7/15/10 – Chunichi (Away)

July 15th, 2010

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 9

Chunichi Dragons 4

Streak: Won 5   Last 5: WWWWW

(Nagoya Dome)

The Swallows managed to put the finishing touches on their third five-game winning streak of the season (all of them in the post-Takada era) while taking full advantage of every opportunity given to them.

Tonight’s lineup:

1. Aoki CF
2. Tanaka 2B
3. Iihara RF
4. Whitesell 1B
5. Hatakeyama LF
6. Aikawa C
7. Miyamoto 3B
8. Fujimoto SS
9. Nakazawa P

With Yoshimi looking pretty solid on the mound for the Dragons, Aoki created a little bit of wiggle-room for the visitors in the third with an expertly-placed two-out double down the line in left. Tanaka then drew a walk to occupy the empty base. Iihara then came through with a clutch double high off the wall in right to score both Aoki and Tanaka. 2-0 Tokyo.

But Chunichi came right back in the bottom of that inning when Tanishige led off the inning by crushing a Nakazawa curveball. 2-1 Tokyo.

The Swallows scored again in the fourth. Aikawa’s one out single was his second hit of the game, and he was pushed to third on a very nice full-count poke by Miyamoto past the shortstop. Then, with runners on the corners, Fujimoto bounced the first pitch high enough into the air that Aikawa was able to scamper home. Fujimoto was out at first, but the two run lead was restored. 3-1 Tokyo.

Things nearly got very ugly in the bottom of that inning. Nakazawa walked the first batter and then a Tanaka fielding error on a potential double-play grounder left runners safe on first and second with no outs. Wada then fouled out to Whitesell for the first out. After the runners were able to advance when Aikawa forgot to catch the ball, Blanco walked as Nakazawa was advised to pitch around him. Bases loaded for Cesar. But he then popped up in foul territory, too, with Whitesell again on the receiving end for the second out.

And with Tanishige complaining about the ump’s strike zone (which ballooned wildly off the left side of the plate for most of the game), Aikawa was able to pick Morino off at second after he was a little slow getting back. Disaster averted.

Aoki led off the next inning with his second hit of the game, but Tanaka’s Tak-bunt was fielded nicely by the catcher and Aoki was out at second. Never feat, though, Iihara is here, and he came through with his second double in as many at-bats to put runners on second and third with one out.

The Swallows were able to score a run thanks to a wild pitch by Yoshimi with Whitesell at the plate. 4-1 Tokyo.

The birds couldn’t survive another defensive lapse as Fujimoto’s carelessness ended up costing the Swallows two runs. The runner mistakenly allowed on first and the runner that walked after that both scored on Oshima’s double off the wall in center. 4-3 Tokyo.

But the birds kept finding ways to score. In the sixth, Miyamoto and Fujimoto had back-to-back one-out singles to start things off. Ueda, pinch hitting for Nakazawa, then popped up softly to shallow left for out number two, but Aoki was able to bring Miyamoto home from third with a single between first and second. It was his third hit of the evening. 5-3 Swallows.

Oshimoto (2.91) pitched a scoreless bottom of the sixth, and Masubuchi (2.98) looked horrible but still held on in the bottom of the seventh. Matsuoka (1.66) took care of the eighth.

But the Swallows would put this one out of reach in the top of the ninth with Lim getting ready in the bullpen. Kawamoto drew a pinch-hit walk to lead things off. Aoki then thwacked his fourth hit of the game to put runners on first and second. Tanaka then Tak-bunted them over for the first out. Iihara then drew a walk to load the bases, and Takeuchi’s grounder to second was enough to score Kawamoto from third. Takeuchi was out at first, but the runners advanced. 6-3 Tokyo.

Fukuchi then brought both Aoki and Iihara home with a single to left. 8-3 Tokyo.

The fleet-footed Fukuchi was then able to score from first when Aikawa drilled one into the gap in left-center, and that was the end of Tokyo’s offensive attack for the evening. 9-3 Tokyo.

Chunichi got one run back in the ninth with Matsui (5.25) on the mound (fortunately Lim was told to take his spikes off once the birds started to run away with it in the ninth). 9-4 Final.

Nakazawa (3.78 ERA) got the win, his sixth of the year, and gave up only one earned run off of two hits. The one blemish on his evening was the five walks he issued–somewhat surprising given the size of the strike zone that the home plate umpire was going by.

Aoki was an impressive 4-5 at the plate with one RBI while Aikawa went 3-5 with an RBI. Both Miyamoto and Iihara had two hits on the evening while the latter also added a walk and an HBP.

The Swallows now return to Jingu for the start of a three game series against the second place Hanshin Tigers.

Random thoughts:

Today was Masubuchi’s 37th appearance of the season. I’d like to take this opportunity to kindly remind Mr. Ogawa that Masubuchi isn’t used to getting this much playing time, and that may help explain how terribly he looks on the mound. That’s nearly twice as many as he had in his first three seasons combined (19). Sure, he was a starter during those first three seasons, but through just shy of half a season, he’s already got his innings up to the second highest in his career. Please find a fourth middle reliever soon. Convert another potential starter if you have to. The poor guy is tired.

The Swallows outhit the Dragons 13-5 in this contest.

The birds were very effective at bringing runners home from third tonight. They always seemed to find a way. There was a very delicate mixture of clutch hitting and luck (wild pitch) working for the Swallows this evening.

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

  • Kozo

    I don't think we can afford to convert a potential starter right now. Watanabe would probably be the best candidate. Right now I think he's being used exclusively against left-handers in critical situations, but I'd like to see if he can handle righties.

    Unfortunately this problem is partly situational, we're not blowing people out nor are we being blown out. Also, ideally our starters would pitch a bit deeper into games (7 innings). Being in situations where our best relievers are being called to pitch 3-4 innings constantly is never good for a bullpen.

  • Can anyone remember the last time Iihara stole a base safely? If he's done it recently, I didn't see it. He got thrown out again in the seventh.

    • zunlin

      and against Tanishige,who is not famous to be a flash…

  • zunlin

    The overused pitching staff is the most critical right now, but don't forget that we are in a 5 five winning streak and we have won the serie in Nagoya!
    Aoki is now tremendous! And Aikawa don't want to be less useful!
    We need some support from the 4-5 slot imho. Whitesell should be n4 , who for n5?

    GO-GO Swallows!