8/14/11 – Hanshin (Home)

August 14th, 2011

Tokyo Swallows 7

Hanshin Tigers 8

Streak: Lost 1    Last 5: WLLWL

(Jingu)

This game was a disaster, and then suddenly at the end it became a farce.

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One thousand yen for a ticket to this very important game. Several thousand yen for drinks. 700 yen for pizza and about 900 yen to get to the stadium and back by train.

And Ogawa puts a 300 yen team on the field.

 Hanshin Tokyo
1RF - Murton1CF - Aoki
2CF - Hirano2SS - K. Kawashima
3SS - Toritani32B - Tanaka
43B - Arai41B - Hatakeyama
51B - Brazell5LF - Miyade
6LF - Kanemoto63B - Miyamoto
72B - Uemoto7RF - Balentien
8C - Fujii8C - Aikawa
9P - Iwata9P - R. Kawashima

OK, 300 yen is a bit harsh, but this was definitely not the best lineup we could have fielded for a game that we needed to win so badly. The team is a shocking 3-8-1 so far this month, so tinkering with the lineup probably should have been saved until Yokohama comes to town on Tuesday.

Sorry, I’ll try to be a bit more specific. You probably won’t recall, but the last time Ryo Kawashima started a top team game was May 7th of last year when the sun was setting on the Takada era. He gave up only one run in six innings of work during that performance (after which he was moved to the bullpen), so many were cautiously optimistic that he could provide some mid-summer stability to the Swallows rotation.

However, I think I speak for everyone here at Tsubamegun when I stress that starting pitching is not what ails the team at the moment.

Anyway, for those that are wondering, Kawashima has appeared in only five games (20 1/3 innings) so far in 2011 on the

Maybe he should have rejoined the top team as a middle reliever.

farm team. His balky shoulder has allowed him to amass a 0-1 record (with one save) and a 3.10 ERA.

So yes. A game against second place Hanshin was probably not the best time to thrust Kawashima back into the spotlight, especially with our bullpen suffering from overuse.

But fortunately he was on a short leash, so the damage from the experiment was somewhat limited.

The extent of Kawashima’s tenure on the mound went something like this:

In the top of the first inning, Hanshin loaded the bases with two outs care of a pair of singles and a walk, but Kawashima escaped by inducing Kanemoto to fly out harmlessly in foul territory.

In the bottom of that inning, Aoki’s lead-off single was followed by a Keizo Kawashima Tak-bunt, so you can probably imagine how that inning ended–quickly and with Aoki still standing on second.

In the second inning, both teams sent only three batters to the plate, but it was in the top of the third that things got a little sketchy for Kawashima.

Murton started things off with a stand-up double to left, and he was moved over to third on Hirano’s single. Run number one crossed home plate on a Toritani sac fly to left, and run number two came around on Arai’s double off the wall in center. 2-0 Hanshin.

And then a game of intensive musical-players began as most of the available players (22 out of 25 players) found their way onto the playing field before the end of this contest.

Akagawa pitched a nice and brief fourth inning, but he got roughed up a little in the fifth (one earned run off of three hits). 3-0 Hanshin.

Tokyo finally got one back in the sixth when Balentien came to the plate with one out. He absolutely slaughtered the first pitch he saw, an outside slider, high into the multitudes of yellow and pink clad Hanshin supporters crammed into the left field cheap seats. 3-1 Hanshin.

The game quieted down a bit after that as the Tigers were retired in order in the seventh and eighth innings. Frustratingly, the Tokyo bats continued to disappoint as we could only manage a runner on first in both of those crucial innings. I use the word crucial because it is possible to get one run back off of Fujikawa (Hanshin’s closer), but scoring two on him is not something that happens very often (unless it’s a playoff game).

And then came an absolutely bizarre ninth inning.

Hanshin 9th:

After retiring the side in the eighth, Oshimoto retook the mound for the Swallows to try and hasten Fujikawa’s entry to face Tokyo’s last stand. However, while that is indeed what eventually happened, the plan was not enacted with anything resembling haste.

Pinch-hitter, Shibata, led off with a single, and then Murton induced a fielding error with a tricky rocket into Kawabata’s zone at short. Both runners advanced. Runners on second and third and no outs.

Then Hirano singled to bring Shibata home from third. 4-1.

Out goes the overused Oshimoto. In comes the even more overused Barnette.

Tony got the first out of the inning on an easy Toritani pop-up that was reeled in by Miyamoto on the third base line, but then things got ugly.

Arai singled, Brazell doubled (two runners scored), and Shunsuke hit a fielder’s choice grounder to Tanaka’s left at second that secured out number two but let another runner come around to score. 7-1.

Hanshin’s final run of the night was produced care of a Hiyama single to center which also brought an end to Barnette’s evening on the mound. 8-1 Hanshin.

Watanabe was brought in to throw two pitches and record the final out.

Tokyo 9th:

With Fukuhara on the mound for Hanshin, Takeuchi worked a six-pitch walk without swinging his bat once. But then Aoki hit what looked like a double-play ball that forced Takuchi out at second. Fortunately, Aoki was able to beat the throw at first.

Incidentally, that was the fourth time in the game that Tokyo produced a double-play ball that Hanshin couldn’t seal the deal on. Balentien beat throws to first in both the second and eighth innings, while Kawashima did the same in the fifth. Takeuchi wasn’t so lucky in the sixth when he ended the inning with a 6-4-3 GIDP. Lots of self-induced momentum-killing by the Swallows in this game.

Shibata allows the game to continue. Three runs scored on this drop.

But the Swallows would benefit from a lot of Hanshin philanthropy in this inning, so stay with me here for another minute or so.

The first two runs were earned. Whitesell lined one over the wall in center on a 2-1 forkball to remind the home crowd that the team can score runs occasionally. 8-3.

But then every run that followed was unearned. And it was hilarious.

Tanaka drew a walk to restart the momentum, and Hatakeyama was able to reach first when it was left uncovered on his weak grounder past the mound.

Kawabata then loaded the bases with a single to right which brought Miyamoto to the plate and Fujikawa to the mound. With the tying run standing in the on-deck circle, mystically it was a save situation once again.

Miyamoto was fed a steady diet of fastballs in an eight-pitch battle, and he eventually went down swinging late when expecting a forkball. Two outs.

Balentien’s turn. He’d displayed a knack for getting on base all night, even if the team’s situation didn’t necessarily improve as a result, and this at-bat was no different. Fujikawa stayed outside throughout the entire at-bat, and Balentien sliced the 1-2 pitch high into the night sky for what should have been the game-ending out.

But center-fielder, Shibata, dropped it. Three runners crossed home plate and Balentien reached second. 8-6.

Now this is the type of situation where Fujikawa tends to implode…if you let him. He’s kind of like Kroon was in that sense. Once a couple of things go wrong, he’ll just keep digging the hole deeper and deeper. And he’ll be on the verge of tears which can be quite comical.

Case in point: on one of the outside forkballs that Fujikawa threw to Kawamoto (pinch-hitting for Aikawa), Balentien was able to trot home all the way from second as the ball ended up nearly in the Swallows dugout. Fujikawa was charged with a wild pitch, and it was just up to Kawamoto to find a way around the bags to tie the game. 8-7.

And find a way on base he did. With a little help of course. He slapped a high forkball sharply at Arai who fumbled it and allowed the surprisingly fleet-footed backstop to sneak onto first base.

Pinch-runner, Miwa, then easily stole second on a 2-1 fastball.

But Fujikawa pulled himself together in the end and tricked Takeuchi into swinging at a forkball in the dirt to

Kawamoto (r) and Takeuchi (l) beckon Balentien home.

end the game with the tying run standing on second.

Ugh:

Those of us in attendance agreed that it was very enjoyable watching the Tigers squirm so much there at the end. But the game still hits the books as a loss, and that means that the Swallows are a laughable 1-5 against what is currently their most serious threat in the Central League.

Monday is a day off and Tuesday marks the beginning of a three-game series against cellar-dwelling Yokohama.

Notes:

Why Whitesell was not starting is anyone’s guess. His pinch-hit homer in the ninth was a sure reminder that his bat needs to be in the lineup.

On a related note, I would like to gently remind those in charge of making roster decisions that Miyade has always been, and likely will always be, a bench player. We traded him to Rakuten for a pitcher, remember? And then he got cut by Rakuten…and for some reason we re-signed him, remember? The fact that he’s had a little bit of success pinch-hitting does not mean that he deserves a start (yet). Especially with Ryo Kawashima on the mound.

To Miyade’s credit, however, he went 1-3 with a single. Plus he’s the tallest guy on the team, so that’s worth something.

If Keizo Kawashima continues to start at short, hopefully it only happens on days when Miyamoto is taking a rest. Incidentally, I much prefer having Keizo perform Tak-bunt duties than wasting Tanaka’s talents on such a role. And I promise that his batting average will not stay above .300 for long.

As predicted, Lim is taking a rest on the farm team. With their game appearances nearing 40, don’t be too surprised if something similar soon happens to our middle-relief soldiers (Kyuko, Matsuoka, Oshimoto and Barnette).

Tonight was the only game of this series in which the Swallows were outhit. Iwata deserves credit for five solid innings though. He gave up only four hits and didn’t allow Tokyo to get on the board.

Of Tokyo’s seven runs, only three were earned.

Of Hanshin’s 18,000 plus fans, only seven are working on Monday.

The official attendance for tonight’s game was 29,125 (there was a bit more elbow room in the right field bleachers than on Friday and Saturday).

The game lasted a ridiculously long four hours and twelve minutes.

Tokyo is now a mere four games clear of Hanshin at the top of the Central League.

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

  • Kozo

    The reason for last night’s lineup is pretty simple. Iwata’s a left hander, and for some reason we decided to play the handedness game and not start any of our lefty bats except Aoki (and Ryo Kawashima). Not that I agree with the decision, but the reasoning is fairly clear.