9/23/11 – Chunichi (Away)

September 23rd, 2011

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2

Chunichi Dragons 6

Streak: Lost 3  Last 5: LWLLL

(Nagoya Dome)

W: Asao (4-2/0.49) L: Kyuko (5-2/2.62)

One of these teams has a boatload of experience of being in contention down the home stretch of the season, while the other doesn’t.  After Tokyo wasted chance upon chance and had a late inning bullpen collapse which allowed Chunichi to slash the CL lead to 2.5 games, one wonders how key this disparity in experience will prove from here on in.

 Us Them
1CF Aoki12B Araki
22B Tanaka2SS Ibata
3SS Kawabata33B Morino
41B Hatakeyama41B Blanco
5RF Balentien5C Tanishige
63B Miyamoto6RF Hirata
7LF Takeuchi7LF Matsui
8C Aikawa8CF Oshima
9P Ishikawa9P Nelson

Ishikawa started for Tokyo, making up the “two” of a Tateyama-Ishikawa one-two punch of starters for the first two games of this crucial four game series. But just like Tateyama the night before, Masanori struggled with his control early on as he issued two two-out walks in the bottom of the 1st. But while Shohei lasted five innings before finally succumbing to the Dragons’ bats, Masanori couldn’t escape the first unscathed as veteran catcher Tanishige hit a rather lucky shot to right, which just landed fair before rolling into the corner. Two runs scored to make it 2-0 Chunichi.

That lead would be halved in the top of the 2nd against Chunichi starter Maximo Nelson, as Balentien hit to left, with the ball just creeping over the top of the wall for a 2-1 scoreline. It was Coco’s CL leading 28th homer of the year.

A chance to draw level, or perhaps even better presented itself to Tokyo in the 3rd. Two two-out singles for Tanaka and Kawabata brought up Hatakeyama to the plate. But the big man could only manage to fly out to centre and the Swallows remained behind.

And in the 5th and Aikawa lead off double off the leftfield wall was followed up by an Ishikawa sac bunt to put a man on third with one out for the top of the order. But that top of the order couldn’t deliver as a flyout to short (Aoki) and a tame groundout to second (Tanaka) stranded the tying run at third.

After giving up a hit in each of the first two innings, Ishikawa then proceeded to shut down the Chunichi bats, not allowing another hit or walk through to the end of the 6th. That would prove to be his final inning as he left the game with a 6IP/2H/5K/2BB/2ER line for his afternoon’s work. He ultimately wouldn’t feature in the decision and his ERA now sits at 2.56.

Matsui pitched a hitless 7th and then the Swallows would finally draw level in the 8th, an inning that saw equal measures of Chunichi generosity and yet more Tokyo wastefulness. Aoki led off the inning with a single to centre and he was bunted to second by Tanaka. Ochiai then benched Nelson, calling on the lefty Kobayashi from the bullpen. Ogawa then made a switch of his own, bringing in the righty Ihara for Kawabata and Yasushi drew a walk to put two men on.

Kobayashi was gone, with the “looks 14 but is actually 26” Asao appearing in his place to face Hatakeyama. Cue more generosity as Hatake walked to load the bases, before Balentien was issued a free pass of his own to walk in the tying run for 2-2. Cue the Tokyo wastefullness, as a second-pitch shallow flyout to centre for Miyamoto, and a first-pitch flyout to leftfield for Takeuchi let the clearly edgy Asao off the hook.

And just as most Swallows fans feared may well happen, all those wasted chances would come back to haunt Tokyo in the bottom of the 8th. After managing just those two hits to that point, Chunichi unleashed on Kyuko who was in for Matsui. After two pretty straightforward outs, an Araki double and an Ibata single made it 3-2 Chunichi. The Ibata single was to centre, and Aoki really should have thrown Araki out at home to end the inning, only his throw was to the right of home plate, meaning Aikawa had to dive to his left to apply the tag to the sliding runner, a tag which he couldn’t apply in time. Things got worse after that as a Morino double then made it 4-2.

Kyuko feels the heat

Kyuko was replaced with Oshimoto, but that didn’t stop the rot as a Blanco double made it 5-2, and Tanishige was issued an intentional walk before a single from a Donoue made it 6-2. The five hit-four run 8th came to and end when the ninth man to the plate for the inning, Hidenori, hit a caught liner to short to end the inning.

All that remained was for Suzuki to pitch out the 9th and Chunichi had themselves a 6-2 Final scoreline.

Rather ominously, Chunichi have now won four straight while Tokyo have now lost three. The two teams will return tomorrow afternoon for game three of the four game series.

I just hope that the nature of today’s loss hasn’t taken any remaining wind out of the Swallow’s sails, and they can pick themselves up for the remaining two games so that they’re not staring down the barrel of a paltry 0.5 game lead come Sunday evening.

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