9/8/11 – Yokohama (Away)

September 8th, 2011

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 7

Yokohama BayStars 3

Streak: Won 3  Last 5: WLWWW

(Yokohama Stadium)

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WP: Muranaka (4-4) LP: Leach (1-6)

Don’t let the score fool you, this game was a lot closer and a lot uglier than plain numbers can describe.

 Swallows BayStars
1CF Aoki12B Watanabe
22B Tanaka2SS Ishikawa
3SS Kawabata3RF Shimozono
41B Hatakeyama43B Murata
5LF Iihara5LF Sledge
63B Miyamoto61B Nakamura
7RF Balentien7CF Yoshimura
8C Aikawa8C Kurobane
9P Muranaka9P Leach

Both starters looked good early on. Even as Muranaka gave up a solo homer to Murata to start the second inning, it seemed as if Muranaka had things under control. 1-0 BayStars

Muranaka did enough to dig himself out of jams and win the game.

The starters’ efficiency allowed the teams to get through 3 innings in under an hour, but things quickly descended into ridiculousness in the fourth inning. Leach started the inning by inducing a line out from Tanaka, after working the count full. Two pitches later, Kawabata managed to bloop a fastball into left field to put a man on. Hatakeyama worked a full count out of Leach before lining a hit into right field to put men on first and second. Iihara was also able to work a full count out of Leach, and got a walk to load the bases with only 1 out. Miyamoto was able to score Kawabata by grounding out to deep second. Tied 1-1 Leach loaded the bases again by giving up a full count walk to Balentien, but was let off the hook a hard fly out by Aikawa.

Shimozono started the bottom of the fourth with an infield single off a high chopper that Tanaka wasn’t able to field cleanly. After getting ahead in the count 2-0, Murata launched a high fly ball that bounced off the right field wall just inches from being a homerun. Balentien alertly threw to third to get Murata trying to take second, but with only one out the BayStars had a man on third. Sledge managed to draw a full count walk to put men on the corners. Old man Nakamura cashed in Shimozono with a hit to center. 2-1 BayStars Yoshimura loaded the bases one pitch later by blooping a hit into center. Kurobane worked a full count off Muranaka and launched the 7th pitch he saw into shallow right. Tanaka tried to chase the ball but misread the ball and wasn’t able to make the diving catch. Balentien bare-handed the high bounce and threw a laser to third to get the slow footed Nakamura out. The bizarre play goes down in the scorecard as a fielder’s choice on the right fielder that scored the runner from third. 3-2 BayStars Muranaka managed to stop the bleeding there, by striking out Leach.

Leach picked up right where he left off, getting the count full against Muranaka. But at least he finally managed to get the pitcher to strike out swinging on his sixth pitch. But Aoki got things going by by getting a hit to right, and Tanaka followed with his own hit to right shortly after. With one out and men on first and second, Kawabata tried to catch the defense napping by flashing a bunt. While Leach did look slow and ugly fielding the bunt, he got the sure out at first and the Swallows gave away their second out. Hatakeyama worked the count full against Leach, and drew a walk after 8 pitches to load the bases. Iihara quickly fell behind 0-2 but was able to take Leach’s lazy curveball in the zone and hit it hard into right to score both Aoki and Tanaka. Tied 3-3 Miyamoto took Leach’s next pitch and lined it down the third base line. Murata was positioning himself to field the ball behind the bag, but the ball hit the bag and bounced back into the infield. Miyamoto’s lucky hit allowed Hatakeyama to score easily from third to give the Swallows the lead for the first time. 4-3 Swallows Leach’s night was done after the Miyamoto hit.

The BayStars would not score any more runs in the game, but not for a lack of chances. Muranaka had 2 outs with men on first and second in the fifth, and bases loaded with only one out in the sixth. Muranaka got out of the fifth with a strikeout and the sixth with a double play. Looking at Muranaka’s line 9 hits and 3 walks allowed, it’s amazing that he lasted 6 inning and only gave up 3 runs. Things didn’t get any smoother as Kyuko found himself in a 2 out men on the corners situation in the seventh, which Matsuoka had to clean up.

In the top of eighth inning, the Swallows got a key insurance run. With one out, Whitesell managed to hit one into the gap in left and, despite stumbling a little going around first, beat the (bad) throw to second for a double. With Miwa running for Whitesell, Miwa was able to score on Aoki’s hard hit to the right-center gap. 5-3 Swallows In the bottom of the inning, the Swallows decided to take a page out of Furuta’s managing playbook by using a committee of young relievers (Kosuke Matsui, Okamoto, and Hashimoto) to do the work of a vet (Oshimoto). Matsui got his out, but Okamoto gave up 2 hits on just 3 pitches. Hashimoto did get the last two outs via foul outs to third, but not before loading the bases with a walk. With only a 2 run lead, the young guns got the job done but probably won’t be seeing anymore key innings for a while.

The Swallows added more breathing room for themselves after Iihara started the inning with a 4 pitch walk, Miyamoto followed with a bunt, and Balentien knocked his 26th homer into the right field stands. 7-3 Swallows Balentien’s almost obligatory homerun against the BayStars was only his second hit of the 3 game series.

Lim came in to to pitch the ninth, and despite giving up a hit, looked in control and secured the win for the Swallows.

Notes

  • A total of 15 pitchers pitched in tonight’s game, which is a new Central League record for a 9 inning game.
  • All the mid-inning pitching changes, the constant runners on base, and the seemingly continual deep counts lead to the game going 4 hours and 33 minutes. The longest game in NPB this season.
  • Every Swallows’ starter. including Muranaka, got a hit in tonight’s game. Aoki collected 3 hits including 2 doubles, and Miyamoto got 2 hits.
  • Elsewhere, the Tigers completed their sweep of the Carp to keep pace with the Swallows and retain second place in the CL, 4 games behind the Swallows. The Giants and Dragons played a 12 inning 0-0 tie and thus each team fell a half game behind the Swallows.
  • Starting tomorrow, the Swallows will play a super important 3 game series against the Tigers at Jingu.
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.

  • As you said, despite the score, that was a struggle of a game. So many chances spurned by Yokohama, but a motley crew of Swallows relievers got the job done.

    Hanshin look to be in fine form which doesn’t bode well for this weekend, but they do have a tenancy to be a little inconsistent. Just hope they can display some of that inconsistency against us for the first time this year.