10/11/09 – Chunichi (Home)

October 11th, 2009

Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Chunichi Dragons 3

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 4

Streak: Won 5    Last 5: WWWWW

(Jingu Stadium)

With the Swallows clinching 3rd and a Climax Series place on Friday, this preview matchup between the two teams that will be contesting the first round of the post-season was meant to be a nice quiet game, with both teams having little to play for.

It turned out to be quite the opposite.

Tokyo looked like this:

  1. Fukuchi (RF)
  2. Noguchi (LF)
  3. Hatakeyama (3B)
  4. D’Antona (1B)
  5. Shida (CF)
  6. Kawamoto (C)
  7. Yoshimoto (2B)
  8. Onizaki (SS)
  9. Yamamoto (P)

As you can see, Tokyo sat a lot of regulars for this game, but the interesting addition was that of D’Antona. The American has been benched by Takada during the last week, with rumours abound that Takada is looking to get rid at the end of the year. This game then, was a perfect chance for him to show our wonderful manager what he had been missing this last week.

Starting on the mound was 20 year old 2nd year pro Hitoshi Yamamoto, making his first appearance of the year and his maiden career start.

Chunichi on the other hand, fielded a pretty strong team with most of the big names present on the field at first pitch.

Tokyo faced off against Chunichi starter Chen. Both pitchers dominated proceeding early on, with each team managing a solitary hit through the first three innings, with the  Chunichi starter striking out seven. But he was replaced by Yoshimi in the 4th, with the Chunichi ace needing one more win to break a two-way tie in the CL for most wins (with both him and Tokyo’s own Tateyama sitting on 16). He gave up a couple of hits in the 4th but didn’t let a man past second.

In the 6th, Chunichi took the lead. Inbata hit a leadoff double and was brought home one out later by a Morino single for 1-0 Chunichi. Another of the Dragons league leaders, Tony Blanco, then hit his CL leading 39th homer to left and it was 3-0. Yoshimi was in line for that 17th win.

Tokyo struck back in the bottom of the same inning.  Back to back singles for Shida and Kawamoto were followed by a Morioka (in for Yoshimoto) bunt for the first out with the runners now at second and third. Onizaki hit a liner to left, which was fumbled by the sliding Wada and a run was home for 3-1. Unfortunately, poor base running by Kawamoto meant that he was picked off faffing around between second and third and the possible 2nd run was back on the bench.

And so to the (rather unnecessarily) controversial 7th inning, with Yamai taking the mound in relief of Yoshimi.  A Fukuchi single, a Noguchi walk and a Hatakeyama sacfly to right made it 3-2 with one out on the board. Next up was D’Antona, who had struck out in his previous three trips to the plate. He had looked a touch lacking in confidence to that point, with his treatment by the manager seemingly getting to him somewhat. But was soon back to what he can do so well, hitting with guys on base, as he absolutely clubbed one to left. His shot had a fair bit of spin on it as it curved to the left as it left the field, practically scraping the paint of the left foul-pole’s righthand side. 4-3 Tokyo.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Chunichi fans in the leftfield stands started to gesture and shout that it was in fact a foul ball, with leftfielder Wada getting in on the act. Cue Dragons manager Ochiai taking to the field to protest, followed by his coach Mori. After a good five or so minutes of arguing Ochiai signalled for his team to leave the field, Mori got all angry at the umps and the Chunichi bench cleared. After another ten minutes Ochiai was thrown out of the game and he made his was way out of the stadium. TV replays clearly showed that the ball was fair, and this year umpires have access to replays (though to be fair, the angle from the left, which was Ochiai’s viewpoint, did looked unclear, but from the right it was clearly fair). Ochiai’s behaviour, while (I guess) primarily to defend Yoshimi’s shot at a title was a touch irresponsible, and I hope once he sees the replay he issues some kind of apology for wasting 15 minutes of everyone’s time. His utter conviction also had the effect of convincing the Chunichi fans that they had a case, and they started to throw things on the field which further delayed events.

But the decision stood, and D’Antona had himself his 21st homer of the year. Boy would that have been cruel on him if it had been scratched from the record.

Matsuoka (4.72)  and Oshimoto (2.67) pitched out the game, with Chunichi veteran and “Mr.Dragons” Tatsunami making his final career appearance with a flyout to end things at 4-3 Tokyo Final.

Matsuoka took the win, while Yamamoto finished his five innings having given up three runs off five hits, with three Ks and two BBs.

D’Antona was the game’s hero, and though he was booed by the rather ignorant Dragons fans during his interview, it was good to see him back up there. Hopefully he will figure more in the CS than he has during this last week.

The season series between the teams ended up at 13-11 in the Swallows’ favour.

Tokyo’s final game of the year is tomorrow against the Giants, with the Swallows looking to end the season with their sixth straight win (though as it’s against the Giants I wouldn’t hold your breath…).

About David Watkins

David is a baseball bothering Brummie who spends a fair portion of his life fretting over the Tokyo Swallows and the WORLD'S GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM, Aston Villa. He completes the quartet of abusive sporting relationships by being a die hard New York Knicks and Mets fan. You can find him on twitter: @yakulto

  • Pointless as Ochiai’s actions might have been, I still kind of look at it and think, “Wow, a manager who not only pays attention to the game, but cares about the game and will get out there and argue for his team.”

    What a novel idea.

    • Actually. after seeing further replays you can see why he was arguing.

      And yes, I’d kill for a manager like that at Tokyo. Ochiai has a bit of passion to go with his intelligence. Takada has a tendency to blink a lot to go with his lack of it.

  • Actually, the replay shown on the Jingu screen (which is the only one any of us, including Ochiai, saw at the time) made it look like the ball was clearly, clearly foul. That’s why the Chunichi fans were all pissed off (you might have heard them yelling “VIDEO! VIDEO! VIDEO!” among the Ochiai cheers).

    I only see one video of it on Youtube so far:

    (and most of the padding of that video is stupid, with the homerun call at 1:30 or so)

    And what’s weird about that replay is, again, from the left-field line view, which is what they showed on the Jingu board, it looks like the ball doesn’t even go anywhere near the foul pole but just lands foul. Yet somehow from the other angle they show it crossing fair. WTF?

    Either way, I don’t blame Ochiai for arguing the call. What I wish is that they would have shown the other replay on the Jingu board so everyone could see for sure that it wasn’t just a bullshit call.

    • You are right. It was a bit freaky.

      Having said that, I believe they have the FujiTVOne coverage (the one that is piped around the stadium too) in the/out back of the bench area, so the Chunichi folks should have seen that other replay too. In fact, when Mori came out, I thought it was because he’d seen the TV coverage and was going to tell Ochiai sit down. Obviously not though.

      It’s also a shame that Ochiai then wasn’t there for Tasunami’s farewall……..maybe he possibly regrets that now.