4/21/10 – Chunichi (Away)

April 21st, 2010

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2

Chunichi Dragons 2

Streak: Drawn 1   Last 5: WLWLD

(Nagoya Dome)

After four hours and ten minutes of toil this one ended up in the Central League’s first stalemate of the new season, with Ishikawa again failing to register his first win of the 2010 campaign.

Takada gave the lineup the biggest shakeup of the year so far for tonight’s game, with the in form Tanaka moved to leadoff, Aoki to the no.4 hole, Miyamoto and Fujimoto to the first half of the order and D’Antona now batting 7th:

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

And the new order had a good chance to impress, facing Chunichi’s least fearsome starter in Ogasawara.

And they put him under pressure in the 1st inning, a Miyamoto double and an Aoki infield single put runners on the corners with two outs for Guiel, but he was only able to ground out to second and the chance was over.

But Tokyo would take the lead in the 2nd. Ihara led off the inning by taking a ball to the left knee, and D’Antona then battled with Ogasawara, fouling off four pitches before hitting the seventh pitch he saw deep into the left field bleachers for 2-0 Tokyo. This was Jamie’s first home run since his monster performance 11 games ago against Hiroshima.

Ishikawa on the other hand was far more assured, not giving up a hit until the 4th inning, but he finally came unstuck in the 7th. Blanco hit a high fly ball to right, that landed fair in the no-man’s land between the infield and out. The ageless Wada then blasted a two-run shot to left and the game was tied at 2-2.

Ishikawa almost surrendered the lead in the 8th, with a one out double from Araki setting the table for Ibata. The second baseman could only fly out to bring the dangerous Morino to the plate. He hit a fierce line-drive to right, but an excellent jumping catch from Tanaka saved what would have been the go-ahead run.

The Swallows would do the same in the 9th off recently untouchable reliever Asao, with Ihara reaching second with a two-out double, only to be stranded there by a D’Antona strikeout.

That was it for Ishikawa, who can take heart from his most assured start to date, giving up the 2 runs off 6 hits in his 8 innings of work. Though it should be noted that he was again undone by the longball.  Wada’s homer was the 6th homerun Masanori has given up in his 5 starts. He struck out 6 and walked none as his record remains at 0 and 4 with his ERA dropping to 4.68.

Tokyo then dodged a bullet in the bottom of the 9th as Oshimoto (1.08) took the mound in relief. A Blanco lead off single was followed by a walk for the red-hot Wada to put two men on with no outs. Nomoto then layed down a bunt which was exellently fielded by D’Antona who threw to third to register the first out of the inning. Pinch hitter Cesar hit the first pitch he saw to short allowing he Swallows to turn the double play and send the game in to extra innings.

In the 10th, Dragons closer Iwase took the mound. Aikawa led off with a shot that hit the leftfield wall for a double and was replaced by pinch-runner Miwa. He was moved to third by a Yoshimoto (in for the pitcher) bunt and Tanaka took the plate. He only managed to hit a weak grounder to Iwase, who threw home with Miwa easily tagged (why on earth did he run?) out to end what would be Tokyo’s last real threat of the game.

Matsuoka (1.00) took the mound for the bottom of the 10th, and after a single a walk and a wild pitch found himself in a men on the corners two-out jam. But Morino again came up short as he hit a weak fly ball to left centre to take the game to an 11th inning.

After Takahashi made light work of  Miyamoto, Aoki and Guiel in the top of the 11th, Lim (0.00) worked a hitless bottom of the inning, giving up just a walk.

With Hirai working a hitless 12th for Chunichi, it was just left to Takagi (1.59) to try and hold on for the tie. He did allow a runner to reach second, but escaped the inning to leave things at 2-2 Final.

Chunichi outhit Tokyo 8-6, with only Miyamoto (.276) managing a two-hit game. Guiel was 0 for 5 and is now batting a lowly .216.

The two teams will meet for the final game of the series tomorrow evening, with Tony Barnette the likely starter for the Swallows.

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