9/28/11 – Hanshin (Home)

September 28th, 2011

Hanshin Tigers 5

Tokyo Swallows 8

Streak: Won 3  Last 5: LLWWW

(Meiji Jingu Stadium)

WP: K. Matsui (3-0) LP: Akiyama (0-1) S: Lim (28)

The Swallows sent Shichijo to the mound after a 1 month stint in Toda, while the Tigers elected to send young Takumi Akiyama to the mound for his first start of the season. Akiyama had two strong starts against the Swallows last year, in his rookie season, and the Tigers were looking to use that mojo against the Swallows. The result was another strange game which saw the Swallows come back from a one run deficit in a big way.

 Tigers Swallows
2B Hirano1CF Aoki
2CF Shibata22B Tanaka
3SS Toritani3SS Kawabata
43B Arai41B Hatakeyama
51B Brazell5RF Balentien
6RF Murton63B Miyamoto
7LF Kanemoto7LF Takeuchi
8C Fujii8C Aikawa
9P Kubo9P Shichijo

Things started well enough in the first for both pitchers, but things got a little shaky in the second. Shichijo allowed a one out hit to Murton. He got Kanemoto to fly out to Aikawa for out number two, but loaded the bases by giving up back-to-back singles to Fujii and Akiyama (!). Shichijo managed to get out of the jam by getting Hirano to fly out to shortstop. However, giving up 3 hits in one inning was not inspiring confidence in the crowd.

Akiyama ran into his own jam in the second, allowing a lead off single to Hatakeyama and following that up with a walk to Balentien. Miyamoto bunted the men forward for the first out, and Takeuchi failed to score anyone by popping out to second. The Tigers elected to intentionally walk Aikawa to face Shichijo. This should have worked as Akiyama got Shichijo to sky the ball in front of home plate. But as it has been the case this season, the Swallows caught a hilariously lucky break as Fujii failed to catch the ball, and Hatakeyama and Balentien who were running because of the 2 out situation managed to score. 2-0 Swallows Akiyama loaded the bases again by walking Aoki, but Tanaka wasn’t able to further the damage.

The lead did nothing to settle Shichijo, and things went south right away. The rookie started off the third with a walk to Shibata, and Toritani quickly followed with a single to put 2 men on with no out. Just 2 pitches later, the Tigers had the lead via a Arai home run to left. 3-2 Tigers Shichijo subsequently walked Brazell to end his night. Yasuhiro Ichiba, making his first ichi-gun appearance in 2 years, was called in to hold things down for the Swallows. Ichiba got the rest of the Tigers order to go down 1-2-3, and kept the deficit to 1.

Akiyama settled down, and while he allowed single runners in the third and fourth, he got through the next 3 innings without much problem. On the Swallows’ side, Ichiba pitched one more inning of relatively uneventful ball before handing off to Kosuke Matsui. Matsui pitched the fifth and sixth inning and gave up only a single while striking out 3 to keep the game close.

Things turned in the bottom of the sixth, with Akiyama walking Hatakeyama to start the inning. Two pitches later, Balentien launched a monster home run to the Tiger fans in left field that words simply cannot describe. So just check the video…

4-3 Swallows Like Shichijo Akiyama was allowed to face one more batter. A hit by Miyamoto ended his night night, but the Swallows were just getting warmed up. The Tigers sent Fujihara up to the mound to face Takeuchi, who gifted the Tigers an out by bunting Miyamoto to second. Miyamoto came around after Aikawa doubled to left. 5-3 Swallows Keizo came in to bat in the pitcher’s spot and got a straight walk from Fujihara. With 1 out and men on first and second, Aoki took a 1-0 pitch from Fujihara and lined it over the shallow playing center fielder for a triple. 7-3 Swallows The Tigers pulled Fujihara for Nishimura, but Nishimura couldn’t stop Tanaka from launching a 0-2 pitch for a sac fly to finish the scoring. 8-3 Swallows

The Swallows handed the ball to Oshimoto to pitch the seventh, and he did his job by keeping the Tigers off the board. Tsutsui pitched a 3 K seventh for the Tigers. Matsuoka came into the game in the eighth, and things got weird. Matt Murton opened the inning with his third single of the night. Matsuoka got Kanemoto to line out to second for the first out, and it looked like Matsuoka got the pinch hitting Lin to ground into a double play to second. Unfortunately the usually sure-handed Tanaka fumbled the ball towards second, and all men were safe. The second out came via a Hiyama fly out to right, but things got hairier when an infield single by Hirano loaded the bases. Matsuoka got 2 strikes on Shibata, and it looked like things were headed towards another nerve-wracking, but ultimately harmless inning by Matsuoka. That thought was seemingly realized when Matsuoka got Shibata to swing at a pitch in the dirt for strike three. Unfortunately Aikawa let the ball get past him, and the runners were in motion. Aikawa decided to throw the ball from a weird angle to first and hit Shibata with the ball instead. The deflected ball allowed another runner to cross home, and the Tigers suddenly had 2 runs on the board. 8-5 Swallows Matsuoka got Toritani to fly out harmlessly to Tanaka for the final out of the inning.

Kojima pitched a perfect eighth for the Tigers, and Lim got his 28th save in the ninth to close out the game for their 28th come from behind victory of the year. The Tigers’ faithful quickly lined the path the Tigers’ players and coaches pass to get out of the stadium and their verbal abuse towards Mayumi and the players almost overshadowed Balentien and Tsubakuro’s good time.

Another fun night at Jingu for the Swallows!!!

About Kozo Ota

Kozo Ota is a third-generation Swallows fan that grew up on Montreal Expos baseball. (You can read more about that here.) When he's not at Jingu, he works as a freelance translator/interpreter to make enough money to go to Jingu. You can find random posts by Kozo on Google+ and Twitter.