4/4/10 – Yokohama (Home)

April 4th, 2010

Yokohama Baystars 2

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1

Streak: Lost 1   Last 5: WLWWL

(Meiji Jingu Stadium)

After last night’s roller-coaster of a game, Tokyo was looking for a little stability from its starter, Muranaka. Like Yoshinori before him, Muranaka had a very solid opening game of the season, and this afternoon was his chance to demonstrate how far he’s come since last season.

And he definitely upstaged Yoshinori in that regard.

Today’s starting lineup:

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

Kawamoto was no doubt getting the start in reward for his heroics yesterday evening (walk-off two run homer.)

Muranaka started well. He maintained reasonably good control over his curve and forkball in keeping the BayStars hitless through five innings.

The fifth frame was actually a good test of his mettle as he found himself with two runners with two outs. Muranaka pitched around Murata but then ran into a very patient Sledge who drew a walk as well. In this situation last season, it was nearly guaranteed that a hit would ensue, and with Castillo going 5-5 yesterday one could be forgiven for a resurrection of pessimism.

But Muranaka got Castillo to ground out harmlessly to Tanaka at second base to end the threat and the inning.

And to be fair to Yokohama, rookie righty Kaga was pitching quite well in his first ever pro start. He also benefited from some excellent defense in the outfield. Hayakawa robbed Aoki of an extra-base hit, and possibly an RBI, in the first, and Yoshimura did very well to track down D’Antona’s opposite field hit to rob him of an RBI and end the inning.

The birds got on the board first in the second via a leadoff Guiel home run to right. 1-0 Tokyo.

Yokohama tied the game in the top of the sixth when Muranaka gave up his first hit of the game. With two out, Uchikawa worked a walk and then scored on a Murata double into the gap in left-center. Yokohama then went ahead on a Sledge single that scored Murata easily from second. 2-1 Yokohama.

In the bottom of the sixth, the birds loaded the bases for the second time in as many innings. And just like the previous instance, the Swallows went back out onto the field without bringing anyone home on a swinging K (Tanaka this time). This time, however, there was a Tak bunt in there (remember that “Tak bunt”, short for Takada bunt, refers to an unnecessary sacrifice bunt), and that free out for the opposition proved to be costly.

Just to illustrate how Takadaish the bunt was, let me give you the rundown. Miyamoto led off the Swallows’ sixth with a walk. Fujimoto then Tak-bunted him over. Despite Miyamoto dancing around on second base with one out, Kuwahara fanned Takeuchi for out number two. Hatakeyama, pinch-hitting for Muranaka, was immediately beaned thus negating the alleged value of the bunt. Fukuchi reached on an infield single to juice the bases, and Tanaka struck out swinging.

But to add a bit of sunshine to this report, I’m happy to type that Takagi made very quick work (eight pitches) of the Baystars in his first appearance of the season.

Tokyo would again threaten in the bottom of that inning as Aoki led off with a double down the line in right, and D’Antona drew his second walk of the game. Guiel then worked the count full against Ushida, and then drew his second walk of the afternoon to load the bases for the third inning in a row!

This time, however, there were no outs, and it was Miyamoto at the plate to take the challenge. He eventually popped out to the catcher on the 11th pitch he saw for out number one. Fujimoto then struck out swinging for out number two. Aikawa did the same to leave all of the runners stranded once again.

That’s nine stranded runners in only three innings. Hurts, yeah?

Takagi pitched the eighth and got out of it on 11 pitches this time, but the Swalllows didn’t get anyone on base this time around as the birds grounded out in order.

But then guess what happened — they loaded the bases again in the bottom of the ninth still reeling from a persistent one run deficit.

Again nobody had an answer. Aoki got on base once again, but that was as far as things got. Aikawa recorded the final out with a pop fly to right.

Aoki recorded three hits today, including two doubles. His batting average climbed to .514. Tanaka was the only other Tokyo player to record a multi-hit game.

2-1 Final.

Muranaka (2.57 ERA) took the loss in his second outing despite only giving up two hits and two earned runs.

Random notes:

  • Muranaka helped his own cause with a base hit in the bottom of the fifth. He was forced out at second a batter later.
  • Tokyo had the bases loaded with two out in the bottom of the fifth. Guiel struck out swinging.
  • Like Iihara yesterday, Fukuchi boneheadedly and unnecessarily slid head-first into first base (the infielder couldn’t make the throw in either case.)
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

  • 16 baserunners stranded. What a nightmare.

  • This has to be the most frustrating game I've ever watched. I had the fortitude to stay up until 3:30 AM last night watching this game, and all the Swallows could give me was 4 innings in which they stranded loaded bases?! It almost looks like an error in the batting rotation, but I don't know much about baseball, so I probably shouldn't be talking. Still, the biggest tease of the night had to be when D'Antona had a hit that was just foul of a home run in the 9th. A couple of feet, and this game would have turned out much differently.

    • And I forgot to mention, Takada was smiling the entire time. Even after we lost. I didn't understand it.

      • 3:30 a.m. would mean a start time of midnight, which puts you in Hawaii? (Am I right?)

        Unless you're in Japan, have SkaPa, and recorded the game, where and how did you see it? (Where and how to see games, or even just highlights, is by far the most common question we get and we are consistently frustrated at our inability to give a really good answer.)

        • Actually, I live in Oklahoma. Heheh. But you were right about the start time.

          For the games, I find links at: http://www.channelsurfing.net/. It usually just links to games on Justin.tv, but it's useful because it's really hard to find anything of use on Justin.tv. Sometimes a low-priority game might not be on there, but they usually have all of the Central League games. Giants games are 100% guaranteed to be on there. It may or may not be legal for it to be streamed there, but you're not going to get prosecuted for watching it.

          And for highlights, for the moment, they're all being posted at: http://www.youtube.com/user/rmpp20. This is probably temporary though, as I'm sure YouTube will delete it when they find out it exists.

          In short, I can only watch the games through shady means. Though, I think the Japan Series may be broadcast on the MLB network here in the US, and the World Series of Baseball is always on ESPN. But, for the most part, shady means.

          • I feel your pain. NPB, like too many Japanese entertainment organizations, seems to adhere to the idea that anyone seeing their product without direct payment is somehow hurting them.

  • Good to see Muranaka put in back-to-back quality starts. That certainly bodes well.

    Shame the bats couldn't bring home any of those umpteen guys they got on base during the game to back him up.

  • Poor Muranaka.
    Takada's indifference towards Iihara is bewildering.

    Used to post here as flick btw. Always a pleasure reading the updates in the morning.

  • MooreyTokyo

    Totally agree with everything here. Stranding 16 runners was hell. Just a sacfly would have tied things up at 2-2. But remaining positive, that's 3 series wins in a row. Another one Vs Carp would be superb. And Muranaka can draw confidence from the game, even if the hitters cannot….


    James (used to post here as a guest, James, finally registered for Disqus…)

    p.s Thanks for the tips on joining the fanclub – now it's done I cannot believe I didn't do it sooner. I estimate I spent 20,000 to 30,000 yen per year more than I had to over the past 4 years! All of that went towards paying Keizo's salary increase….