8/5/11 – Hanshin (Away)

August 5th, 2011

Tokyo Swallows 1

Hanshin Tigers 2

Streak: Lost 2   Last 5: DWDLL

(Kyocera Dome)

After splitting the series with Chunichi, Tokyo wandered a bit further south to take on one of the Central League’s more serious contenders, Hanshin.

Tokyo:

Muranaka went seven solid innings, but it wasn't enough considering all the bat limpness that's going on.

1. Aoki (CF)
2. Tanaka (2B)
3. Kawabata (SS)
4. Hatakeyama (RF)
5. Whitesell (1B)
6. Miyamoto (3B)
7. Balentien (RF)
8. Kawamoto (C)
9. Muranaka (P)

Hanshin:

1. Uemoto (2B)
2. Hirano (CF)
3. Toritani (SS)
4. Arai (3B)
5. Brazell (1B)
6. Kanemoto (LF)
7. Asai (RF)
8. Fujii (C)
9. Kubo (P)

In only their 6th meeting of 2011, and with a whole mess of Tokyo-Hanshin games slated for the month of August, the Swallows looked to set the tone for the struggle ahead.

Muranaka, coming off a string of strong performances, started the game for the visiting Tokyo Swallows. And he started well once again, retiring all three batters he faced in the first, the first two via strikeout.

Whitesell started the second by drawing an eight-pitch walk from Hanshin starter, Kubo, but Miyamoto followed with his third GIDP in the last four games (ie. three double-plays since Tuesday). Balentien ended the inning on the next pitch when he grounded out to third.

There was a bit of a scare for Muranaka and the Swallows in the bottom half of that inning. Arai grounded one right back up the middle and off Muranaka’s left leg. Kawabata did very well to change directions, grab the ricocheting ball and get the out at first, and then all eyes turned to Muranaka (who was still standing). He left the field for a while but then returned to the mound and gave up a one-out single to Brazell. Tokyo-slayer, Kanemoto, popped up in foul territory for the second out, and stand-in right fielder, Asai, struck out swinging to give Muranaka a little more time with the team trainer and multiple cans of that magic spray that makes everything feel better even when sprayed directly on your clothes.

Fortunately, Muranaka was able to soldier on and amassed six strikeouts through four innings.

Unfortunately, Kubo was having himself a decent game on the mound for Hanshin. After Tanaka’s bloop single in the first, the Tokyo bats went quiet for a while. The next hit came in the fifth inning with two outs and Balentien on first (BB). Kawamoto lined a double to left that moved Coco over to third. As luck would have it, however, Muranaka was the next man up, and he grounded out softly to the pitcher to end the threat and the top half of the inning.

There was more futility for the Swallows at the plate in the sixth. Aoki attempted an absolutely horrible push bunt that for the third time today saw him fail to take a full swing or reach base safely. There must be some kind of bet going on in the clubhouse–something to the effect of “Hey, Aoki. I bet you can’t keep your average above .300 if you only try for infield singles. Until September.” Apparently Aoki took the bet.

In the top of the seventh, Whitesell hit a hard single to right to get things going, but they then fell apart just as quickly. Like myself, Whitesell was dismayed to find himself getting the nightly hook in favor of Miwa, and it would all quickly prove to be a waste as Miyamoto’s fake bunt slap towards the drawn-in Arai at third was caught before it touched the turf and thus doubled Miwa up at first in the process.

Yup, that’s four double-plays for Miyamoto in the last four days.

And Balentien once again finished things off with another first  pitch grounder to third to end the disappointment.

And things would get worse before they got better. Bottom of the seventh with Toritani and Brazel on the corners (both singled), Sekimoto smacked one down the line in right to plate Toritani from third. Balentien then muffed the whole picking-up-the-ball-and-hitting-the-cutoff thing so badly that he allowed the slowest runner in Japan (Brazell) to score from first and earned a fielding error for his efforts. 2-0 Hanshin.

Seriously, Brazell runs like he has porcupines for knees. I’d bet good money that he was a catcher in at least two of his past lives. Aoki will probably take that bet.

And actually, I was kidding. Things didn’t get better.

Kyuko was brought in to pitch the bottom of the eighth. Three up, three down.

And then it was on to face Fujikawa in the top of the ninth. Tanaka forced an error at third with a sharp grounder to make things interesting, and Kawabata showed some good patience at the plate before lofting the 2-1 pitch into very shallow center field.

Hatakeyama moved the runners over with an awkward grounder to second for out number one, and that’s when the decision to remove Whitesell from the lineup came back to haunt us. It often does, no?

Miyade was brought in to pinch hit for Miwa, and he did very well to work a full count (with a few foul balls mixed in).

He eventually drew a walk to load the bases with Fujikawa looking very unsettled on  the mound. Up to the plate came Mr. Miyamoto, 0-3 thus far in the game.

Miyamoto refrained from swinging until the 3-1 pitch. Fujikawa, meanwhile, looked very much on the verge of tears. Miyamoto eased the count full on one of his signature foul balls into the stands behind the home dugout.

And then, after a couple more foul balls, Fujikawa walked in a run for the Swallows. 2-1 Hanshin.

Balentien. To be fair, Balentien-Fujikawa is not a great match-up for the Swallows. Coco hasn’t seen much of Fujikawa, and he ended up swinging at some stuff that was well out of the zone. In the end, Balentien sat down after taking the bait on a forkball for out number two.

Kawamoto. Struck out swinging. 2-1 Final.

It’s funny that we were able to keep things so close despite not doing anything at the plate. To be fair, Hanshin didn’t do much at the plate either. Without the gifted runs, this one probably would have ended at 1-0. Hanshin had five hits, and we had four. Not the most exciting game of the week.

Muranaka took the loss despite having a very good outing. He gave up two runs (one earned) off of five hits. He recorded nine Ks against no walks and tallied exactly 100 pitches through seven innings. A very high-quality start from the man whose record now stands at 2-1 with an attendant ERA of 1.82.

Game two of this series is tomorrow at 6 PM.

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

  • Fujikawa was there for the taking in the 9th. You could see his bottom lip quivering and like you mentioned, he really did look on the verge of tears/some kind of breakdown.

  • I was positive Balentien would come through with at least a sac-fly to tie, since the universe seems to abhor outright victory (for either side) as of late, but boy did he ever not.

    Is it just me or does Hanshin have a preponderance of funny looking players?

  • TokyoIllini

    Balentien must either get rid of his “Memo” or be sent down now.

  • Ckal0916

    Re funny looking players – the champions in this are the BayStars. Fujikawa blew a game against the Giants a couple of days ago and was still suffering from the shock. He also has a terrible catcher to contend with – can we swap him for yours?