10/9/09 – Hanshin (Home)

October 9th, 2009

Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Hanshin Tigers 1

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3

Streak: Won 4      Last 5:  LWWWW

(Jingu Stadium)

Whisper it, we are A-Class. No f*uck that. Shout it from the rooftops, WE ARE A-CLASS!!

In the biggest game the Swallows have faced in years, they did what was necessary and beat the Hanshin Tigers to secure 3rd place in the CL and the Climax Series place that goes with it. Savour it. We will be travelling to Nagoya to face the Dragons a week tomorrow.

Bring. It. On.

In front of over 30,000 fans in a packed to the rafters Jingu, a stadium in which the Swallows fans at least equalled, if not exceeded in numbers those of Hanshin (not been able  to say that for quite a few years), Tokyo lined up as thus:

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

Takada just had to get his oar in tonight, messing with the lineup that had proved so effective for the last few games, replacing Kajimoto with Noguchi and Yuichi with FataHatakeyama. At least he didn’t replace Guiel which we feared he might as the lineup was being announced, though he did move him from the no.5 to the no.6 slot..

And so to the game. The two team aces, Shohei Tateyama and Masanori Ishikawa were being entrusted with taking the Swallows to the CS at the expense of the Tigers, and after the former pitched a superb complete-game shutout the night before, all eyes were on Ishikawa to see if he could bring it home for Yakult.

Tokyo faced off against Tigers starter Iwata, and got off on the right foot in the bottom of the 1st.

Fukuchi led off with a single before being bunted along to second by Noguchi for the first out of the inning. Miyamoto then hit and infield single to put men on first and second before Aoki came to the plate. A wild pitch allowed both runners to advance into scoring positions, as Aoki dug in at the plate. After quite a battle, he hit the ninth pitch he saw through the gap between second and third and a run scored for 1-0 Tokyo with runners now at the corners with one out.

Next man up Hatakeyama blew the chance to extend the lead as he hit into a double play to end the inning.

In the top of the 2nd, two singles and an intentional walk for the Tigers’ no.8 hitter Kanoh loaded the bases for Iwata, but despite the pitcher making decent contact with the ball, it was taken by Onizaki who threw to second to make the final out of the inning and the runners were stranded.

In the bottom of the inning,  a Guiel leadoff double wasn’t capitalised on, as he ended up being stranded at third.

The Swallows eventually extended their lead in the 6th, with walks for Aoki and Guiel putting men on first and second with two outs. The unlikely hero of the night before, Kawamoto, poked one up the middle and it was 2-0. Onizaki was then given a free pass to first to load the bases before Ishikawa grounded out to end the inning.

Tokyo then gifted Hanshin the opportunity to get back in the game in the top of the 7th. Sakurai led off the inning with a single before Kanoh hit a grounder to short that had double play written all over it. Onizaki however let the ball past him and the Tigers had runners on the corners with no outs. After pitcher Iwata had twice tried and failed to bring runners home earlier in the game, Takahashi came in to pinch-hit. He hit a liner to center and the lead was halved as it was 2-1 as Tigers runners occupied first and second. A Hirano groundout and a Sekimoto flyout then put two outs on the board.

Toritani hit a fierce grounder to second which was stopped by the diving Morioka (in for Hatakeyama and occupying second, with Noguchi moving to first) but he couldn’t field the ball and the bases were loaded for the rather long in the tooth Kanemoto. He hit a fly ball to behind the plate which was taken by Kawamoto and more runners were stranded.

In the 8th Atchison took the mound for Hanshin, for his (quite ridiculously) 75th outing of the year.  Fukuchi reached second after a walk and trademark steal,  before making third on a Noguchi bunt. Miyamoto hit a single to right and things were a little more comfy at 3-1 Tokyo.

In the bottom of the inning, an Arai double and a Brazell groundout put a runner on third with one out. Takada then called closer Lim to the mound, after which no other reliever left the bullpen to warm up. It was clear that Lim was given the task of bringing home the win for Tokyo. A strikeout and flyout got Lim two of the five outs he needed in order to accomplish his brief and the 8th was done.

In the 9th Lim walked pinch-hitter Katsuragi to start the inning, but a Hirano ground out, a Hiyama strikout put the Swallows just one out away from their goal. Toritani obliged with a flyout to centre and it was mission accomplished, 3-1 Tokyo Final.

Ishikawa took the win after his 7 and 1/3 innings of five-hit one-run baseball, with two Ks and two BBs. He, as we suspected he would, came up with the goods when required to put his record at 13-7/3.54.

Lim earned his 28th save of the year with his ERA now down to 2.05.

Tokyo were outhit 8-6, the Swallows’ hits coming from Fukuchi (.271), Aoki (.303), Guiel (.266) and Kawamoto (.180), all with a hit apiece, and the quite simply superhuman Miyamoto (.294) with two hits.

A few thoughts:

  • Miyamoto is the MF man. Playing an enormous role down the stretch and all with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand. He is without doubt the current holder of the Mr.Swallows title. Shinya, you have my everlasting respect.
  • Jingu was as busy as I’ve seen it since the Furuta retirement game. Great atmosphere, but huge lines for toilets and concessions showed that Jingu is more comfortable with it’s more regular 15,000 or so inhabitants.
  • Where did all those extra Swallows fans come from? The same fans that chanted Takada’s name at the end of the game. I shouted that we didn’t need him next year, and called them all idiots for cheering him. Party pooper? No. Just not a fuktard.
  • Never seen the team so hyped for as long as I can remember. Outs were accompanied by punching of the air and a real sense of fight by the Tokyo players and staff alike. Love it. Can we have that passion every game next year please?
  • Aoki looked absolutely elated at the end of the game. Finally he gets a reward for his stellar seasons during what has been a barren spell for the Swallows.

The season series ended at 15-9 in the Swallows’ favour. The only teams Tokyo have a losing record against are the first-placed Orange Fuktards and the last-placed Baystars. Go figure.

This is Tokyo’s first A-Class finish since 2006, when they also finished 3rd. This is the first time in five years that the Tigers have finished in their more historically accurate B-Class position.

So, on to the Climax series which starts in Nagoya against the Chunchi Dragons next Saturday.

Between now and then is a game against the Dragons on Sunday before the final home game of the year (unless we make the Nippon Series) Monday against Yomiuri. Both now have little meaning as the Swallows are now 1.5 games clear of 4th and 11.5 behind 2nd. We’re all waiting for the real stuff to start next week.

Can’t wait.

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

  • Marc

    What’s the Climax Series format?

  • Bryan Crowe

    Can anyone post details or does anyone know how to get tickets for next week, I was told they don’t go on sale until the 15th but does anyone know the best/most reliable outlet to get them from?

    (Still grinning for ear to ear)

  • Eddy

    Congratulations! When the Swallows was falling off a cliff and over taken by the Tigers this summer, I never thought that the Swallows would make the Climax. I am happy, I was wrong. For some reason the Swallows tend to do well against the Tigers. They have been doing so not just this season but many seasons.

    Could not make it to the stadium to watch this highly crucial game. Saw the game on TV. The atmosphere must have been fantastic. It was nice to see that many Swallows fans and they were just as loud if not louder than the Tigers fans.

    Though it is nice to see a packed Jingu, I kind of like it that Jingu is usually not full. The same can be said for Yokohama. It just wouldn´t be Yokohama if they played in front of 30,000 each night. Over a long season I think having somewhere between 15 to 20000 a game is the most comfortable at Jingu. It´s nice and mellow, no long toilet lines, and then if Jingu gets packed every now and then like last night, I think then the Swallows is in a very god position both for the fans and the team.

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  • Christopher

    Takada has the cute 2 year old boy vote so any critcism of him is irrelevant. I watched the game with a Swallows friend and the only name on the Swallows side his son knows is Takada. Every time he saw Takada the little lad pointed him out – Aoki, Miyamoto they were nobody. With support like that nothing can be done. Sorry but logic and good sense is always beaten by cute 2 year old boys. On a slightly more serious note congratulations to the Swallows – you deserved your victory.

    • flick

      Ha, funny you say that because the only name my 2 year son knows is Aoki. Any man in uniform whether he be a Swallows or a major leaguer is Aoki to him.

  • Yeah! I can’t wait to be up in the early hours of the morning watching this game that’s half a world away! Who cares that nobody here knows what I’m talking about?! I’m pumped!

    • *Series, not game. Oops. :-/

  • zunlin

    Great game, very stressful, and great Swallows!!!

    Let’s see what will happen now…miracles are not forbidden

  • Awesome being there! Never seen Jingu like that before. And now we’re off to Nagoya with momentum on our side. With a short series of the first round we could pull this off on the backs of Tateyama and Ishikawa!

    Tickets for most seats go on sale on the 11th, the visitors cheering section go on sale on the 15th.

  • Steven Keller

    First off, congrats to the Swallows! They pulled together and came through when the season was on the line. Special props to Miyamoto, he really was the MF man down the stretch!!

    The results are all the more suprising considering the two major handicaps they faced this season:

    (1) Lackluster fan support: Great turnout for the finale but where were all those fans during the regular season? Of the ten or so games I saw this season the Swallows fans were outnumbered by the opposition in every one.

    (2) Worst manager in the game: Not only does Takada have the kiddie support, he also has strong support in the front office despite not being qualified to coach little league. Yes, logic and common sense will be trumped again, not only by cute kids but by cronyism and apathy.

    One person who may not be back is D’Antona. Reliable inside sources say that although D’Antona has been healthy for the past couple of weeks, Takada is deliberately sitting him because he doesn’t want him back next year and is trying to make a point that the team doesn’t need him. Just prior to his hamstring injury D’Antona was named “Central League Player of the Month” for July, was on pace to lead the team in home runs and RBIs and had a respectable .287 average. To bench a player of his caliber just to prove a point is totally irresponsible, especially when the season is on the line. Unfortunately, even though D’Antona has his own supporters in the front office it’s quite likely he will not be resigned.

    If Takada comes back and D’Antona doesn’t, I for one will be going to see the BayStars or the Marines next year. Takada and anyone of his ilk can go F*#% themselves! They won’t be getting any more of my hard-earned money.

    Regardless of their hapless skipper, I wish all the best for the Swallows in the upcoming playoffs! GO SWALLOWS!

  • Mac

    This is what it’s all about. ‘Nuff said.