the first on  a two-out homer to right-center. 1-0 Hanshin.

The Swallows got a little something going after Guiel’s leadoff pop fly to left. With one out, Miyamoto, Kawashima, and Aikawa had back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases.

But then, with Tateyama at the plate, Takada called for the squeeze on the first pitch. The ball bounced just in front of the plate which made it easy for Yano to glove it, step on home plate, and throw to first for the double play. A true tak bunt if there ever was one. Oops.

The bottom of the second inning started with a bit of slapstick humor. Arai fouled the first pitch he saw off of the home plate ump’s left knee. After a three minute break where it looked like the ump might start crying, he fouled the second Tateyama offering off the inside of his left thigh. He toughed it out, however, and eventually smacked a 2-2 pitch into left field.

However, D’Antona managed to turn the second unassisted double-play of the inning when Brazell lined the first pitch he saw right at him and he was easily able to double up Arai at first. Sakurai then lofted a pitch to the warning track in center for out number three.

The strike zone got a lot bigger after that as it looked like the umpire wanted to go home early. Both pitchers benefited for a little while, but then in the fourth Tateyama left a pitch over the plate that Aikawa had called for way outside. Kanemoto took advantage of it, and the result was a two-run homer that took the score to 3-0 Hanshin.

Following that, Arai singled and Brazell walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Sakurai ended up grounding one toward first that D’Antona did a good job of catching, but the throw to first wasn’t in time to get the double play. With two out, there were runners on first and third, and Tateyama’s control just got worse and worse.

Yano managed to come through with an rbi single to center that scored Arai from third to make it 4-0 Hanshin.

Hanshin starter, Ando, mercifully struck out to stop the bleeding.

With two outs in the top of the fifth, Tateyama and Fukuchi reached on consecutive singles. That came as a bit of a surprise to Ando. But he buckled down again and eventually got Tanaka to ground out to second to end the inning.

With Ando already on 86 pitches through five innings, Aoki led off the sixth with a stand-up double off the wall in right. D’Antona followed that with a first pitch bloop single to shallow right to move Aoki over to third with no outs. Guiel ended up grounding into a double play, but Aoki scored from third in the meantime to finally get a run on the board. 4-1 Hanshin.

Hey, we’ll take it. The last time Aoki, D’Antona, and Guiel came to the plate, all three of them struck out. At least they were able to generate a run this time around.

Incidentally, Yano’s pitch calling against Guiel in this game was very good. He just kept feeding Guiel a steady diet of inside pitches which the Tokyo outfielder pulled into foul territory every time. Yano then called for low outside pitches later in the at-bat, and Guiel popped up and grounded out once (and watched another pitch for a called third strike).

When Tateyama next took the mound, he had already thrown 83 pitches. He really needed to get out of this inning quickly in order to have a chance at pitching the seventh inning. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Kanemoto led off with a single before Arai hit a harrassing fly ball to center that ricocheted off of Aoki’s outstretched glove. Kanemoto chugged around from first to make it 5-1 Hanshin.

With Arai on second and one out, Katsuragi moved him over to third on a grounder to second for out number two. Arai later scored on pinch-hitter, Hiyama’s, single to center. 6-1 Hanshin.

In six innings of work, Tateyama threw 103 pitches, gave up six earned runs off of nine hits (two of which were home runs), struck out two, and walked a pair as well. Not to take anything away from the Hanshin hitters, because they definitely had a good game (Toritani is seeing everything in slow-motion at the moment), but this was definitely not one of Tateyama’s better starts. His record moved to 14-4 while his ERA fattened a bit to 3.44.

Recently recalled Hagiwara (4.81) pitched a scoreless seventh.

Mayumi showed his true colors in the eighth by bringing Egusa in to pitch with a five run lead (a true waste of an outing with the way that the birds are playing right now). Aoki grounded out harmlessly for out number one, and Hatakeyama fouled off three straight pitches before finally drawing a walk. Guiel followed that with a four pitch walk of Guiel. Huh.

Miyamoto came to the plate with runners on first and second and one out. After it looked like he might have things going his way, he guessed wrong and struck out swinging. And then something really strange happened. After looking like he was getting owned by Egusa, Kawashima drew a walk which loaded the bases with two outs.

And after that third walk, that was it for Egusa. Nice one, Mayumi. [I bet his middle name is Takada.]

So then another one of Hanshin’s very capable middle-relievers, Atchison, had to be called in to clean up a mess that wasn’t necessary in the first place.

Lucky for him, he was facing Aikawa. In a matter of 10 seconds, Atchison was well ahead in the count, and then Aikawa struck out looking (on a pitch that was a fair bit outside, but hey) to end the threat.

Takagi (1.29) came in to pitch the bottom of the eighth, and he looked reasonably sharp. He gave up Arai’s fourth hit of the evening (what did he have for breakfast?) to lead things off, but he sat everyone else down in order.

Abe then took the mound in his 19th appearance for Hanshin and walked both batters he faced, Iihara (pinch hitting for Takagi) and Fukuchi. That caused Mayumi to come out and make the unnecessary switch to Fujikawa. Men on first and second, and nobody out.

And Fujikawa came in and did his thing. He struck out Tanaka, Aoki, and Hatakeyama to close out the game and secure a very easy contest for the Hanshin Tigers.

Final score: 6-1 Hanshin.

And, once again, we must acknowledge a large part of the problem:

Takada Count: 10

Keep in mind that this number should be about twice as high as it is right now, but I was way too nice earlier on because the team was winning during the first half of the season. Funny how that happens. Now it appears that the Tigers are playing well in spite of their manager much like we did during the first half of the season.

Bright spots:

Veterans Fukuchi and Miyamoto had two hits each, and Kawashima also reached base twice. Fukuchi actually reached base three time when counting that walk in the ninth.

Takagi looked OK pitching the eighth. With all the injuries on the team this season, it’s nice to see one guy could come up from the farm and show enough potential to stick around a while. I’ve  probably just jinxed the kid, but he’s got solid mechanics and at least three good pitches that I saw.

Other than that, this game wasn’t a whole lot of fun to watch.

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

  • stevesayskanpai

    I put my thoughts on this game over at my blog.

    Ed. note: You have anything to say about it here, Steve? There’s an etiquette to jumping into a thread just to promote yourself, my good man. Why not join us?

  • Mac

    Just reading this makes me want to drink 18 beers.

  • That squeeze bunt attempt in the 2nd was typical Takada madness.

    I seem to recall that even the Hanshin TV commentators questioned the play, and they’d know a shitty call when they see it, having had to suffer Mayumi’s boneheaded calls throughout this season.

    Things really are looking bleaker by the day. Even with D’Antona back in the lineup, the pitching staff (starters and key bullpen members) seem to be collectively running out of steam.

    And the continued and repeated errors of “judgement” now shown on an almost daily basis by the “manager” means that all our troubles are just compounded as he conspires to shoot ourself in the foot. Time. After time. After time.

    Hanshin now appear to have their tails up, and unless we turn things around this week, we will almost certainly not hold on to that 3rd spot, and indeed if we don’t turn things around before too much longer, we may well end up in the same place we ended up last year in – 5th.

  • Jingu Bleacher Bum

    Okay, this isn’t funny anymore. The August swoon should be over Swallows. Let’s start winning now….

  • stevesayskanpai

    Apologies, it was an unintentional breaking of posting etiquette. Actually I kind of feel sorry for you Swallows- I’d much rather see you in the playoffs than the Dragons or Kyojin- as long as Hanshin are in there that is 😉

    Things seem to be going from bad to worse at the moment, while Hanshin have weathered their usual “shi no michi” well…