5/8/11 – Hiroshima (Home)

May 8th, 2011

Hiroshima Toyo Carp 3

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3

Streak: Tied 1      Last 5: WWLLD

(Matsuyama Stadium)

 

Hiroshima

Maeda took a sharp grounder off the shin but was still annoyingly good afterwards.

1. Soyogi SS
2. Higashide 2B
3. Hirose RF
4. Tracey 3B
5. Kurihara 1B
6. Iwamoto LF
7. Maru CF
8. Ishihara C
9. Maeda P

Tokyo

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. Masubuchi P

 

Hiroshima got on the board first in this contest with the help of a well-placed Ishihara infield single that wreaked havoc on the right side of Tokyo’s defense. Ishihara was called safe at first, and that gave Iwamoto more than enough time to find his way home. 1-0 Hiroshima.

Masubuchi then had one of his wonderfully-times lapses where  he forgets how to throw strikes. Embarrassingly, Hiroshima’s pitcher was able to take advantage of this at the plate and work a full-count walk that loaded the bases with two outs.

Even more embarrassingly, Soyogi worked another full-count walk to bring home the second run of the evening. For the record, Masubuchi was nowhere near the strike zone on either of the 3-2 pitches just mentioned. 2-0 Hiroshima.

Hiroshima added another run in the top of the third. Back-to-back singles by Hirose and Tracey made things tight for Masubuchi before he recorded the first out which came a batter later when Kurihara flied out to left.

And Masubuchi got a cheap second out on  an infield fly that Miyamoto caught about three paces from home plate. But Maru came through with this second hit of the game, a single to right. That was enough to score Hirose from second. 3-0 Hiroshima.

Hiroshima fans  had a little bit of a scare when Kawabata lined a pitch off of Maeda’s right leg for a base hit. Maeda was in pain and left the field for a couple of minutes to get checked out. He eventually resumed his position on the mound, but it looked for a moment like he had lost a bit of stability from his push-off leg as he very nearly beaned Masubuchi in the head as the latter attempted to sac bunt Kawabata over to second.

The sacrifice  was successful, and Kawabata moved over to third on Aoki’s high bouncer back to the pitcher, but Tanaka struck out chasing junk in the dirt to eliminate the small Tokyo threat.

Masubuchi finally got a 1-2-3 inning recorded in the fourth. And he followed that up with a second one in the fifth.

And the team finally rewarded him with a run in the bottom of that inning. Kawabata led off with a single to right, and Masubuchi followed with another successful sac bunt. Aoki and the Swallows then got a bit lucky when his grounder to Soyogi was slightly mishandled. Hiroshima’s shortstop tried to flick the ball backhanded to third in order to get the lead runner, but he ended up hitting Kawabata in the back instead. Both runners were safe with one out.

Kawabata then scored on Tanaka’s slow grounder to short. Aoki was out at second, but Hiroshima was uncontested at first. Hatakeyama then wasted his at-bat to end the inning with runners on first and third. 3-1 Hiroshima.

Tokyo clawed another one back in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and Tanaka on first. With the so-called “Whitesell shift” in place, Josh was able to scoot an outside pitch into shallow left field which brought Tanaka all the way around from third.

And you should have seen the look on Whitesell’s face when he saw Tanaka cross home safely. The commentators misread it and said that he looked really happy. He was pleased to be sure, but he was basically laughing at how ridiculous it was that he got an RBI on that weak dribbler past third base. At any rate, Josh was taken out of the game in favor of a pinch runner (as is the routine now).

Pinch runner, Miwa, made it safely to third on Hatakeyama’s ensuing grounder to short that had Soyogi so turned around that Tokyo’s big guy was able to beat the throw to first.

And one pitch later, Miwa crossed home plate. Umetsu’s off-target slider teamed with the sand-like infield dirt in Matsuyama meant that Ishihara had no chance of blocking the pitch. Miwa was in the dugout seconds later having just scored the equalizer. 3-3.

But it got scary after that.

Kurihara drove Barnette’s first pitch of the eighth into the outfield to get things going in the wrong direction for the Swallows. Iwamoto followed that with a single of  his own to put runners on first and second. A meeting on the mound correctly predicted that Maru would bunt and that Miyamoto would be covering third rather than charging, but when Maru helped the birds with a bunt right at Barnette, Tony muffed the glove-to-throwing-hand transfer and all three runners were safe.

But then he made up for it. Visibly perturbed, Barnette started hitting his spots and got Ishihara to strike out swinging at a forkball. He starter throwing a bit harder as well. Pinch-hitter, Maeda, and Soyogi also struck out swinging.

It wasn’t how Barnette planned, but he got out of the inning unscathed. Absolutely amazing pitching under pressure.

After Tony’s 25 pitch effort in the eighth, Lim was called in to keep Hiroshima quiet during the ninth. It took 10 pitches, and two of the outs came via the almighty K.

But that was all she wrote as the Swallows weren’t able to bring anyone home in the ninth (Fukuchi got picked off trying to get back to second). And with the game stretching just beyond the three and a half hour mark, a new inning couldn’t be started.

The tie leaves the Swallows and Carp tied at the top of the Central League with identical 12-7-3 records.

Next up for the birds is a short away series against the Dragons on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Chunichi currently sits in fourth place, 3.5 games behind Tokyo and Hiroshima, and a half of a game behind the third-placed Yomiuri Giants.

Notes:

  • Aoki, Whitesell, Miyamoto and Kawabata had two hits each. Whitesell got on base a third time care of a walk.
  • Masubuchi (ERA 3.81 through four starts) gave up three earned runs from six hits. His biggest shortcoming this afternoon was the fact that he issued five walks (although the last one was basically an intentional walk). He through 111 pitches through 6 and 2/3’s innings. After a rocky second and third, he didn’t allow another hit.
  • Hatakeyama and Balentien appear to have fallen back to earth a little bit. The big question remains whether or not they can remain patient at the plate. A combined one for seven today, there were times when the answer to that question was a firm ‘no.’
  • They should show tape of Barnette’s performance to all of the youngsters in Tokyo’s bullpen. His back was against the wall, and he reacted in the way that we always hope pitchers will. Calmly yet aggressively. He showed some serious heart there and proved to be unhittable when the team truly needed it.

 

Umetsu allows the leveling run on a wild pitch.

 

 

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

  • Great game, but what a complete anti-climax that ending was. I was convinced (yes, team loyalties are oh so blind) that Kawamoto was going to bring home Fukuchi from second in the 9th, but then the halfwit got himself picked off to end the game. There was a shot of the Tokyo bench and they all looked like they couldn’t quite believe what they had just seen. I bet Fukuchi didn’t enjoy the coach ride from the stadium one jot.

    But hey, we came out of a game having been down early against Maeda and didn’t lose so it’s not all bad. This team definitely has some fight in them that’s for sure.

    And I agree with everything you’ve said about Barnette. That 8th was one of the most gripping innings I’ve seen this year. Highly impressive stuff.

  • RyoUchida

    Thanks for the great write-up. Only got to see this game up until the bottom of the fifth, when Hatakeyama blew that huge chance… due to work, and missed the 8th, but found this youtube clip.

    Pure awesomeness for anyone else that also missed it. Glad Barnette was able to find a place in this team on the bullpen this year. With Matsu-Ken being terrible, Tony’s arm and demeanor is a huge reason why we are still on top.