7/8/10 – Hanshin (Away)

July 8th, 2010

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 10

Hanshin Tigers 6

Streak: Won 1  Last 5: WLLLW

(Koshien)

With D’Antona on the farm team, and Guiel and Whitesell watching from the bench, the Tokyo Swallows looked to avoid a Koshien sweep at the hands of the Hanshin Tigers with Mikinori Katoh on the mound for the first start of the season.

Tonite’s lineup:

1. Aoki CF
2. Fukuchi LF
3. Tanaka 2B
4. Hatakeyama 1B
5. Iihara RF
6. Miyamoto 3B
7. Onizaki SS
8. Kawamoto C
9. Katoh P

Katoh’s first pitch of the game was a strike right down the middle, but then he followed that up with four straight pitches outside the zone. Hanshin ended up plating two runners in that inning, and it looked like the temporary new-look Swallows (Whitesell will be back in the lineup once the swelling in his knee has subsided) were in for a long night. 2-0 Hanshin.

But they tied things in the top of the next frame. Hanshin starter, Andoh, got two easy ground0uts, but Miyamoto and Onizaki singled to instill a modicum of hope. Kawamoto then bounced one off the fence to score two and tie the game. 2-2.

Both teams got a runner on base in the third, but nobody scored. The real fireworks came in the top of the fourth when the Swallows dressed Andoh in a very colorful clown suit.

Iihara started things off with a single, and Miyamoto drew a walk to put two on with no outs. Ogawa couldn’t resist the Tak-bunt, but Onizaki fouled out to Johjima for the first red lamp of the evening.

Kawamoto then loaded the bases with a bloop single to center (his second hit in as many at-bats), and Katoh came through with his first big-league hit, an infield single spiked firmly into the dirt about a foot in front of home plate, to bring home the go-ahead run. 3-2 Tokyo.

And with Katoh still grinning from ear to ear on first base, Aoki brought home two more runs with a double to left. 5-2 Tokyo.

Fukuchi then grounded out for the third time in as many at-bats which brought up Hatakeyama with two outs. Remarkably, he managed to park a 2-1 slider in the center field bleachers. Grand slam! 9-2 Swallows.

Hanshin got one back in the bottom of that inning, but Hatakeyama would strike again (RBI single; Fukuchi scored) in the eighth to restore the seven run lead. 10-3 Tokyo.

Toritani, however, brought around a couple more in the bottom of the eighth for 10-5.

And wouldn’t you know it, Lim was in to pitch the ninth with a five run cushion. Not my first choice, but this is the way things work from a (Tokyo) managerial point of view.

He was sharp up to a point, but he threw one too many fastballs to Brazell which resulted in his 29th homer of the season. Lim ended up escaping the inning with only the one run against him. 10-6 Final.

Katoh (1-0, 3.55 ERA) took the win, the first of his pro career, in his first start (and sixth appearance) of 2010. He threw 77 pitches through five innings while giving up three earned runs off of six hits. He issued two walks against one strikeout.

The offensive player of the game was obviously Hatakeyama who came through with his second homer of the year (grand slam) and five total RBIs.

Aoki, Tanaka, and Kawamoto also had two hits each. Aoki and Tanaka added a walk to reach base three times while Kawamoto did the same plus the addition of a painful HBP to the ribs for a fourth appearance on the basepaths.

The Swallows return to Jingu tomorrow for the start of a three-game series versus Hiroshima.

Random notes:

The trio of Oshimoto (34th appearance), Masubuchi (35) and Matsuoka (36) are being flagrantly overused. I’ve grown used to this over the past few years, but I’d just like to point out once again that it will soon come back to bite us in the collective ass. While I can sympathize with the desire to lock the game down, there are a few other guys in the bullpen that can get through an inning without giving up more than a single run. With a six run cushion, I’d say that it’s worth giving our habitual middle-relief choices the night off.

Lim didn’t need to be used either, but you probably already figured that.

Fukuchi grounded out four times. And he forced Aoki out at second twice.

If double-digit hits are what we can expect from an all-Japanese lineup, then…

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

  • zunlin

    I agree that The OSH-MA-MA-LIM (a kind of taleban name) is overused, everybody knows it but the management team…

  • Kozo

    Looking at the players that were in the bullpen tonight, and looking at their recent pitching schedules I didn't have a problem with giving Lim (last pitched June 3) an inning of work tonight. Due to all the losing we did, Lim was only making his 25th appearance, not an unreasonable number at this stage in the season. That kind of judgment also depends on the personality of the pitcher, and how they like to get their work in. A point of which I have no insight.

    I agree about the Oshimoto, Masubuchi and Matsuoka trio though.

    • Yeah, I guess I've just gotten used to seeing him fizzle the past two years because he gets overworked, so I'm a little over-protective.

      Last year was horrendous, and as Ogawa seems to have adopted the same middle-relief, tag-team strategy as his predecessor, Takada, I'm worried that we'll see Lim dropped to the farm in September because of arm discomfort–such seems to be the annual routine.

      And as you implied, it does sound like he feels the need to be in a game situation every four or five days. There's also the valid observation that it can be psychologically stabilizing for the bullpen to have its own routines, and it appears that they've found a groove with the Oshimoto-Masubuchi-Matsuoka-Lim progression.

      That said, one more reason not to use Lim too much at this point is that at least one third of the trio preceding him is bound to break down by mid-August. That will either require more robust outings from our ever-evolving lineup of starters or a couple extra outs per game from our sidearm closer.

      Naturally, I'm in favor of the former but would probably place my money on the latter.

  • All I have to say is MIKINORI!!!!

    Funny thing: I was at the Fighters game at the Tokyo Dome, but sitting with a few people who go to many more ni-gun games than ichi-gun, and they know I'm a big Mikinori Katoh fan, and some of them double as Yakult fans, so they kept updating me through the game about Yakult, like “You're not going to believe this, but your beloved Mikinori is going to get his first win… the Swallows are up 9-3…”

    I mean, I was much happier that the Fighters were winning in person, but I'm really happy about this too.

    I also agree about the overuse of the bullpen. I like Oshimoto a lot and wish he was back with the Fighters just because we wouldn't be trying to kill him.

  • As you may have guessed, that was Hatakeyama's (aka “Fludge” and “Fatake”) first career grand slam.

    • He looked chuffed to bits as he rounded the bases, rightly so.