4/11/10 – Hanshin (Away)

April 11th, 2010

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3

Hanshin Tigers 7

Streak: Lost 2   Last 5: WLWLL

(Koshien)

Tokyo looked to Muranaka for another strong performance on the mound to help the team avoid losing its second series in a row.

1. Iihara LF

Muranaka lasted only four innings today.

2. Tanaka 2B
3. Aoki CF
4. D’Antona 1B
5. Guiel RF
6. Miyamoto 3B
7. Fujimoto SS
8. Kinugawa C
9. Muranaka P

Tokyo started wasting chances early. Iihara’s leadoff hit was followed by a ‘Tak bunt’, and that was the end of the threat as Aoki and D’Antona went down in order. Wouldn’t it make more sense to bat Fujimoto second rather than waste Tanaka’s bat on bunting (he went 3-4 yesterday and was batting .364 as of the end of the first inning)?

Hanshin’s coach, Mayumi, employed the ‘Tak bunt’ as well, but was later bailed out when Kanemoto hit a two-out homer off the pole in left to bring Murton home. 2-0 Hanshin.

Arai then followed with a double into the gap in right to bring up yesterday’s hero, Johjima, with two outs and a man in scoring position. But Johjima grounded out to third to end the Hanshin festivities.

And all of that took place over the space of only 15 pitches.

Guiel led off the second by taking Shimoyanagi’s third offering in the right elbow. For whatever reason, Takada didn’t employ the ‘Tak bunt’ (maybe he wasn’t paying attention?), and Miyamoto rewarded the team with a single to put runners on first and second.

Fujimoto was then asked to sac bunt, which he did successfully, and both runners moved into scoring position. I don’t call this a ‘Tak bunt’ because the wastefulness of the decision is slightly diminished by the fact that a runner ends up standing on third.

With one out, Kinugawa cleared the bases with a double down the line in left. 2-2.

The Swallows then got a bit lucky as Muranaka’s weak sac bunt was fielded immediately by Johjima, but his fielder’s choice throw to third drew Arai into foul territory, and he wasn’t able to apply the tag to the sliding Kinugawa. All runners safe–still one out.

Then Shimoyanagi beaned Iihara as well to load the bases, and things looked quite dire for the 65-year-old Jeff Lebowski look-alike. But Tanaka got a little over-excited and swatted the first pitch he saw straight to second base for a 4-6-3 double play.

Muranaka found a little bit of a groove in the second inning and got through the bottom third of the Hanshin lineup on eight pitches.

In the top of the third, Guiel drew a well-deserved walk despite getting behind 0-2 early on a steady diet of sliders to the outside of the plate. Miyamoto then came through with his second hit of the game, this time throwing his bat in the process as he reached to poke the ball into center field. Fujimoto came to the plate with two on and two outs, and and he nearly choked on an inside pitch that bounced softly to Brazell at first for the third out of the inning.

Much like the first inning, the bottom of the third began with a Murton single. Unlike the first, however, Sekimoto wasn’t able to lay down the bunt and instead was a little bit lucky not to have grounded into a double play. Miyamoto sprawled to his left to knock the ball down and get the force at second. Toritani flied out to second and Kanemoto struck out swinging on a full count to end the third inning.

Muranaka found himself on first base for the second time in the top of the fourth when he took a nice cut at a Shimoyanagi fastball on the outside of the plate. He was able to bounce it right between short and third, and Iihara came to the plate with one out and a runner on first. Iihara deposited the sixth pitch he saw, an inside fastball, into left field, and Muranaka scored from second. 3-2 Swallows.

The bottom of the fourth wasn’t an enjoyable one for Muranaka. Arai and Johjima started things off with back-to-back singles, and Brazell brought everyone home on a huge homer to right on a Muranaka slider low and away. 5-3 Hanshin.

Shimoyanagi continued to allow base runners (including Miyamoto’s third hit of the day!) in the top of the fifth, but eventually got out of the inning without any further damage to his ERA. Masubuchi took the mound for the birds for the bottom of that inning.

Masubuchi was back on the mound for the seventh as well, and after getting the first two outs, the wheels around him fell off. A grounder at D’Antona took a bad hop and went straight through his legs to allow Murton reach first. He was charged with an error on the play. Then Kinugawa made a costly goof when he one-hopped his throw to first and it bounced off of D’Antona’s chest to put men on first and second with Kanemoto at the plate. Kinugawa was charged with the second error of the inning.

All this excitement proved to be a bit too much for Masubuchi, and he walked his first batter of the afternoon to load the bases. Kanemoto then took advantage and grounded one between first and second bases to bring home two runs and make it 7-3 Hanshin.

Poor Masubuchi.

Takagi took the mound for the eighth just as it began raining. He got Johjima to pop up in foul territory and pinch-hitter Katsuragi to ground into a 1-6-3 double play. He made it out of the inning on nine pitches.

Fujikawa came in to button up another non-save game, and that’s how it ended despite giving up an infield single to Aoki to start things off.

Muranaka took the loss for the birds–five earned runs in four innings of work. His ERA ballooned to 4.50 and his record now sits at 1-2.

On offense for the Swallows, Miyamoto had his best game of the season going 3-5. Iihara went 2-4 with one extra trip to first base care of a beanball.

Tokyo has now lost two series in a row and has only managed four wins so far this month.

Hopefully things brighten a little bit when the birds meet the fish in Hiroshima for a three-game series starting on Tuesday.

Random notes:

Kinugawa instills the most confidence in me when he’s standing in the batter’s box–compared to our other catchers, that is. He’s more patient and seems to see the ball better.

Hanshin’s Murton can hit. Today was the seventh time already this season that he’s had a multi-hit game.

Kanemoto isn’t hitting as well this year because he switched from pink accessories to red. Opposing pitchers are clearly not intimidated by his updated regalia. I might be wrong, but it appears as though Yokohama’s Uchikawa is now wearing Kanemoto’s old pink wristbands and that mystical cord necklace. Kanemoto should probably ask for them back.

Masubuchi is solid as a middle reliever. I hope he stays there. His ERA is still 0.00 as those two runs that crossed home plate on his watch were unearned.

Like yesterday, the home plate umpire had a rather generous (from the pitcher’s perspective) strike zone bulge on the left side of the plate.

The birds are now only one game above .500 after winning the first three series of the season.

Tokyo dropped the rubber game to sink to one game above .500.

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

  • christopheramanolangtree

    Your random note about Kanemoto sounds a bit off target after he hit four RBIs in that game.