7/5/11 – Yomiuri (Home)

July 5th, 2011

Yomiuri Giants 4

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 5

Streak: Won 2   Last 5: DWLWW

(Shizuoka Kusanagi Stadium)

Coco Balentien awoke from his slumping slumber just in time to break a 9th inning tie, and ensured that the Swallows didn’t have to endure yet another draw against Yomiuri.

Us:

  1. Aoki (CF)

    Rookie Shichijo had a tougher time of it this time out

  2. Tanaka (2B)
  3. Whitesell (1B)
  4. Hatakeyama (LF)
  5. Kawabata (SS)
  6. Miyamoto (3B)
  7. Balentien (RF)
  8. Aikawa (C)
  9. Shichijo (P)

Them:

  1. Sakamoto (SS)
  2. Kamei (3B)
  3. Chono (CF)
  4. Ramirez (LF)
  5. Takahashi (RF)
  6. Abe (C)
  7. Ogasawara (1B)
  8. Fujimura (2B)
  9. Greisinger (P)

In what was essentially a re-match of last Tuesday’s game, tonight saw rookie Yuki Shichijo go up against Seth Greisinger. But unlike that evening, in which Shichijo had the element on surprise on his side, the Giants had had a week to study his game winning performance and prepare accordingly. And thus it proved an altogether tougher outing for the 26 year old as the Giants bats attacked his pitching with a lot more aggression than the week prior, with much improved results.

Unlike on his debut, when Yuki struck out the first three men he faced, Sakamoto wasted no time in getting the games’ first hit to lead off the proceedings. But the baby-faced annoyance was thrown out trying to steal second while Shichijo got out of the inning without allowing another man on.

But just like his debut, the Tokyo bats gave him an early lead. Or rather the bat (singular) of Josh Whitesell, who hit a two-out out of the park solo shot to right (no.9 for the year) to make it 1-0 Tokyo in the bottom of the 1st.

Shichijo couldn’t hold on to the lead though, as his first pro hit batter in the top of the 2nd (Takahashi) was followed up with an Abe single, and then punished by a 2 RBI double from Fujimura for 2-1 Yomiuri.

Chono added another run in the top of the 3rd, with a line drive that sailed over the fence in right to make it 3-1.

Tokyo had a chance to get back into the game in the bottom of the inning, as two-out walks for Whitesell and Kawabata sandwiched a Hatakeyama single to load the bases for Miyamoto. And despite battling Greisinger valiantly, he struck out on the tenth pitch of the at-bat to end the inning and the threat.

And it seemed that things were getting away from the Swallows in the 4th. Takahashi led off the inning with a fly ball to centre, which looked to catch the wind as it wrong-footed Aoki and fell behind him near the fence for a double. And the runner would later be brought home on a sacfly for a 4-1 scoreline.

But the fightback would begin in the 5th. A one-out Whitesell bloop single and a Hatake double to the fence in left put two men in scoring positions for Kawabata. The shortstop hit one over the infield to shallow centre and both men were home which narrowed the deficit to 4-3 and Tokyo were back in the game. A single followed for Miyamoto and that was all for Seth, who was replaced by Ochi but that was all the scoring for the inning.

Shichijo (6IP/8H/2K/1BB/1HB/4ER, ERA 2.77) was replaced by Oshimoto (2.92) for the 7th, and the ex-Fighter threw a perfect inning to keep the rookie starter in with a fighting chance of avoiding his first career loss.

And so to the 7th, which saw Albaladejo take the mound for Yomiuri. Hatakeyama hit his second double of the game (and third hit) to the corner in left. Then a groundout to second for Kawabata (with Miwa pinch-running for Hatake now at third) and a groundout to third for Miyanoto meant that Tokyo had tied the game at 4-4 without getting another hit.

Barnette (1.08) pitched the top of the 8th in impressive fashion as he struck out Chono, Ramirez and Takahashi in order.

They had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the 8th, as a one-out pinch hit double for Yuichi put a man in scoring position. Yamaguchi replaced Albaladajo on the mound, and Aoki then grounded out with the runner (now Noguchi) advancing to third, before Tanaka could only groundout to second himself, with a needless head first dive into first not preventing out number three and thus we were on to a breathless 9th. The inning where things went a little crazy.

With another rookie now on the mound, Kyuko, Abe singled to put the go-ahead run on first. Ogasawara then hit a sharp one to second which had double play written all over it, but it took a nasty hop, meaning it bounced off Tanaka and everyone was safe with no outs on the board. Next man up was Fujimura who was instructed to bunt to move the runners along which would mean that Yomiuri would be a sacfly away from regaining a late lead. But he couldn’t execute, popping up a bunt to Aikawa for out number one. Huge break. Right there.

But the freak plays weren’t over yet. Wakiya came in to pinch hit with Kyuko still on the mound, and he hit what seemed like a routine fly to shallowish right. Only Balentien somehow dropped the ball, and the apocalypse looked like it may well be approaching. But to his credit, Balentien picked up the ball, saw Ogasawara making a vain attempt to advance from first (the runner at second advanced to third with ease), threw to Kawabata at second and Tokyo had themselves a crucial out number two.

The bad...

During the pitching change that followed, you could see Aoki and Balentien discussing the prior gaffe in rightfield. Coco just looked despondent, but Aoki was trying to gee him up, and give him some fielding pointers (“Catch, out and throw!”).

Lim was then called in and got Sakamoto to fly out to short, and with the game now well past the 3:30 mark, the worst Tokyo could do was draw.

Yamaguchi remained on the mound for Yomiuri, and got Whitesell to ground to short, but the shift employed by the Giants meant that Sakamoto couldn’t get to the ball quickly enough and Josh beat the wayward throw to first. He was replaced by Morioka on base as Miwa came up to try to bunt the pinch-runner along. Miwa laid down a bunt to the pitcher, and Yamaguchi threw to second but Morioka was very dubiously called out at second. Cue cries of disbelief and shouts of abuse from the Swallows bench as it was clear just how much they all wanted to win this one. From this point on, the loudest voices to be heard after every ball were from the bench, with special mention going to Fujimoto, who seems to have brought Hanshin’s only redeeming feature, their hatred of Yomiuri, with him from Osaka.

With Miwa being a persistent pest at first, Yamaguchi kept trying to pick him off, disrupting the pitcher’s rhythm and meaning Kawabata had himself a six pitch walk, and the previous dodgy call at second was now moot. With men now on first and second, Yamaguchi was benched for Kubo. Next man Miyamoto could only fly out to deepish centre, with Miwa advancing to third to put men on the corners with two outs.

And so up stepped Balentien, who is in the mother of all slumps and 0 for 4 up to that point, and after hitting a monster foul to left he hit the fourth pitch he saw (forkball) to the corner in left and it was sayonara time for a 5-4 Tokyo Final.

Cue mass celebrations and Hatake making a water cooler delivery directly to Coco’s head.

Lim took the win for his two-pitch out in the 9th, and his record is now at 3-0-16/1.88.

Tokyo outhit their opposition 12-10, with three hits each for Whitesell (.278) and Hatake (.299), as well as two for Aikawa (.225). Also special mention must go to Kawabata, not just for his 2 RBI single in the 5th, but also his crucial walk in the 9th against Yamaguchi as well as a cool head in the field. He is making the starting shortstop position his own.

After the game, Balentien looked equal parts relieved and elated, and got himself a giant remote control car for his troubles (as he was the game’s “hero”).

The two teams head back to Tokyo for games two and three of the series at Jingu from tomorrow evening. With Chunichi also winning tonight against Hanshin, Tokyo remain 3.5 games clear at the CL summit.

...and the good.

 

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

    Since Balentien dropped the ball Ogasawara had to unexpectedly advance to second since the runner to first wasn’t out. He may have looked dumb doing it, but since it was a force play he had to try to make it.

    • Ah, very true. Either way, decent recovery from Balentien after the initial screw-up.

  • “Hanshin’s only redeeming feature, their hatred of Yomiuri”. Classic!
    Great write-up. Balentien was the hero, but Shingo, Barnette (3 strike outs in such a crucial time, against their clean-up…priceless), Oshimoto, Hatake, Josh… Miwa with his excellent running…so many people chipped in, in this hard fought game. Awesome effort by the Swallows. Great great win.

    • As you say, it was a true team effort, which seems to becoming a key characteristic of the team this year.

      One of the best wins this season for sure, and certainly one of the most rewarding to watch. The comeback to tie the game, the top of the 9th inning bullet dodged, then Balentien with the last chance for salvation. Couldn’t have written the script better.

      And what a payoff seeing that ball fly over the heads of the Yomiuri infield and into left was. I feel for my neighbours though…

  • Sounds amazing, thanks for the writeup.  Would have loved to see it, but couldn’t manage to find a working stream this morning!  Ah well…

    • You’re welcome.

      Yeah, stream hunting can be a thankless task indeed. Good luck with catching tonight’s game (Tateyama!! Maybe….).

  • Pingback: Fifth Place | SETH SWALLOWS METS()