10/18/09 — Central League Climax Series — 1st Stage — Tokyo vs Chunichi (Game 2)

October 18th, 2009

Tokyo-Swallows-logo

Tokyo Swallows 2

Chunichi Dragons 3

Series: Chunichi 1-1 Tokyo

(Nagoya Dome)

The Dragons leveled the series with a come-from-behind win and made sure that both team’s season will survive at least one more day.

Onizaki's bobble led to Chunichi's first run.

Onizaki's bobble led to Chunichi's first run.

Tokyo”s lineup:

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

Chunichi’s lineup:

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

1st inning:

Miyamoto’s infield single was the only joy for the Swallows as it was preceded by a Fukuchi fly ball to left, a Tanaka grounder to the mound, and followed by an Aoki grounder to second.

Ibata took the first pitch of  his at-bat for a strike right down the middle, and he sliced the next Tateyama offering down the line in right for a stand-up double.

Araki then flashed the bunt and took a called first strike before totally botching his at-bat with a fouled-off bunt attempt. He later struck out checking his swing on a slider that was about a bat-length off the outside of the plate.

Morino came to the plate with Ibata still on second and one out. He ended up working a four-pitch walk as Tateyama tried, and failed, to flirt with several edges of the strike zone.

With two on and one out, Blanco came to the plate for his first battle versus Tateyama. He proceeded to slap a grounder that had double-play written all over it to Onizaki at short, but the youngster bobbled the hell out of the toss to Tanaka at second (Tanaka got nailed by the runner in the process). All runners safe. Bases loaded. One out.

Wada’s turn. Tateyama burned him on the first two pitches, but he eventually bounced one to short that didn’t get relayed in time to turn the double play. Ibata scored on the play. 1-0 Chunichi.

Inoue (yeah, the old one), who was starting for some weird reason, grounded out to short for the third out. Ochiai loses two points of respect for that personnel decision.

2nd inning:

D’Antona grounded out to start the Swallows’ second, and Guiel struck out swinging at a high fastball.

Onizaki began his redemption campaign (after that incredibly costly error in the bottom of the first) by singling with two outs.

And then we saw a little pop from our second-string catcher. With Onizaki on first, Kawamoto punted a Yoshimi mistake pitch over the wall in left-center. 2-1 Tokyo.

Fujii started things off for Chunichi in the bottom of the second. He flied out to left.

Tanishige, while normally a sure-fire out, got in on the crappy-catcher-hitting-home-runs action and drove the game-tying run over the wall in left. 2-2.

Yoshimi struck out as expected for the second out, and Ibata grounded out to short to end the festivities.

3rd inning:

Fukuchi started things off in the third with a grounder to short. But Tanaka reached on an infield

Tanishige stepped out of character and did something productive at the plate.

Tanishige stepped out of character and did something productive at the plate.

single that was very similar to the one that Miyamoto hit in the first. The head-first slide, however, was completely unnecessary.

But it all got erased when Miyamoto’s grounder up the middle was stopped by Ibata and he did a bit of tap-dancing on his way to an 6-3 double-play.

Grrr.

Tateyama retired the side in the bottom of that inning.

4th inning:

Aoki grounded out to start the fourth, but D’Antona came through with a single to right to put a runner on first for Guiel.

And the senior non-Japanese on the team (Yuichi no longer counts) was incredibly patient in drawing a walk.

But it was all undone when Onizaki took a swipe at the first pitch and grounded into another double-play. Two runners stranded.

Double Grrr.

Wada started off the Chunichi fourth with a double off the wall in left-center. He got pushed over to third on Fujii’s hopper up the first base line that the drawn-in D’Antona couldn’t quite get his glove on (error).

With runners on first and third and one out, Tanishige got done a little bit by the umpire to put the count at 2-2 (lots of suspect calls behind the plate for both sides in this game), and he ended up striking out swinging at a low slider.

Yoshimi did his job by striking out to send his team into the field for the start of the fifth.

5th inning:

The Swallows sat down in order as the 2-2 scoreline survived yet another half-inning.

Ibata led off the Chunichi fifth with an infield single to short. And Araki started flashing the bunt again.  This time he was successful, and Ibata found himself on second with one out.

Morino put up a very good fight at the plate during his at-bat, but he eventually flied out to shallow left for out number two.

Blanco went down on three straight sliders, all of them low and the last one outside to end the threat from the Dragons.

I’m a big fan of Ochiai’s tendency to bunt in this series.

6th inning:

Tanaka was the first man up for the birds in the sixth. He quickly got behind in the count, but he came through with a liner up the middle that put the go-ahead runner on first.

Miyamoto then started flashing the bunt as Takada (following Ochiai’s lead?) finally had a chance to get in on the act. The bunt was successful, and Tanaka was safe at second with one out.

Aoki grounded out and Tanaka was able to make it to third on the play. Two outs, man on third.

But D’Antona grounded out to third to leave Tanaka at third.

The Dragons went down in order.

7th inning:

Guiel led off with a hard, hard, hard, single down the line in right. It was so hard, in fact, that he had no chance at second due to how quickly it bounced off the wall and bounced straight into Inoue’s glove.

Onizaki bunted him over to second to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. Too bad the last third of the lineup was due up. Things got bleaker when Kawamoto shattered his bat and popped up to Morino at third.

Tateyama grounded out to the pitcher give Chunichi another shot on offense.

"I don't understand. The bunt always worked so well when I was in high school..."

"I don't understand. The bunt always worked so well when I was in high school..."

Note for Takada: we’ve covered this before, but don’t count on the bottom third of your lineup to hit with runners in scoring position (unless you’ve once again relegated Tanaka to the seventh or eighth slot for no apparent reason). In other words, stop telling people to bunt unless the batter in question happens to be the pitcher!

Tanishige sliced a full count pitch into shallow center to put another go-ahead runner on base. Yoshimi bunted him over for the first out.

Ibata grounded out for the second out, but Tanishige moved over to third in the process.

Araki came to the plate with two outs and the winning run on third. The first pitch was a ball outside. The second was a meatball that he easily slapped into center field for Chunichi’s third run. 3-2 Dragons.

And that was the end of Tateyama’s night.

Enter Hye-cheon Lee.

Araki stole second to put another runner in scoring position with Morino at the plate for the Dragons (terrible throw by Kawamoto; good recovery by Onizaki).

But Morino eventually struck out swinging to temporarily shut things down.

And Doala, for the second night in a row, landed his off-kilter handspring. Even Tsubakuro was impressed.

8th inning:

Fukuchi continued his run of futile impatience at the plate and lined out to third on the first pitch for out number one.

Tanaka worked the count full with one out and nobody on, but he eventually grounded out to third.

Miyamoto also continued his over-agressive ways when he chased the first pitch, a high fastball, but got nowhere near it. He was patient enough to get it back to 2-2, and then he drilled one down the line at Morino, but it appeared that the third baseman disillusionedly perceived himself to be in foul territory and was alarmed when he discovered that he needed to send the ball in the direction of first base. His throw ended up being off the map, and he earned himself an error in the process.

So it was Aoki’s turn with two outs and a man on first. The first three pitches were balls, and Aoki may have made a mistake in swinging at the next pitch as it was high and ended up in the pitcher’s glove for the third out.

The Chunichi eighth began with the hitless Blanco at the plate and Oshimoto on the mound.

Blanco grounded out to Tanaka for out number one.

Wada, for his part, swiped at one of Oshimoto’s pitches a bit late, but he still managed to slice it into right-center for a single.

Hirata stepped into the batter’s box for Chunichi with one out and a man on first. On what appeared to be a hit-and-run, Hirata popped up to right for out number two.

Up came the annoyingly effective Fujii.

Oshimoto missed with his first pitch for ball one. But Fujii popped up harmlessly on the second pitch to bring an end to the inning.

9th inning:

Do or die for the birds…

Asao took the mound for the Dragons to face the tail end of Tokyo’s cleanup contingent (and specifically the right-handed D’Antona).

D’Antona came out swinging and got a bit ahead of the first pitch he was offered. Number two was a low ball, and the third pitch sailed wide for a 1-2 count (one strike; two balls). The next pitch was a forkball in the dirt, and Jamie chased it to put the count at 2-2, but he held off on the next pitch to work the count full. The next pitch, however, was a high forkball that D’Antona wasn’t able to put any lumber on. One out.

And that’s when Iwase showed up. Seems that Ochiai likes the lefty-lefty matchup as much as Takada does. Amazingly, Takada didn’t sub Guiel out like he’s done all season.

The first pitch was low and outside for ball one. Pitch number two was a bit high and inside to put Guiel in the driver’s seat. He fouled off the third pitch before taking ball three. The next pitch was outside and Guiel fouled it off. The next pitch was a ball and the tying run reached first base. It was Guiel’s second walk of the game. Bless him.

Fludge (Hatakeyama) then materialized at the plate in Onizaki’s place. Still not sure why. His patience paid off at first as he worked a 1-2 count, but then he fouled off an outside pitch to level things up again. He ended his at-bat, and the game, by grounding into a 4-6-3 double-play.

Dragons 3-2 Swallows final.

Tateyama lasted 6 2/3 innings. He gave up three runs (two earned) off of six hits. He also gave up one walk while striking out six. He threw 106 pitches while taking the loss.

Tanaka was the only Tokyo player to notch a multi-hit game. Kawamoto was responsible for both of Tokyo’s runs.

Miyamoto, D’Antona, Guiel, and Onizaki also had hits.

Observations:

  • The two teams tied with seven hits each.
  • The birds hit into three double plays.
  • Ibata was annoyingly good on defense in this game.
  • Wada had two more hits in this game and is now hitting .571 for the series.
  • Tony Blanco hits grounders like it’s his job. For the record, Tony, you’re doing your job very well!
  • Fukuchi still doesn’t have a hit.
  • If I ever own the Swallows, I will fine players for swinging at the first pitch in more than one at bat per game.
  • Impatience at the plate, in my view, is posing a bit of a problem at this point. The birds have displayed a disheartening propensity for putting the first pitch in play, and it’s almost invariably a grounder to short or second. Unfortunately, veterans such as Fukuchi and Miyamoto are as guilty of this as anybody else in the lineup (if not moreso).
  • Big kudos to Aoki, D’Antona, and Guiel for repeated quality at-bats.
  • Ochiai’s a doofus for starting Inoue.

The decisive game three is tomorrow night at 6 PM. This one will also be played at Nagoya Dome.

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

  • An exciting game, but a disappointing one. I kind of felt that nearly all hope was lost when the Dragons snuck in that run through a lot of sacrificing to get Tanishige to 3rd. Nevertheless, we really had a perfect storm coming into the 9th inning. Having D’Antona and Guiel back-to-back seemed to make me think that we could do something, but I could feel that a lot of hope was lost when D’Antona struck out.

    No one to blame but ourselves for this one, had plenty of opportunity to tie, but just didn’t take it. It could be due to the impatience at the plate, as you pointed out. But I’m no baseball expert, so I have no idea, really. But I’m learning as I go, so I suppose I’ll know some day why we specifically lost this game.

    Still, I’m totally stoked for Game 3! I’ll have to go to my morning classes immediately afterwards, but it will be well worth it if I can go to them with the feeling of victory.

  • Oh, and to echo what Mac said in the last post, the posts really do help, even if I have seen the game. Since I don’t understand Japanese and my knowledge of baseball isn’t encyclopedic, I don’t understand the different types of hitters or how good each player is at what they do. Going back through the game pitch by pitch helps me to understand the players, the bad managerial decisions, the culture of whats going on, and et cetera. Obviously, it isn’t feasible to do this all of the time, but it’s really helped me out for these two playoff games.

  • Andrew Ondo

    With all three games of the first stage played in the second-ranked team’s stadium, and the first-place team getting an automatic win in stage two, it doesn’t seem as though NPB has much love for underdogs.

    Is there any reason other than some sort of bizarre death instinct on Takada’s part for pinch-hitting Hatakeyama for Onizaki in the 9th? He had the error, yes, but that was in the first, and Yuji’s actually been hitting the ball lately.

    Hopefully this doesn’t have implications for tonight’s starting roster…

    • With all three games of the first stage played in the second-ranked team’s stadium, and the first-place team getting an automatic win in stage two, it doesn’t seem as though NPB has much love for underdogs.

      It’s just that with only six teams in each league, they don’t want a third placed team with possibly a losing record (just like us) to be able to easily reach, and ultimately take, the Japan series.

      So if Tokyo do go all the way, then they will have done it the hard way and thus will have more of a claim on being the true “Nippon-Ichi”.

      I guess stacking things in favour of final league finish was the only way the playoff system could be approved by all the teams and come into use.

  • That Swallows 7th inning was typical Takada.

    Get the leadoff man on, then gift the opposition an out before your bottom of the order follow with two quick outs. Utter wastefulness.

    • flick

      Yup…
      And the thing was, they were going to replace Tateyama with a pinch-hitter if Kawamoto did something, which would have made sense, unless that pinch-hitter was Kinugawa…wtf?
      Ultimately, Kawamoto only broke his bat, so Tateyama came to the plate, grounded out, and was on the mound again, which in hindsight, backfired on our ass…

      So, Takagi and Yuki are apparently out because of the flu, which leaves… Yoshinori! You’re our only hope!

  • flick

    What the heck, Kawamoto and Kinugawa has the flu as well….
    According to an article on Sponichi, today’s battery will probably consist of Yoshinori…. and Aikawa!!!
    http://www.sponichi.co.jp/baseball/news/2009/10/19/04.html