9/27/11 – Hanshin (Home)

September 27th, 2011

Hanshin Tigers 4

Tokyo Swallows 8

Streak: Won 2  Last 5: LLLWW

(Meiji Jingu Stadium)

W: Hidaka (1-0/7.50) L: Fukuhara (1-2/2.68)

After failing to grasp the chance to put some decent breathing room between them and the second-placed Dragons in Nagoya last week, every game for the remaining three weeks or so of the regular season is essentially a cup final for Tokyo. They simply have to find ways to win, as their margin for error is not what it was a few weeks ago. And tonight against Hanshin, they re-discovered some of that grit and fight that has served them so well over the season so far.

 Us Them
1CF Aoki1CF Hirano
22B Tanaka22B Yamato
3SS Kawabata3SS Toritani
41B Hatakeyama43B Arai
5RF Balentien51B Brazell
63B Miyamoto6RF Murton
7LF Ihara7LF Kanemoto
8C Aikawa8C Fujii
9P Murumaka9P Standridge

Muranaka was the starter for the Swallows, and he hasn’t faired so well against the Tigers this season, with just three losses to show for his four starts against them prior to tonight. And today he didn’t fair much better as he lasted just four innings and wouldn’t feature in the final decision. He never looked comfortable from the first inning as he gave up a lead-off single to Hirano, and later hit Toritani (though I can see the upside to that) to put two men on for Hanshin. Brazell then singled one up the middle to bring home Hirano from second for 1-0 Hanshin.

But their lead would be short-lived as the Tigers had an ineffectual starter of their own to contend with. In the bottom of the 1st with Standridge taking the mound, Aoki walked to get things up and running, before the inevitable Tanaka sacbunt moved him to second. Kawabata then proceeded to hit to the wall in centre for a double to bring home Aoki which tied things up at 1-1.

But that wasn’t all the scoring for the inning. Next man up Hatakeyama hit a two-run shot over the fence in left and into the sea of the great unwashed Hanshin fans, and Tokyo were ahead with the score now at 3-1 in the Swallows’ favour. It was Hatake’s 22nd long ball of the season.

Muranaka got through the 2nd unscathed, despite giving up two walks and a single, but he would become unstuck in the 3rd. A one-out walk and single put two men on for the third inning in a row, and Murton, possibly due to THE POWER OF THE SWEET LORD JESUS then hit into the same gurning crowd in left to wipe out the Tokyo lead for a 4-3 Hanshin scoreline.

After Tigers’ manager Mayumi rather harshly benched Standridge after barely two innings, the Swallows saw a procession on relievers from the Hanshin bullpen. They would see six in total through the course of the game.

In the 4th, two walks and a single from said bullpen loaded the bases with two outs for Aoki, but he only managed to ground out to short to strand three.

Muranaka meanwhile, was replaced by Hidaka in the 5th. And after escaping a hairy 5th in which he let three men on via two walks and a single, he had a swift 1-2-3 6th which led to the key inning of the evening.

With Fukuhara on the mound for Hanshin, Miyamoto led off the bottom of the 6th with a single. After Ihara took his turn at being bunt monkey for out number one, Aikawa hit through the infield to left to put men on the corners for Tokyo. Up stepped Keizo Kawashima to hit for the pitcher, and he hit a grounder straight back to Fukuhara. The pitcher attempted to stop the ball with an outstretched leg, the ball was deflected to Arai at third, but Miyamoto just beat the throw home in a forceful play at the plate and things were all tied up at 4-4.

Miyamoto gets home safely for run number 4

But as in the 1st, they weren’t content with just the one run. Fukuhara was replaced by Enokida, and he got off to an inauspicious start by plunking Aoki in the right knee and the Swallows had themselves a bases loaded situation. Hiroyasu Tanaka then decided to display some of the “chance taking” that the Swallows employed in Nagoya as he hit a gounder to short, the force out was made at home and Tokyo had themselves just one more out in which to get someone home.

But little did we expect them to do it in such style, as Kawabata clubbed a fastball left over the plate into the rightfield stands for his first career grand slam to make it 8-4 Tokyo. Cue scenes of Miyamoto going absolutely mental outside of the bench (Shinya, I love you). It was Kawabata’s 4th homer of the year.

Oshimoto (3.02) took the mound in the top of the 7th, and he almost let the Tigers back into it, allowing two singles which put men on the corners with two outs for Murton. He hit a decent flyball to left, but an excellent running catch from Ihara ended the inning with the lead intact at four.

Matsuoka (2.65) worked a 1-2-3 8th before it fell to Lim to close things down in the 9th. And Lim (2.21), being Lim (at least the Lim of most of 2011) made things difficult as he issued a walk and gave up a single to start the inning. But just as the Hanshin fans were starting to pee their no doubt already urine stained clothing in excitement, Toritani hit a grounder to second for a double play, and all that was left was for Arai to strike out swinging for a 8-4 Tokyo Final.

Kawabata was the undoubted star of the show after his 2 for 4/5 RBI performance while Hidaka earned his first career win for his gutsy two innings of work. Miyamoto (.291) and Aikawa (.246) both had two hit evenings as well.

 With Chunichi coming back to win in Hiroshima, Tokyo’s lead remains at 2.5 games. Tokyo and Hanshin will return to Jingu tomorrow evening for game two of the series, with the Tigers still leading the season series 10-7.

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

  • The last time I witnessed a Hanshin crowd that small (at Jingu) was during the pre-Hoshino era. 

  • Rob

    Good, good, good. We have another seven or so games with these guys, so the more we can do to break their will now the easier it will be later.
    And thanks for expanding my vocabulary with “gurning”.

  • Anonymous

    The Miyamoto celebration was absolutely my favourite part of the night.  Fantastic to see the old fella so pumped.  That kind of passion running through the team can only be good as we fin ourselves battling in these final few games.

  • Yeah, Miyamoto going crazy was awesome. I think the commentators talked about the Shinya celebration more than the Shingo grand-slam, on Pro-Yakyu News yesterday.

    Good news and bad news about the roster.
    Apparently Ishikawa and Kyuko has gotten a fever and have been taken off the roster temporarily.
    On the other hand, our unreliable third-base coach, Shiroishi has gotten injured and has been relieved of his duty. This guy, for sure, has cost us a couple of games in his two years as coach…

    • Kozo

      Just to be clear Ishikawa and Kyuko are still on the active roster, just held out of games and not on the bench roster.