5/1/11 – Hanshin (Away)

May 1st, 2011

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 6

Hanshin Tigers 2

Streak: Won 1  Last 5: WWLLW

(Koshien Stadium)


After an impressive unbeaten streak that lifted the team to the top of the Central League in April, the Swallows finished the month with a pair of losses at Koshien Stadium.

The birds took the field Sunday afternoon hoping to get back to winning ways and avoid a series sweep. Going into today’s game the Swallows were in a tie for first with Hiroshima at the top of the Central.


Miyamoto gives his new friend, Balentien, some lovin'.

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

Things didn’t start particularly well for the Swallows. With one out and two on in the first, Hatakeyama ended things by grounding into a double play. That sucked.

Then Muranaka (4.90 ERA), Tokyo’s left-handed starter, had to leave the game after facing only three batters due to what appeared to be a tweaked back. Matsui inherited one runner with two outs when he took the mound, and he immediately gave up a two-run homer to Arai when he fired a fastball straight down the pipe. 2-0 Hanshin.

But in the top of the second, Balentien got things back on track with his seventh home run of the season. He showed some good patience in waiting for a full count pitch and got a fastball that he could work with. The next time anyone got their hands on the ball it was in the right field stands. 2-1 Hanshin.

Then with one out, Aikawa  and Kawabata hit singles up the middle to put men on first and second. Matsui tried to bunt them over, but the bounce sat nicely for Johjima who threw Aikawa out at third on a fielder’s choice. With runners still on first and second, Aoki came up with a single to center that plated Kawabata. All square at two runs apiece.

After two relatively quiet innings at the plate, Tokyo got things going again in the fifth and were able to piece together one more run.

With one out on the board (Tanaka 5-3), Whitesell  poked a single into center. Balentien then worked an excellent eight-pitch walk to create an opportunity for Miyamoto. Tokyo’s third baseman proceeded to bring Whitesell around from second on a 1-2 fastball down the middle. 3-2 Tokyo.

But the birds would suffer some more bad luck shortly thereafter. Matsui (1.93 ERA) was forced to leave the game after hurting his right leg. Kyuko (3.38) came in to a one out, man on first situation, and he quickly gave up a hit to Murton. He was eventually able to get the two outs that he needed on 11 pitches.

Nothing exciting happened on offense in the sixth other than Aoki putting together a nice  13-pitch at bat that culminated in a liner to Toritani at short.

But the seventh was a lot of fun to watch. Tanaka again led off with a groundout before Whitesell drew his second walk of the game. Fukuchi came in to pinch run. Hanshin’s manager, Mayumi, decided to go from Kojima (LHP) to Fukuhara (RHP) to face the Hatakeyama-Balentien-Miyamoto trio of righties. It didn’t work.

Fukuchi stole second on a 1-2 pitch that Johjima couldn’t cleanly pull out of his glove, and then Hatakeyama came through with a bounding drive that gave Fukuchi more than enough time to sprint home from second. 4-2 Tokyo.

The air really got let out of the Koshien crowd’s technicolored condom-balloons one pitch later.

With Hatakeyama on first, Johjima called for a fastball on the outside corner of the plate and Balentien pounced on it. The ball landed just to the left of the right field foul pole for his second round-tripper of the game and eighth of the season. 6-2 Tokyo.

The Swallows went down in order in the eighth and ninth, but Tokyo’s bullpen never allowed more than a single runner the rest of the way. After Kyuko finished the fifth, Oshimoto (3.00) pitched a pair of scoreless innings. Like Oshimoto in the sixth, Matsuoka (2.25) got out of the eighth care of an inning-ending GIDP.

Barnette came in to deal with the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth. With a four run lead, Tony was hoping to prolong the life of his bagel-shaped ERA. He got Arai and Brazell to fly out to Balentien in right before Kanemoto punched a double to left-center. But everything worked out well for the team in the end as Johjima could only fly out to the catcher.

Matsui earned the win for his three and two-thirds innings of work. It was his first win in about three years. He threw 61 pitches and gave up one earned run off of three hits. He had two strikeouts, a walk and a wild pitch in his third appearance this year.

Balentien, of course, was the hero of the game for Tokyo, and he echoed exactly what everyone’s thinking when he said that he just needs to remain patient at the plate and lay off pitches in the dirt so that he’ll continue to get good pitches to hit. Exactly what we want to hear!

Balentien went 2-3 with a walk to lead Tokyo’s attack at the plate while Whitesell also reached base three times (BB, single, BB). Tanaka and Hatakeyama chipped  in by reaching base twice.

With Hiroshima’s loss, the Swallows are back in sole possession of first place in the Central League with a record of 10-5-2.

The birds now return to Jingu for another daytime series versus the improved Chunichi Dragons. The first game of the series is scheduled for 2PM on Tuesday.

Balentien adds two more runs to Tokyo's lead.



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