3/31/10 – Chunichi (Home)

March 31st, 2010

Chunichi Dragons 5

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 9

Streak: Won 4   Last 5: LWWWW

(Meiji Jingu Stadium)

Well, starts to the season don’t come too much better than this. A start which on paper looked ominous to say the least – an away series against the CL champions Yomiuri followed by the home opening series against last year’s runner-up Chunichi – has seen two series wins. Both fairly comfortable series wins at that. What’s. Going. On. ?

Tonight’s game saw ace Shohei Tateyama make his 2010 debut after a pre-season hampered by injury. And the Tateyama we saw tonight was clearly still a not quite ready for prime-time Tateyama. But such is the form of the Swallows bats that a 60% fit Tateyama was more than enough to win the game.

The biggest of those bats no-doubt belonged to a certain Mr.Jamie D’Antona, who had yet another sterling evening, going 3 for 4 with two home runs and a whopping 5 RBIs. And to think our manager was rumoured to be not so keen on re-signing Jamie for this year.

And that folks is all you need to know about our manager. In Jamie D’Antona Tokyo have themselves quite a player, and this being his second year he’s been able to hit the ground running. To devastating effect.

Four wins on the trot, four nights of an unchanged starting lineup. Takada is a genius:

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

D’Antona was the architect of the Swallows taking an early lead in the bottom of the 1st off Chunichi starter Ogasawara. Tanaka hit a one-out double, with Aoki then getting on via a fielder’s choice to leave men on the corners. D’Antona then golf-swung a pitch low and inside out of the park to left centre and the Swallows had themselves a 3-0 lead.

But a clearly rusty Tateyama would also prove vulnerable to the long ball throughout the evening, which would keep things interesting. In the top of the 2nd a Wada leadoff solo homer made it 3-1, with Ibata then getting on via a single and being brought home by pitcher Ogasawara two outs later to narrow things to 3-2. And it was level in the 3rd, again via the long ball, this time a solo shot from Cesar (his first in Japan) making it 3-3.

But as is becoming the way with Tokyo this year, they were able to strike back when needed, as they restored the three run lead in the bottom of the same inning. A Tanaka single, an Aoki strikeout and a D’Antona single put men on first and second with one out on the board. Next man up Guiel poked one up the middle to bring home Tanaka and make it 4-3 with men again on first and second. Miyamoto singled into leftfield and another run was home, leaving two runners in scoring position with the score at 5-3. The continually efficient Fujimoto then hit a sacfly to bring home Guiel and end the innings scoring for a score of 6-3 Tokyo.

Two more runs followed in the 4th, this time via the second of D’Antona’s home runs (number 4 in 5 games) which brought home Fukuchi who had got on via a single and Tokyo had themselves a comfortable 8-3 lead.

Another solo homer, this time from facial-chubster Morino made it 8-4 in the 6th.

In the 7th, a one-out Guiel walk saw him replaced by pinch runner Ihara, and a subsequent Cesar error after Miyamoto hit a grounder to second left men on the corners. Fujimoto then hit his second sacfly of the evening to bring home his second RBI of the evening  to make it 9-4 Tokyo.

Chunichi’s final run came in the top of the 8th, this time surprisingly not via the long ball, with Wada bringing home Morino to wrap up the scoring at 9-5.

Oshimoto pitched a two strikeout one hit 9th in his third appearance of the season and that was all she wrote at 9-5 Final.

Tateyama took the win, working 8 innings of 7 hit (including those 3 HRs) 5 run baseball, striking out 5 and walking 1. Not at his best but the 8 innings tonight should have sharpened him up for the season after his limited pre-season innings.

D’Antona is now batting for a .471 average, the highest on the team, as is his total of 11 RBIs so far. Long may this kind of form continue.

Tokyo outhit the Dragons 10 to 8. Aoki went hitless for the first time since the opening day loss to the Giants, and is now at .421. Fukuchi (.348) and Tanaka (.300) each had two hits apiece.

The two teams will play out the final game of the series tomorrow evening, before Tokyo host Yokohama for three games from Friday.

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