9/2/09 — Hanshin (Away)

September 2nd, 2009

Sanshin TigersTokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 4

Hanshin Tigers 9

Streak: Lost 6    Last 5:  LLLLL

(Koshien)

Luckily for the surging Tigers, Takada plugged Masubuchi into the lineup for his first start of the year. One could probably argue that this was not the wisest time to do such a thing, but we’ll get to that later.

One of those days...

Tokyo’s starting lineup:

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

Masubuchi’s start is best summed up by a quick look at the fifth inning. After getting Toritani to fly out to center, Masubuchi walked both Kanemoto and Arai. He got out number two on a strikeout of Brazell, but then the bases filled up on his third walk of the inning, this time a free base for Katsuragi. Hanshin’s catcher, Kanou, reached second on a drive to left that played around near the wall and allowed all three of the hitters that Masubuchi walked to score.

At that point it was 7-1 Hanshin, and that was it for Masubuchi who took the loss and has a robust 12.60 ERA to work on from here on out (if Takada doesn’t immediately send him back down to the farm, that is…a distinct possibility). His control was absolutely horrid as he walked six batters and threw two wild pitches for good measure. With eight hits mixed in there, that’s a RIP of 2.8! All seven of those runs mentioned earlier were earned.

Tokyo’s biggest inning came in the sixth when Tanaka scored from second on an Iihara double. Aoki moved over to third on the play. Miyamoto’s subsequent single to center scored both Aoki and Iihara to put the score at 7-4 Hanshin.

But that was as close as things would get as Toritani, who is getting his bat on everything lately, hit a two run homer off of Tokyo reliever Matsui to reveal a 9-4 scoreline.

Matsui went on to retire the next five batters he faced to push his ERA up to 4.50. Kamada (4.50) pitched the eighth and allowed one baserunner but got out of the inning unharmed.

The brightest spot on offense was Tanaka who had a three-hit game and crossed home plate twice. Iihara, playing in place of Guiel, had two hits and scored one run.

Otherwise, this was another game to forget.

TAKADA COUNT: 11

That’s for starting an untested and unproven pitcher in the most important series the team has come up against in the last six weeks.

The birds have now dropped six straight, and it is beginning to look like my prediction a few games back may ultimately prove to be a bit too kind. Tokyo may not recover from the current slump (now entering its fifth week) because the team is thinking and playing like it’s going to lose. There is little suggesting that Takada knows how to recreate a positive environment in the locker room, so we may be down to one final hope.

Everyone knows what I’m talking about here–the hope that Takada will not be given another contract to pilot this team.

And let’s be honest, the team is in zero danger of catching the Dragons even if they do miraculously hold on to third place in the Central League. That means that the first round of the playoffs would be played in Nagoya against a much deeper Dragons team that has infinite playoff experience over the last few years.

With that idea in mind, we should start viewing each one of the bevy of losses likely coming our way over the waning weeks of the 2009 campaign as an investment in the team’s future. If the team keeps losing, there’s an outside chance that we may get a fresh start next season.

Too bad top draft picks aren’t tied to dismal team performance in NPB.

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

  • Jingu Bleacher Bum

    Do the Swallows even WANT to go to the playoffs anymore? They sure don’t act like it. Although I do see Takada causing a lot of problems, I think that all the young guns on the Swallows might be a bit tired, and now would be the perfect time for a veteran to stand up and kick their butts into shape. Ishikawa, are you up to the task?

  • Jingu Bleacher Bum,

    The position players are doing fine, but the pitching, as you can tell, is completely out of it at the moment.

    Some of that is no doubt fatigue as a lot guys, both young and old, have been overused (and we still have more than a month left to go in the season).

    You’re right that someone needs to rev things up a bit and lead by example, especially in the starting rotation. It would only take a couple of solid outings (just two wins in a row for crying out loud!) to help create a more positive atmosphere both on and off the field.

    Ishikawa has actually been pitching reasonably well of late but hasn’t enjoyed much run support. In my opinion, Tateyama is probably the one who most needs to get things back under control and reclaim his title as the staff ace.

  • flick

    I pretty much gave up all hope, when I saw Masubuchi was the starter. I don’t think he has done much to impress in ni-gun this year…
    Yeah, but like you say Christopher, I am liking what I am seeing from some of the position players, namely, Hiroyasu and Iihara.

  • Christopher

    Takada is hoping to take the third game of the series which is why he is saving Ishikawa. After Tateyama failed he really didn’t want to put Masubuchi in as third pitcher. He needs someone reliable to give him a chance of walking away with a four game gap not a two game gap. It is difficult to see who he could have put in the second game other than an unproved pitcher given that the rest of the rotation is currently bleeding runs.

    • I’m starting to wonder if it might not be better to let your Tigers take third in the hopes that Takada get the can and we can maybe get a new manager.

      Even the BayStars have to be feeling sympathetic for the Swallows at this point.

  • Mac

    I’m going to stop logging onto this site. It just upsets me.

    More the subject matter than the messangers! 🙂

    I want to believe we can hold onto third. I really want to. I just cannot see how it can happen.

    I have now officially resigned myself to fifth place and will regard any improvement on this as upside.

  • Fabian

    At first I was surprised that Masubuchi got the start in such an important game but it made have been one of Takada’s wiser decisions this year. With Ishikawa on the mound, there’s a fair chance we can grab game 3, walk away with a win and might be able to take the momentum to the Dome.

  • zunlin

    I have to agree with you guys. Just a miracle can bring us to face (and lose from) the Dragons in the playoff.
    Btw it was a wonderful season untile the end of July!

  • Mac

    Fabian – looks like you might have been onto something here. Let’s now hope the second part of your statement comes true and we can pull something special off tonight. Anyone else going?

  • No, I’m not personally going to be able to catch any of the Tokyo Dome games this weekend.

    As for Masubuchi, I’m still not a big fan of bringing such an unknown quantity into an important game like that. If Takada wanted to be creative, he might have tried starting one of our middle relievers like Lee. There are several guys in the bullpen already who can put in two or three half-decent innings, so why not use them?

  • Mac

    Christopher – I agree. I was just happy we won last night!

    In fact, despite my resignation that we will end up in fifth place, I desperately want us to reach the playoffs and, if we get there, I believe that anything can happen. To that end we should always play to win, and no game should be used to bring unknowns into games at this stage of the season. We are still in third and it is ours to lose.