8/30/11 – Hiroshima (Home)

August 30th, 2011

Hiroshima Toyo Carp  3

Tokyo Yakult Swallows  2

Streak: Lost 4      Last 5: DLLLL

(Meiji Jingu Stadium)

Erm, can’t we just end the regular season right now? Please? Because the way things are going, it seems highly likely that the Swallows will no longer be in possession of first place come this time next week.

Us:

The key moment

  1. Aoki (CF)
  2. Tanaka (2B)
  3. Kawabata (SS)
  4. Hatakeyama (1B)
  5. Balentien (RF)
  6. Takeuchi (LF)
  7. Miyamoto (3B)
  8. Aikawa (C)
  9. Ishikawa (P)
Them:
  1. Higashide (2B)
  2. Ioh (RF)
  3. Akamatsu (CF)
  4. Kurihara (1B)
  5. Maru (LF)
  6. Barden (3B)
  7. Ishihara (C)
  8. Kimura (SS)
  9. Bullington (P)

With Tokyo entering the last two days of  what will be their first losing month of the season, they had the chance to try to restart their engines as they head into September with the 5th placed Carp in town.

And as rotation rock Tateyama  is on the DL, an even greater burden of responsibility now lies on the shoulders of tonight’s starter Ishikawa, as he tries to give the makeshift rotation at least one dependable start a week. And to be fair to Ishikawa, he did just that tonight, throwing seven innings of pretty decent ball. But the familiar story of wasteful bats, and a malfunctioning bullpen would prove to be the Swallows undoing.

Ishikawa allowed a man to reach second in the 1st, and men on the corners in the 3rd, but managed to escape both times unscathed. Tokyo marooned two men of their own in the 2nd before taking the lead against Hiroshima starter Bullington in the 4th.

Two two-out singles for Tanaka and Kawabata put men on the corners for Hatakeyama. And the big man hit a chopper to right that escaped the infield to score Tanaka from third for 1-0 Tokyo. Balentien then struck out to end the inning.

But that lead only lasted until the top of the 5th, as a Kurihara solo homer, a walk for Maru and a timely Barden double made it 2-1 Hiroshima.

The Swallows tied things up in the bottom of that frame though, with Aikawa bringing home Miyamoto from third with a single to left, after Shinya had reached third via a double and wild pitch, 2-2.

So then, cue the wasted chances: In the 5th, a one-out double from Kawabata was in vain as both Hatakeyama and Balentien struck out. In the 6th, back to back one-out singles from Miyamoto and Aikawa put two men on, and an Ishikawa sacbunt put them both in scoring position. Only for a clearly despondent Aoki, who is in the biggest crisis of form of his career to date, to ground out to the pitcher to strand the runners with the scores still tied at two.

After that it was time for the respective bullpens to take over. Imamura locked things down for the Carp with a hitless 7th and 8th innings, the 7th via the three straight strikeouts of Tanaka/Kawabata/Hatakeyama.

Barnette (1.83) relieved Ishikawa (7IP/6H/5K/3BB/2ER)  in the 8th, and despite a walk and a single putting men on the corners, he dug deep to get out of the inning without giving up the lead.

Kyuko (1.84) pitched a hitless 9th and we were into extras with Lim taking the mound.

After a flyout for Takuro Ishii and a strikeout for Akamatsu, things seemed to be heading in the right direction. But Kurihara then hit to the wall in left for a double. He was replaced by pinch-runner Nakahigashi. At this point the rain started to come down pretty hard at Jingu, and with Maru at the plate, a wild pitch from Lim escaped through Aikawa to the back stop. Then there was the sickening realisation that Nakahigashi had turned the corner and was heading home. Aikawa made the throw to Lim at home base, but being a pitcher, blocking the plate wasn’t an option so he applied the tag to the now foot first sliding runner. But the home plate ump called him safe, 3-2 Hiroshima.

Ogawa and several other Swallows raced to protest the call, and while it looked incorrect at first glance with the naked eye, replays showed the sliding feet of Nakahigashi did make it home before the tag was applied. Lim looked distraught as the rain continued to pour. He proceeded to walk Maru but managed to strike out Maeda to end the inning.

And so to the bottom of the 10th, with the rain continuing for Carp closer Sarfate. A hit for Hatake and a walk for Takeuchi put two men on with two outs for Miyamoto. He put up quite remarkable display of fight, battling Sarfate for 12 pitches, before grounding out to third to end the game. 3-2 Hiroshima Final.

Ishikawa’s no-decision kept his record at 8-6/2.40, while Lim took the loss, his first of the year as his ERA rose to 2.42.

Tokyo outhit their opposition 12-9, with three hits for Kawabata (.276), and two for Hatakeyama (.273), Miyamoto (.286) and Aikawa (.238). Aikawa’s two hits were all the more impressive given he is playing with a fractured right thumb.

The two teams will return tomorrow, hopefully with a brighter outcome. With Yomiuri and Hanshin both winning tonight, the lead is down to 2.5 games. Can’t. Watch. Any. More…….

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

  • Oogieball

    Ties aren’t looking so bad now, are they?