6/14/11 – Saitama (Home)

June 14th, 2011

Saitama Seibu Lions 5

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 6

Streak: Won 2    Last 5: LDLWW

(Meiji Jingu Stadium)

After three innings of this one Tokyo looked dead and buried, but the continued resurgence of their bullpen again kept them in the game while their bats pulled off a remarkable come from behind win in eleven innings.

Us:

  1. Aoki (CF)

    What. A. Game.

  2. Tanaka (2B)
  3. Whitesell (1B)
  4. Hatakeyama (LF)
  5. Belentien (RF)
  6. Miyamoto (3B)
  7. Fujimoto (SS)
  8. Aikawa (C)
  9. Yamagishi (P)

Them:

  1. Kataoka (2B)
  2. Kuriyama (CF)
  3. Nakajima (SS)
  4. Nakamuraq (3B)
  5. Fernandez (1B)
  6. Ishii (LF)
  7. Kumashiro (RF)
  8. Gimjiro (C)
  9. Kishi (P)

Ex-Lion Yamagishi started for Tokyo (for the background to this have a look at this week’s Monday review from Kozo) and didn’t exactly cover himself in glory as he allowed Seibu to a decent lead over the first quarter of the game. A leadoff walk in the 1st was punished an out later by a Nakajima sacfly to make it 1-0 Saitama. A double and single in the 2nd doubled the lead while in the 3rd Yamagishi’s second walk was punished again by Nakajima (with help from a trademark bit of comedy fielding from Hatakeyama in left) this time with a double to make it 3-0. And Fernandez brought an end to a torrid 3 innings for the makeshift starter with a two-run homer to give the Lions a commanding 5-0 lead.

And with Seibu’s Kishi only allowing one hit up until that point, it looked like it may be another night to forget at the hands of the utterly unlikeable Saitama outfit. But it was to be a quite different game from that point onwards.

In the 4th, singles from Whitesell and Tanaka put men on the corners with no outs for Hatakeyama. He could only manage to hit into a double play but the run scored from third for 5-1.

In the 5th, Miyamoto worked a leadoff walk but was out at second following Fujomoto’s grounder to first. After Aikawa struck out for out number two, the pinch-hitting Yuichi hit a double, with Fujimoto ruled safe in a close play at the plate after scarpering home from first, 5-2.

 

Fujimoto squeaks home in the 5th

 

And so to the 6th, where with two outs on the board, a walk for Hatakeyama brought Balentien to the plate. He absolutely MURDERED the first pitch from Kishi and watched it sail deep, deep into the leftfield stands and Seibu finally realised they had a game on their hands as the score read 5-4.

Tokyo had a chance to pull level in the 7th, but with a man on second, and Aoki intentionally walked to get to Tanaka, Hiroyasu could only strike out looking to end the inning and strand the two men.

In the 9th, things looked all but lost for the Swallows as Lions’ closer Okamoto struck out Morioka and Kawamoto to put two red lights on the board. Up stepped Miyade and with just one strike to spare he hit one between first and second, which was well fielded on the stretch by Kataoka, but Miyade JUST beat the ball to first to give the Swallows a lifeline. From then on Okamoto started to crumble, hitting Aoki to put two men on, and then throwing a wild pitch to advance the runners into scoring positions. Tanaka came to the plate looking to avenge his 7th inning K, and he did just that as he snuck one through the infield to left and the game was tied at 5-5.

The next man up was Whitesell, and with the count at 2 balls 0 strikes he took a pitch that he was convinced was ball 3, only the home-plate umpire called it a strike. Cue Josh getting in his face and telling the ump in words beginning with F what he thought of the decision. Unsurprisingly, he was chucked from the game, but what was nice to see was Ogawa, who had rushed from the bench to get in between Whitesell and the ump to continue the argument on Josh’s behalf (in slightly more restrained language). He continued to protest for some time after Whitesell had left the field, which is something that Takada would NEVER have done and also goes some way to showing why the team is so united behind Ogawa and thus are currently doing so well.

Whitesell gets his marching orders

My take is that it was a little silly of Josh, especially with men on second and third with a chance for a 9th inning walkoff win, but hey, a shitty call is a shitty call. It was made doubly annoying due to the fact that his ejection meant the man at the plate had transformed from one of the best hitters in Whitesell, to one of the worst in Fukukawa. The backup-backup-backup-backup-backup-backup-backup-backup catcher came to the plate with a partial count, and of course he could only ground out to end the inning with the scores still tied.

And so it was extra innings with the Swallows looking like the only team that was likely to win it, such was the swing in momentum since the end of the 3rd inning. The 10th was hitless for both teams before the Swallows made their move in the 11th.

With reliever Graman on the mound for the second straight inning, Morioka led off the frame with a grounder to 2nd, but Kataoka fluffed the transfer from glove to hand and Tokyo had a runner at first. He was bunted along by Kawamoto for out number one, which brought up Fukuchi. He hit to short, but by the time Nakajima had the ball he had no play to make at any base which left men on first and second for the Swallows. Aoki then battled through eight pitches before poking one through the infield to left to load the bases.

With two outs to spare, Tanaka knew a sacrifice fly would do it, and that’s exactly what he delivered, hitting the first pitch he saw, a changeup, to shallowish left, but Morioka made it home comfortably to spark scenes of wild celebration on the field and in the stands at Jingu. 6-5 Tokyo Final. Entertainingly it was Miyamoto who could be seen storming the field with the water cooler which he duly plonked on Tanaka’s head.

Post-game carnage

Now apart from Yamagishi, I’ve yet to mention the pitching. And as is becoming the norm of late, the bullpen was absolutely flawless. Masubuchi (4th and 5th), Matsuoka (6th and 7th), Barnette (8th), Oshimoto (9th) and Lim (10th and 11th) held the Saitama bats to the grand total of 0 hits through their combined 8 innings of work. The highlight was Lim’s 10th in which he struck out the bottom of the Lions order in order.

Lim also got the win for his first multi-inning outing of the year and his record now stands at 1-0 with 13 saves with his ERA at 1.66.

Tokyo outhit their opposition 11-4 with Tanaka’s 3 for 5/2RBI clutch performance being the obvious standout. Just goes to show what he’s capable of when not asked to be the team’s bunt-monkey.

The bench also deserves praise as Morioka, Yuichi, Miyade and Fukuchi all registered a hit.

So then, game of the season so far?

The two teams will meet again tomorrow night for the last time this year, with the season series poised at 2-1 in Saitama’s favour.

Lim & the bullpen were flawless.

About David Watkins

David is a baseball bothering Brummie who spends a fair portion of his life fretting over the Tokyo Swallows and the WORLD'S GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM, Aston Villa. He completes the quartet of abusive sporting relationships by being a die hard New York Knicks and Mets fan. You can find him on twitter: @yakulto

  • Kozo

    We literally used almost every available player on our bench tonight. Kyuko and Watanabe were the only bench players that didn’t get into the game tonight.

    Had Hiroyasu  struck out and Lim’s spot in the batting order had come up, who would you have liked to bat? Lim, Kyuko, or Watanabe? Keeping in mind with the 3:30 rule this season, we wouldn’t have needed them to pitch.

  • DeGavph

    One of those games that makes you love the Swallows.

    As a personal Lim fan, it was nice to see him back on track. It was really quite a surprise to see him suddenly blast 156km since he seemed to be in a pretty bad shape for a week or two.

    To answer Kozo’s question, I’d have stuck with Lim. Batting wise, anyone would have been basically the same. But I know for a fact that Lim can run like hell, and that’s something in a situation like this. His old team in Korea had even used him as a pinch runner a couple of times. And anyway, he pitched two beautiful innings and I think he somehow deserves the last bat.

  • Rob

    Hatakeyama’s “banzai” would have been more endearing if it hadn’t cost us a run.
    Bad night for the umps. Inconsistent strike zone, and the 2B ump seemed to blow one if not two calls on steals. Glad they got Fujimoto’s play at the plate right.
    Never seen a batter thrown out in mid-AB.
    I think that was the first fastball I’ve seen Balentien crush. Most everything so far has been off-speed. This could be very bad for opposing pitchers.

  • Kozo

    Apparently Watanabe was on deck.

    http://spora.jp/kouki-watanabe/archive/184/0

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