10/11/11 – Chunichi (Away)

October 11th, 2011

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1

Chunichi Dragons 3

Streak: Lost 2   Last 5: WLWLL

(Nagoya Dome)

W: Kawai (5-3/2.51) L: Tateyama (10-5/2.16) S: Iwase (37S/1.48)

Tokyo’s CL title hopes moved yet further into the distance as they fell to Chunichi once more in Nagoya. Tonight’s win means that the Dragons have now moved 2.5 games ahead of the Swallows and become the first team to secure their Climax Series berth.

 Us Them
1CF Aoki12B Araki
22B Tanaka2SS Ibata
3LF Ihara33B Morino
41B Hatakeyama41B Blanco
5RF Balentien5LF Wada
63B Miyamoto6C Tanishige
7SS Morioka7RF Guzman
8C Aikawa8CF Oshima
9P Tateyama9P Kawai

Tateyama started for Tokyo, and just like Ishikawa the night before, fell victim to an early two-run homer, as a 1st inning single from Araki was later followed-up by a Blanco shot to right to make it 2-0 Chunichi.

Shohei continued to struggle in the 2nd as two walks and a single loaded up the bases with no outs on the board. But Tateyama dug deep and struck out pitcher Kawai, before inducing back-to-back groundouts from the top of the order to escape the inning with the lead remaining at just the two runs.

Meanwhile Aikawa registered the Swallows’ first hit of the evening with a one-out single in the 3rd. Tateyama sacbunted to move the runner to second for out number two, but Aoki could only ground out to first to end the inning.

Tokyo put two men on in the 4th, with a Tanaka walk and then Ihara getting aboard via a fielders choice. But a flyout, strikeout and groundout from the heart of the order stranded those two men as Tokyo continued to waste chances in Japan’s most boring of domes (against Japan’s most boring of teams).

Tateyama crestfallen after walking in run number 3

Tateyama then had his first 1-2-3 inning of the night in the 4th before he fell into more trouble in what would turn out to be his final inning. In that 5th inning Kawai grounded out leaving Shohei to face the top of the Chunichi order with one out on the board. Two singles and a walk later the bases were loaded for Blanco. Shohei dug deep again and struck out the danger man for out number two.

He couldn’t quite pull it off against next man up Wada though, and despite thinking he had escaped again when a 2-2 count pitch appeared to paint the lower outside corner, it was called a ball. One foul later and another pitch low and outside walked Wada and brought in the third Chunichi run for 3-0. He did finally stem the bleeding, getting Tanishige to fly out to centre to end the inning.

That would be his last inning, as he left the game sporting a 5IP/6H/4K/4BB/3ER line. Pretty similar to his last few starts, not at his best, and it looks clear that he’s still not 100% since returning from injury in early September.

The bullpen team of Matsui (3.68), Oshimoto (3.12) and Matsuoka (2.61) did their job well in relief of their ace, restricting the Dragons to just the one hit through to the end of the 8th inning.

So it was a case of whether or not Tokyo’s flaccid bats could produce against the Chunichi pitching.

In the 6th, Aoki led off the inning with a single and made it to second on a Tanaka groundout. But the man was again stranded as Ihara and Hatake failed to get on base and the inning was done.

In the 7th Morioka singled with two outs, but Aikawa grounded out to third to keep Tokyo staring at a second straight shutout.

And so their big chance came in the 8th. After Noguchi (in for Oshimoto) grounded out for out number one (leading to starter Kawai being replaced by Kobayashi on the mound), Aoki registered his second single of the evening. Kobayashi then made way for Hirai to face Tanaka, and the second baseman hit a grounder to third, but a double error from Morino (fielding then throwing) allowed him to reach first safely while Aoki came to a halt at third.

In came the annoyingly good Asao to try and mop up the mess and face Sunday’s hero Fukuchi (in for Ihara), and he hit a grounder to second, the out was made at second, but Aoki was home for 3-1. Hatake then worked a walk to put two men on again. But the utterly impotent Balentien capped off his 0 for 4 evening (including 2 Ks) with a weak flyout to right and Tokyo’s chance to get back into it was over.

Tokyo would create one final chance in the 9th with Iwase on the mound. Singles for Miyamoto and Aikawa put men on the corners with one out on the board, but Noguchi hit into a game ending double play for a 3-1 Chunichi Final.

And there you have it. More disappointment. By the bucket load.

You have to hand it to the bullpen, they’ve performed well these last few games. And while Ishikawa and Tateyama both gave up three runs each, it’s those limp bats and brutal lack of run support that is putting paid to Tokyo’s championship hopes. And when you don’t bring home a win in either of the two games in which your no.1 and 2 rotation guys are on the mound, you’re not going to go very far. And at the moment, they can’t seem to release the handbrake.

The two teams return for game three of this increasingly soul destroying series tomorrow evening with Masubuchi due to start for the Swallows.

The dream is almost over

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

  • October has been painful. It’s pretty sad that our options our limited to the likes of Noguchi, Yuichi, and Fukukawa in clutch situation…. Also, sadly, I have become really sick of Ogawa’s insistent use of Iihara. What happened to that guy??
    Hopefully we can even the score in the next two games…if we can score, that is.

  • Message to Balentien

    Wladimir Balentien needs to hit outside pitches to the opposite field, the right field or fouled the outside pitches against him. He needs to make contact and protect himself against outside pitches. That’s his weakness!
    The Yakult Swallows hitting coach must help him!