8/14/10 – Hanshin (Away)

August 14th, 2010

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3

Hanshin Tigers 4

Streak: Lost 1   Last 5: WWWWL

(Osaka Kyocera Dome)

With the struggling Nakazawa down at the farm, the Swallows decided to give the young Katsuki Akagawa the start. Akagawa, of the low-80s fastball, slider, and not much else, threw valiantly against the Tigers but wasn’t quite able to slow them down. The Tigers started Jason Standridge who pitched a good game when he last saw the Swallows in early July.

Aikawa and Miyamoto returned to the lineup which looked like this:

  1. Aoki CF
  2. Tanaka 2B
  3. Takeuchi RF
  4. Whitesell 1B
  5. Hatakeyama LF
  6. Aikawa C
  7. Miyamoto 3B
  8. Kawabata SS
  9. Akagawa P

(Ishikawa was announced as the starting right fielder, but was replaced by Takeuchi before the Swallows took the field.)

Akagawa took the loss tonight.

The Tigers threatened early when a Murton hit, Hirano sac-bunt, and a Toritani infield single put runners on the corners with 1 out. An Arai ground out to short brought Murton around to score. Akagawa put Brazell on via a HBP, but got Kanemoto to ground out to end the threat with minimal damage. 1-0 Tigers

Things didn’t go as smoothly in the third when the Tigers lead off the inning when Murton lead off with another single, and Hirano executed another sac bunt. Toritani followed with a walk, putting runners on first and second with 1 out. Arai and Brazell hit back-to-back singles to bring in one run apiece. 3-0 Tigers Things could have gotten worse but Kanemoto lined out to Whitesell, who managed to tag out Brazell to complete the double play.

Akagawa settled down and pitched clean fourth and fifth innings. His night came to an end, however, when after getting Brazell to ground out, he conceded a double to Kanemoto in the sixth. Kanemoto came around to score when Johjima took the first offering off Akagawa’s replacement, Yoshikawa, into right for a single. 4-0 Tigers Once again, the Tigers killed any chance of widening the lead when Johjima was caught trying to steal second, and Sakurai flied out to second.

Standridge began to feel the effects of fatigue in the top of the seventh. He lead off the inning by giving up a hit to Aikawa, and a walk to Miyamoto. The Tigers decided that 124 pitches were enough for Standridge, and pulled him in favor of the lefty Kawasaki. Ogawa responded by bringing out D’Antona to hit in place of Kawabata. The move worked perfectly as D’Antona deposited the third pitch he saw into left for a double. 4-1 Tigers Onizaki took D’Antona’s spot on the basepaths, and Kawasaki was pulled in favor of Nishimura for the Tigers. Nishimura loaded the bases by walking Iihara, who was pinch hitting in the pitcher’s slot. With no outs and the bases loaded, Aoki could only manage to fly out to shallow center. Tanaka would do slightly better, by flying out to deep left to bring home Miyamoto from third. 4-2 Tigers Takeuchi wasn’t able to get the Swallows any closer, ending the inning with a fly out to right.

Masubuchi came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh and made quick work of the Tigers. The Tigers brought in Kubota to work the eighth. Whitesell battled Kubota a bit before he took a 2-2 offering into the rightfield stands. 4-3 Tigers The rest of the order weren’t able to do anything as they went down 1-2-3.

Watanabe worked a perfect bottom of the eighth to keep the score as it was. In order to extend their winning streak and get back to .500, the Swallows needed to break Kyuji Fujikawa, arguably the best closer in the Central League. The Swallows came close after Iihara drew a one out walk, and Aoki followed with an infield single, to make it 1 out with men on first and second. Unfortunately the game ended when Tanaka swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

A tough loss, but there’s no reason to panic. The Swallows battled the Tigers hard while starting their worst pitcher. Every team loses in baseball occasionally, and I certainly don’t feel that we were over matched by the Tigers, the way I felt earlier in the season. The Swallows will look to win the series and start a new winning streak at 18:00 JST at the Kyocera Dome.

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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.