10/17/09 — Central League Climax Series — 1st Stage — Tokyo vs Chunichi (Game 1)

October 17th, 2009

Tokyo-Swallows-logo

Tokyo Swallows 3

Chunichi Dragons 2

Series: Chunichi 0-1 Tokyo

(Nagoya Dome)

Game one of the 2009 Central League Climax Series kicked off in Nagoya with Chen on the mound for the home team, and Ishikawa taking the reigns for the visiting Tokyo Swallows.

And Tokyo came up with the goods versus a very sharp Chen.

D'Antona crushed the game-winner in the top of the seventh.

The Swallows won the crucial first game to put some serious pressure on Chunichi’s game two starter and extend Tokyo’s winning streak to seven games.

Tokyo’s lineup:

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

In a bit of a surprise, Ishikawa took the mound for the birds today.

Chunichi’s lineup:

1. Ibata (SS)
2. Araki (2B)
3. Morino (3B)
4. Blanco (1B)
5. Wada (LF)
6. Tanishige (C)
7. Fujii (RF)
8. Hidenori (CF)
9. Chen (P)

First inning:

Fukuchi took a rip at the first pitch hesaw and grounded out weakly to short for out number one.

Tanaka also went after the first pitch he saw and fouled it off. Second pitch as well. Struck out swinging on the third pitch (outside).

Miyamoto similarly went after the first pitch he saw and fouled it off. Same for the second pitch. Third pitch ended up being a broken bat grounder to short. Chen was out of the inning on seven pitches (all strikes).

The Swallows came out swinging! They took a cut at all seven of the pitches they were offered in the first inning. That strategy didn’t work as they found themselves in the field on defense in a serious hurry. Chen didn’t look the least bit perturbed by the aggressiveness.

Luckily, the Dragons also went down in order as Ishikawa induced a series of grounders, two of which he fielded himself.

Second inning:

Aoki started off a little bit more patiently than the three guys before him. He waited until the second pitch to swing, but the result was still a grounder to third.

D’Antona, starting in his third game in a row, also started off swinging. He fouled off the first pitch before letting the next pitch sail wide for ball one. He checked his swing on the third pitch, but that one apparently scraped the outside of the zone. He held off on the next pitch as well, this one high, before Chen allowed the count to fill up with a pitch in the dirt. After fouling off the first full count pitch, D’Antona drew a walk to put the game’s first runner on base. A great seven-pitch at bat from D’Antona.

Guiel came to the plate with one out and also took the first pitch for ball one. The second offering was a sick slider that  dropped more than it tailed, and the third pitch was outside for ball two. The next pitch saw Guiel hit into a 6-3 double play to send the flock into the field.

Blanco started things off for Chunichi by bouncing one hard off the carpet for an infield single to short. D’Antona did a good job to keep a glove on it as the throw from Miyamoto must have rubbed off of his bandaged thumb on its way to first.

Wada helped us out by hitting a changeup into a 6-4-3 double play to put two outs on the board with Tanishige at the plate.

Tanishige struck out to end the inning.

Third inning:

Fludge (Hatakeyama) led off the third with a fouled off first pitch, and then Chen got him to look atIshikawa pitched six innings of two-run baseball. a called second strike in the northwestern part of the zone. He sat down after flying out to Fujii in right for the first out.

Kawamoto looked at the first pitch for ball one before fouling off the second pitch. He wasn’t able to keep up with the third pitch, and after that he fouled off a soft curve while defending the plate. Ball two skidded past him in the dirt before Chen struck him out looking with a sharp inside fastball for the second out.

Ishikawa finished up the inning by politely striking out. To be fair to Ishikawa, however, he had one of the most productive at bats that the Swallows lineup had put together up to that point (second only to D’Antona’s). He was able to work six pitches off of Chunichi’s ace, Chen.

But that did little to change the fact that Chen had a healthy no-hitter going through three innings.

Fujii led off the Dragons’ third with a double off the foot of the wall in right. Hidenori bunted him over to third (stupid feet-first  slide into first, by the way; excellent diving play by Tanaka which made Hidenori look even dumber), and then Hatakeyama threw Fujii out at home trying to score on a grounder by Chen. Nice block by Kawamoto.

With Chen on first care of the aforementioned fielder’s choice, Ibata came to the plate with two outs. Ishikawa threw him four straight balls to put runners on first and second.

Araki also looked at a ball on the first pitch, but he grounded out to third on the next pitch with Hatakeyama throwing to second to get the force. Inning over.

Fourth inning:

Chen took the mound again in the fourth having  thrown only 35 pitches up to that point.

Fukuchi started this at bat much differently from his first. He looked at two straight called strikes before he had to foul of a pitch in order to stay alive. A pitch in the dirt finally saw Fukuchi draw one  in his favor, and that was followed by another low pitch to put the count at 2-2. Fukuchi eventually struck out swinging on another nasty Chen slider for out number one.

Tanaka also approached his second at-bat more patiently, but Chen threw another first pitch strike anyway. Tanaka eventually worked the count full, but  he grounded the next pitch at Morino for the second out.

Lots of ground balls in this game.

Miyamoto again came out swinging and fouled off the first pitch he saw. He got further behind in the count when he fouled off the second pitch as well. Chen kept attacking and Miyamoto was forced to foul off a third pitch. He finally got a ball on the fourth offering. The fifth pitch ended up in Araki’s glove on a soft liner that made it as far as the the circle at the back of the infield.

Ishikawa was also on 35 pitches through three. He didn’t look as dangerous as Chen, but he was definitely getting the job done.

First man up, Morino, watched a called first strike to start things off in the bottom of the fourth. After a couple of balls, the 1-2 pitch was a changeup that Morino swung about an hour too early on. At 2-2, Morino fouled off the next three pitches before finally flying out to left for the first out.

Blanco was responsible for the second out on another spiked grounder, this time to third.

With two outs, and after grounding into a double play in his first at-bat, Wada finally got through and lined the first pitch he saw over the wall in left-center. 1-0 Dragons.

Tanishige ended the inning by flying out to right.

Fifth inning:

Chen continued to look very good again at the start of the fifth. He got two quick strikes before throwing two junk pitches in the dirt to level the count against Aoki. Tokyo’s cleanup hitter then fouled off the next three pitches to keep the count at 2-2. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Aoki finally broke up Chen’s no-hitter by poking one between Morino and Ibata to put a runner on first for D’Antona.

D’Antona fouled off the first pitch before taking a high pitch for 1-1. The next pitch landed just barely foul in right to give Chen a slight advantage at 2-1 (please remember that the count is reversed in Japan—a full count is 2-3 over here). The next pitch, inside, earned Chen another strikeout.

Guiel fouled off the first pitch, and the 1-1 pitch was a while in coming as Chen started worrying about Aoki over on first. Eventually Guiel fouled that one off as well for 2-1. The next pitch was a fastball on the outside of the plate that Guiel looked at (and disagreed with the resulting call). Two outs.

It was then up to Fludge to get something done with Aoki still standing on first, but he could only strike out swinging against the rock-solid Chen.

But at least Aoki broke up his no-hit bid.

Fujii was the first at the plate for the Dragons after doubling in his first at-bat. And he jumped on another Ishikawa meatball for his second double of the game, this time to left.

Ochiai again had Hidenori bunt him over to third. But Chen quickly grounded out to first for out number two.

However, Ibata came through with a two out line drive to right that scored Fujii. 2-0 Dragons.

Araki finally gave us out number three by grounding out to Hatakeyama who again tested D’Antona with a terrible throw to first.

Sixth inning:

Kawamoto started things off for the Swallows in the sixth. He quickly found himself down 2-0 in the count, and two pitches later he struck out swinging.

That was, incidentally, the fourth strikeout in a row for Chen.

Ishikawa grounded out to the pitcher for the second out, and Fukuchi quickly flied out to right for out number three.

In the Dragons’ sixth, Ishikawa worked both sides of the zone before Morino finally drove a changeup into center to put a man on first with Tony Blanco at the plate. Blanco grounded out to short, but he was able to beat the double-play throw to first.

Wada, fresh off his homer in his last at-bat, saw three straight balls before he swung at, and fouled off, the fourth pitch. He took a full rip at the next pitch as well, and another foul ball meant that the count was suddenly full. Wada punched the next pitch into center on a hit and run, and Blanco was able to reach third to put runners on the corners with one out. Ishikawa’s pitch count was at 73 at this point.

But luckily we had Tanishige at the plate again. The 1-0 pitch (high and outside) looked a bit like Kawamoto was expecting some trickery that never materialized. The trickery came on the 1-1 pitch when Ochiai tried a squeeze that Tanishige fouled off. The veteran eventually struck out looking on a pitch right down the middle.

Fujii then came up for the two on with two outs situation. After two straight doubles, Ishikawa made sure not to put anything near the strike zone until the third pitch of the at-bat when Fujii looked at a fastball right down the middle. He lined the next pitch right at Tanaka for out number three and two stranded runners.

Seventh inning:

Aoki brings home Tokyo's first run of the seventh.Tanaka was the first batter for the Swallows in the fateful (for Chen) seventh. He lined the second pitch he saw down the line in right to put the first Tokyo runner on second.

Miyamoto again took a swipe at the first pitch he saw and fouled it off about two meters shy of fair territory on the green in right. He would end up grounding out and moving Tanaka over to third in the process. I don’t know what was going on with Blanco over at first on that play because he seemed to think that the inning was over or something. Tanaka very nearly thought about trying for home on the big man’s mental lapse.

Aoki then came to the plate with one out and Tanaka on third.

On Chen’s 2-1 pitch, Aoki came through with another single to left that scored Tanaka from third. 2-1 Chunichi.

And then with Aoki on first, first baseman, Jamie D’Antona came to the plate. All you need to know is that D’Antona absolutely destroyed one into the stands in left-center to make it 3-2 Tokyo.

And that’s when Chen looked like he might cry. Tears or not, I still love the way he bounces his head off his right bicep before each pitch.

Chen then gave up a single to Guiel to put another runner within his periphery.

Fludge, having flied and struck out in his first two plate appearances, flied out to left this time for the second out.

Kawamoto then came to the  plate having struck out his first two times at the plate, and Chen quickly got out in front of him 2-1. But Kawamoto eventually worked the count full, and he found himself on first when Chen surrendered his first walk of the game.

Takada decided to put Noguchi in to hit for Ishikawa with two outs and runners on first and second. Noguchi flied out to second to end the Swallows’ inning.

After pitching six excellent innings, Chen saw his outing become fully forgettable in the seventh.

3-2 Swallows after the top of the seventh.

Oshimoto took the mound to face the Dragons in the bottom of the seventh.

Hidenori grounded out to short before Nomoto came in to pinch hit for Chen.

After several foul balls, Nomoto worked the count full but grounded out to D’Antona on the next pitch.

With two outs, it was Ibata’s turn again. And after Ibata did well to work the count full, Oshimoto struck him out looking with a hard, low fastball that he wasn’t able to swing at.

Eighth inning:

Fukuchi again grounded out when facing Chunichi’s first reliever, Asao.

Tanaka then entered the batter’s box for the Swallows. After scoring the last time he came to the plate (double), the fresh-off-an-injury second baseman kept the prepubescent Asao honest for a while before fanning on a high fastball for out number two.

Miyamoto again put the first pitch in play for another ground out.

And as expected, Igarashi took the mound for the bottom of the eighth.

Chunichi eighth: Araki led off for the home team. Araki had grounded out in all three of his plate appearances up to this part, but he saw four quick balls from Igarashi to put the tying run on first.

Morino (1-3 up to that point) then watched Igarashi throw yet another ball. Igarashi finally threw a strike on his sixth pitch of the inning. After getting Morino to foul off the third pitch, Igarashi then started to worry about Araki (number two in the league in steals this season behind Fukuchi) over on first. It was all for naught though. Even though the 2-1 pitch was advantageous for Kawamoto, his throw to second was wide right and Araki had his first steal of the playoffs.

But Morino grounded one hard at the mound that Igarashi did very well to catch. Araki had to stay put, and Igarashi threw comfortably to first to record the first out.

And then came Blanco. The first pitch was a forkball that never touched the dirt but somehow never endangered the underbelly of the strike zone. The second pitch was also low for 0-2. But Blanco managed to ground out again for the second out, and Araki was still on second.

Wada then came up with two outs. Two for three with a home run and single to center, Wada represented a significant threat to Tokyo’s lead. And Igarashi pitched to him like he knew it. The first two pitches were nowhere near the strike zone. Pitch number three was also conservative, about eight inches off the outside edge of the plate. With Tanishige on deck, there was little point in pitching to Wada, so ball four was swift in its efficacy.

Runners on first and second with two outs.

In comes Lim to finish up the inning.

Tanishige was very helpful in that he swung accidentally at the first pitch (a bit inside), and then he flailed away helplessly at Lim’s second offering. But after a bit of patience and a few foul balls, Tanishige was able to work the count to 2-2. Tanishige finally lost the  battle on a high fastball that he couldn’t keep up with. Runners stranded at first and second.

Tanishige makes me happy.

Ninth inning:

Takahahsi (3.08 ERA in 49 appearances during the regular season) took the mound for the Dragons in the top of the ninth.

Aoki (2-3 thus far) was the first bird at the plate for Tokyo. He took the first pitch for a ball before an identical pitch ended up a called first strike. Takahashi followed with two balls to make it 1-3. Aoki’s slap hit to left on the next pitch was easily caught by the drawn-in Wada.

D’Antona, fresh off of that huge home run in his last at-bat, came back up to bat with one out and nobody on. He pulled Takahashi’s 2-1 pitch big time for a bit of a home run fake, and he took another nice cut at the 2-2 pitch (foul). Looking more confident and dangerous by the moment, he held off on the next pitch to work the count full. After fouling off three straight pitches, he struck out swinging a bit early on what I believe was a slider.

Guiel grounded out to second to end the Swallows’ inning.

Chunichi’s ninth: Yuichi came in on defense for D’Antona at first and Yoshimoto took over for Fludge at third.

Fujii was Chunichi’s first batter in the bottom of the ninth, and he quickly found his way to first care of a check swing that Miyamoto wasn’t able to get to first base in time.

Hidenori again bunted to put the tying run on second.

With one out, the soon to retire Tatsunami came in to hit for the pitcher, Takahashi. But all he could do was fly out to shallow left.

And then Ibata came to the plate with two outs and a man on second. Chunichi’s best all-around hitter grounded out to second to end the game and give Lim a well-deserved save.

Final: Tokyo 3-2 Chunichi.

Observations:

  • D’Antona had several good at-bats. He looks very confident at the plate, and he hit that ball so hard that Chen might never recover. He was the hero of the game (I still don’t understand why an opposing team’s player is allowed to be the hero, but whatever), and he gave a very detailed hero’s interview that was both confident and respectful at the same time. If you’ve read what we’ve written about the guy recently on this site, then a couple of his comments might have taken on extra meaning.
  • Takada did briefly mention the potency of Tokyo’s cleanup (Aoki, D’Antona, and Guiel), but he was not specifically asked what he thought of D’Antona’s home run during his post-game interview.
  • Lim looked good. Igarashi not so much, but he still basically got the job done after his rather rough start.
  • D’Antona didn’t allow the penguin to put his helmet on him during the post-game interview.
  • Come-from-behind wins are  hot.
  • Tokyo had only five hits and four of them came in the seventh when Chen started leaving his pitches up in the zone.
  • Four of Tokyo’s five hits came from the bats that the coaches have little control over (Aoki, D’Antona, and Guiel).
  • Ishikawa threw 81 pitches and gave up two runs off of seven hits. He struck out two and walked one.
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

  • Mac

    I landed in Zurich. While taxi-ing on runway immediately contacted Tokyo folk to see if anyone knew the score. Was happy.

    Got to my hotel and channeled MacBook into the Wi-fi. First website visited was this bringer of good news.

    Went on solo pub crawl of Zurich proudly sporting YS beanie, coz it is f-ing cold here. Warmed by thought of triumph tomorrow.

    COME ON!

  • I was up way late watching this game, and it was well worth it. I was really worried this one was going to get away from us, but after Chen had a complete breakdown and let us score 3, I knew we stood a chance. But man, what a game it would have been for Dragons fans if Tatsunami had scored the winning runner late in the game….luckily for us, that didn’t happen.

  • I was a bit worried about the Tatsunami at-bat myself.

    But then I began to wonder if Lim was even aware of the enormity of the situation (from Chunichi and Tatsunami’s point of view).

    Ignorance may very well have added a little bit of bliss there for somebody (probably us).

  • Sorry about the monumentally-long, pitch-by-pitch, note-style write-up on this game, everyone. I hope it wasn’t too much to plow through.

    I may do the same thing tonite although innings where nothing happens may be condensed a bit.

  • Mac

    Christopher – game write up was optimal. Exactly what was required from my perspective being on the other side of the planet. Keep it coming mate!