5/21/11 – Tohoku Rakuten (Away)

May 21st, 2011

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 3

Streak: Lost 3   Last 5: WWLLL

(Kleenex Stadium Miyagi)

 

The Swallows looked to bounce back after two close losses to two of Japan’s premiere pitchers by sending their lefty ace Ishikawa, fresh off his 100th career win, onto the mound. Rakuten sent rookie lefty Takahiro Shiomi to face the Swallows.

 Swallows Eagles
1CF Aoki1CF Hijirisawa
22B Tanaka2SS Matsui
3DH Whitesell33B Kusano
41B Hatakeyama4DH Yamasaki
5RF Balentien52B Takasu
63B Miyamoto6LF Nakamura
7C Aikawa7RF Teppei
8SS Kawabata81B Ohiro
9LF Iihara9C Nakatani
SPIshikawaSPShiomi

The game started off with a lot of promise as Tanaka was able to poke a one-out single to left, and Josh quickly doubled to center to put men in scoring position with one out. Flied out to center, but not deep enough to allow Tanaka to tag up from third, for the second out. Balentien worked a 7 pitch walk out of Shiomi to load the bases for Miyamoto. Unfortunately Miyamoto swung at the first pitch he saw and flied out to left for out number 3. The Swallows would not get a hit off Shiomi for the rest of the night.

Ishikawa struggled with his control early in the game walking Hijirisawa on 4 pitches to start the game, and later plunking Yamasaki two batters later. But the veteran was able to get his three outs to keep the Eagles off the board for the first inning. After the Swallows went down 1-2-3 in the top of the second, Ishikawa opened the bottom of the frame by hitting Nakamura. Nakamura was replaced on the basepaths by Shiokawa. Teppei followed with a single up the middle putting men on first and second with no outs. The Eagles played it safe by making Ohiro bunt the runners over into scoring position and getting them out of a double play situation. The move worked out as Nakatani followed the bunt with a ground out to second, allowing Shiokawa to score from second. 1-0 Eagles Ishikawa got out of the inning without further damage by inducing another grounder to second from Hijirisawa.

The top of the third wasn’t particularly exciting for the Swallows, after consecutive ground outs by Aoki and Tanaka, Whitesell drew a two out walk. But all Hatakeyama was able to do was strike out swinging. On the other side of the frame, Ishikawa was able to get two quick outs from Kaz Matsui and Kusano. Veteran slugger Yamasaki came up to the plate and crushed the first pitch he saw over the right field fence to widen the Eagles’ lead. 2-0 Eagles

That was the way the score stayed for a while as both pitchers got in a groove and got of outs from balls put into play. The Swallows did manage to get men on first and second with two outs via an error and walk in the fourth, but couldn’t cash in. Ishikawa pitched 3 perfect innings starting in the fourth, and cleaned up nicely after allowing the lead runner to get on in the seventh. Shiomi countered by pitching 3 perfect frames from the fifth to the seventh.

Things finally got interesting again in the eighth. After Aoki grounded out on six pitches, Tanaka drew a walk on seven pitches to put a man on first with one out. Whitesell then battled Shiomi for nine pitches before finally getting a free pass to second to put men on first and second with one out. The 22 pitches the Swallows made Shiomi throw put his pitch count up to 119 for the night, and the Eagles ended the rookie’s day. In his place the Eagles sent Aoyama to the mound to face Hatakeyama. Despite falling behind 0-2 early Hatakeyama waited for his pitch and worked the count to 2-2 before sending a low breaking ball back up the middle to score Tanaka from second base. 2-1 Eagles Balentien flew out to deep right, although he did allow Miwa, running for Whitesell, tag up to third. Miyamoto came up to bat with men on the corners and two out. After working the count to 2-2, Miyamoto caught an outside fast ball and grounded it towards first for what looked to be a hit, but a diving Oishi was able to make a diving grab and get the out at first to end the Swallows chance.

Ishikawa ran into a little trouble of his own in the bottom of the eighth. After getting Hijirikawa to strikeout swinging, and Kaz Matsui to fly out to left, Ishikawa gave up a hit to Kusano. He followed that up by walking Yamasaki, and Oshimoto was called in from the bullpen to finish the eighth. Oshimoto did his job getting Uchimura to strikeout.

The Eagles sent out the righty Romulo Sanchez to face the Swallows in the ninth. Takeuchi, batting for Aikawa, struckout on 9 pitches. He was followed by Kawabata who only managed to ground out to third. With two outs the Swallows sent out Yuichi to bat in place of Iihara. Yuichi watched 4 consecutive pitches miss the strike zone, and was promptly replaced by Fukuchi on the base paths. Fukuchi wasted no time and quickly stole second base, his ninth of the year. Aoki worked Sanchez for another walk to put men on first and second with 2 out. Sanchez started throwing in the strike zone again, and Tanaka made him pay by hitting a single into right field. Fukuchi was able to score easily from second base. 2-2 All At this point the Eagles decided to relieve Sanchez, and sent in their closer, Ryan Speier. Speier managed to make short work of Miwa and ended the inning on just 2 pitches.

Teppei slides in for the winning run.

The Swallows stuck with Oshimoto in the bottom of the ninth to face the lower half of the Eagles’ batting order. Oshimoto managed to get Shiokawa to strikeout, but couldn’t get any more outs. He gave up a single to Teppei, and a double to Ohiro. Teppei got a good start at first and managed to beat the throw from left fairly easily. 3-2 Eagles It was Oishi’s first NPB hit in 4 years.

The Swallows dropped 2 one-run games in Sendai and now go back down to Tokyo to face the Hawks at home. There is however rain in the forecast, so it remains to be seen if the Swallows will play tomorrow night.

Notes

  • Through 4 interleague games, the Swallows have scored only 5 runs, while only allowing 8 runs.
  • Iihara only saw 4 total pitches in his 3 plate appearances today. He flew out to second on 1 pitch in the second, grounded out to third on 1 pitch in the fourth, and flew out to right on 2 pitches in the seventh. Incidentally, all of Iihara’s at bats ended the inning. Not the way you get back into the groove of things.
  • Tanaka went 2-for-4 with a walk, a run, and an RBI. he was the only Swallow to get multiple hits. Although Whitesell managed to get on base 3 times via a double and 2 walks.
  • Oshimoto was tagged with the loss while Speier got credited with the win.
  • The Swallows still have a 2 game lead in the Central League standings. But only 2.5 games separate them from the fourth place Giants.
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.