7/6/10 – Hanshin (Away)

July 6th, 2010

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1

Hanshin Tigers 6

Streak: Lost 2  Last 5: WWWLL

(Kurashiki Muscat Stadium)

Tokyo lost the opening game of a 3 game series against the Hanshin Tigers. The Birds waste a gritty start by Muranaka, and couldn’t get their offense going against the Tiger’s Jason Standridge.

The Swallows tinkered a little with the lineup tonight:

  1. Aoki CF
  2. Tanaka 2B
  3. Iihara LF
  4. Whitesell 1B
  5. Aikawa C
  6. Miyamoto 3B
  7. Ueda RF
  8. Onizaki SS
  9. Muranaka P

The Swallows threatened early in the game with hits by Aoki and Iihara, sandwiching a failed bunt attempt by Tanaka, bringing Whitesell up to the plate. Unfortunately a inside fastball hit Whitesell right in the kneecap, and brought the big man down. Whitesell was able to walk off the field under his own power, but was replaced by Takeuchi. According to Nikkan Sports, Whitesell was checked out at a local hospital and was found to have a contusion but no bone damage. With 1 out and the bases loaded, Aikawa was not able to capitalize and ended the inning by grounding into a double play.

The Tigers struck first in the bottom of the inning with textbook Japanese baseball, with a leadoff hit, sac bunt, and double by Murton. 1-0 Tigers

The Swallows threatened again in the second inning, when Ueda and Onizaki managed back-to-back singles with 1 out. Muranaka struckout bunting, bringing up Aoki. Aoki managed to hit a strong grounder to the second baseman, that was ruled an infield single. Ueda came around from second and was tagged out on a close play at the plate. The broadcast I was watching didn’t show too many replays, and I’m not entirely convinced that Johjima got his tag in on time. That was the last inning the Swallows managed a hit off Standridge until the sixth.

Despite some minor blips Muranaka was able to keep the Tigers scoreless until the forth inning. In the forth, Muranaka allowed back-to-back 1 out hits to Johjima and Asai, and followed that up with a walk to Yamato. With 1 out and the bases loaded, Muranaka got Standridge to strikeout, but allowed leadoff man Toritani to get a hit to left. 2-0 Tigers. Muranaka limited the damage to just 1 run, by getting the next batter, Hirano, to foul out to Miyamoto.

Muranaka pitched 2 more innings of score-less ball, before he was pulled in favor of the pinch-hitting Guiel in the top of the seventh. Muranaka’s final line reads 6 IP/ 7 H / 5 K / 2 BB / 1 HB / 2R / 2ER on 99 pitches. Not a great night, but Muranaka managed to keep his poise in some tough situations and certainly kept the Swallows in the game.

With Muranaka out of the game, the Swallows handed off the ball to Masubuchi who was making his 4th appearance in as many games. That’s when the wheels came off the wagon… Masubuchi managed to give up back-to-back-to-back singles to Standridge (the first of his NPB career), Toritani, and Hirano (on a fake bunt) to load the bases. The Tigers got their first run on a weak groundout by Murton down the first base line. 3-0 Tigers. The next batter, Arai, busted the game open with a double to deep left, clearing the bases. 5-0 Tigers. At this point, Masubuchi was pulled in favor of Watanabe to face the lefty Brazell. Watanabe proceeded to surrender a single to Brazell, making the game 6-0 Tigers. Watanabe managed to get the next two batters to fly out, but the damage was done.

The Swallows threatened a little in the top of the eighth, managing to get two men after 2 outs, but Miyamoto wasn’t able to get either man home. Takaichi threw in the bottom of the eighth, and despite a lead off single to Kanemoto, got the rest of the order to retire uneventfully.

So with a health 6-0 lead, the Tigers decided to send out Standridge in the ninth to attempt to get his first career complete game shutout. Even if we weren’t going to win this game, I was hoping we could at least knock Standridge out of the game to bruise his ego, and give ourselves momentum for tomorrow. Things started off well, as Ueda managed a lead off single, and subsequently advanced to second on a catcher’s indifference. Onizaki dutifully knocked Ueda home with a single of his own. 6-1 Tigers. D’Antona came up to plate, but could only manage a deep fly out to left. Aoki applied more pressure on Standridge, smacking a single hard to center, making it men on the corners with 1 out. Things were looking good as Tanaka got ahead of the count 1-3. But a foul and a double play grounder later, the game was over.

Jason Standridge got his complete game after 145 pitches. The Swallows managed only 1 run off 10 hits, 1 walk, and 2 dead balls. Standridge looked very good in the early going, getting ahead in the count, and constantly throwing strikes. But it was disappointing to see the Birds only come away with 1 run after he was clearly tired and getting behind in the count.

Game 2 of this 3 game series will move from Okayama, to Koshien, the Tiger’s regular home stadium.

We were beaten by this man tonight!

About Kozo Ota

Kozo Ota is a third-generation Swallows fan that grew up on Montreal Expos baseball. (You can read more about that here.) When he's not at Jingu, he works as a freelance translator/interpreter to make enough money to go to Jingu. You can find random posts by Kozo on Google+ and Twitter.