10/9/11 – Hiroshima (Home)

October 9th, 2011

Hiroshima Carp  3

Tokyo Swallows  4

Streak: Won 1       Last 5: LLWLW

(Meiji Jingu Stadium)

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W: Lim (4-2 31S) L: Imamura (3-8 1S)

Ueda turned out to be the left fielder du jour, and the Swallows showed some fight in wresting the series from Hiroshima.

 Hiroshima Tokyo
1Akamatsu CF1Aoki CF
2Kimura SS2Ueda LF
3Barden 3B3Kawabata SS
4Kurihara 1B4Hatakeyama 1B
5Matsuyama LF5Balentien RF
6Hirose RF6Miyamoto 3B
7Matsumoto 2B7Tanaka 2B
8Kura C8Aikawa C
9Bullington P9Yamamoto P

Yamamoto (1-6) was on the bump for Tokyo, and he didn’t last long. After beaning three guys and walking as many, he was asked to sit and think in the dugout for the remaining six and one-third innings.

For his trouble, he was tagged with three earned runs. However, he lucked out in the end as his teammates saved him from adding to his loss column.

Down 0-3 after three innings, the birds didn’t start to show some fight until the fifth inning when they finally got to Hiroshima’s starter, Bullington. Miyamoto and Tanaka led off with singles before Aikawa was asked to bunt them over. The nine-fingered man couldn’t figure out how to lay down a sacrifice in fair territory, so he resorted to the more modern solution which for him is hitting a single to left.

With the bases loaded, pinch-hitter Yuichi grounded out to second which pushed a run home in the process, and Aoki did the same with his grounder to short. 3-2 Hiroshima.

 The offense then quieted down for two innings as Bullington retired the Swallows batters in order in both the sixth and seventh.

But Hiroshima reliever, Kishimoto, was welcomed to the game by pinch-hitter, Fukuchi, with a triple to center to set the stage for a tie ballgame going into the ninth. It was only the latter’s third extra-base hit of 2011, and his first triple, and Aoki was happy to step into the batter’s box with a chance at a second RBI on the day.

After Kishimoto’s two pitches, it was Takahiro Aoki’s turn to pitch. Perhaps Hiroshima didn’t have anyone else to turn to in that situation, but Tokyo’s Aoki was 5-12 against Hiroshima’s Aoki going into that at-bat, so it might not have been the best choice for a matchup on the Hiroshima manager’s part. At any rate, Tokyo’s Aoki delivered with a single to center. He’s now 6-13 with a .462 batting average against Hiroshima’s Aoki. Tied at 3.

Even with no outs, that was the end of the scoring in the 9th partly due to an Ueda Tak-bunt to move Aoki over to second. The most interesting part of the inning after that was when Hiroshima walked Hatakeyama with two outs in order to pitch to Balentien. Both were hitless in their previous three at-bats, and with Imamura coming in to face Tokyo’s right fielder, Balentien struck out to end the inning.

Tokyo’s relievers did a good job of keeping Hiroshima at bay after Yamamoto was sent to the showers. Matsui (3-0, 3.81 ERA) finished Yamamoto’s third inning and pitched two more while only allowing one hit and issuing one walk.

Matsuoka (2-2, 2.70) took care of the sixth and seventh innings without allowing a base runner. He mixed in three strikeouts during his 26-pitch effort.

And Oshimoto (2-2, 3.22) allowed a lead-off single, but Hiroshima’s third Tak-bunt of the game helped lessen the sting and he got out of the inning with a grounder and a strikeout.

Chang-yong Lim took the mound with the score tied in the top of the ninth, and he retired the side in quick fashion care of a strikeout and two easy pop-ups to Kawabata at short.

Imamura remained on the mound for the Carp after striking Balentien out to end the Tokyo threat in the bottom of the eighth. Morioka grounded out to second to start things off, but then Tanaka came through with his second hit of the game to kindle some hope for the home fans. He deserves extra credit for prevailing after a 10-pitch encounter with Imamura in which Tanaka fouled off four pitches to keep himself in the contest.

Aikawa then doused the hopes a bit with a Tak-bunt that moved Tanaka to second and put a second out on the board. At three hours and 12 minutes, it looked certain that the game would go to the 10th inning.

But then Nomura drew his outfielders in to an almost comical defensive depth to try and prevent Tanaka from scoring. Maybe they forgot that Fukuchi had tripled in his previous at bat and is capable of hitting to the warning track, regardless of what his batting average says about him.

Well, he came through once again. Again hitting from the left side of the plate, he declined to swing at a first pitch strike and then pulled the next pitch past the outfielder in right. Tanaka scored from second to win the game and win the series two games to one. 4-3 Final.

Lim (4-2 31S, 2.19 ERA) got the win for his scoreless ninth, and Fukuchi was the hero of the game after playing a large part in Tokyo’s tying and go-ahead runs.

The Swallows head to Nagoya tomorrow morning to take on Chunichi in a four game series that has the potential to determine who wins the Central League Pennant. For discussion on the gut-wrenching importance of this series, check out yesterday’s podcast.

The Swallows will play their second to last home game at Jingu on Friday the 14th against the Hanshin Tigers. Tokyo’s final home game, and their last game of the regular season, is scheduled for the 25th when Hiroshima come back to town.

Notes:

Whitesell was removed from the active roster after complaining of pain in his right side. It sounds like he may have pulled something in the game on the eighth.

The Swallows outhit the Carp eight to five.

After getting nine runners on base in the first three innings, Hiroshima only managed three more through the final six.

Aoki is now in sole possession of second place in the Central League with a .360 batting average with runners in scoring position. Yomiuri’s shortstop, Sakamoto, is in first.

Ueda did well at the plate going 1-2 with a double and a walk. He started in left and moved over to right when Lim took Balentien’s spot in the lineup for the ninth.

Prior to his appearance in tonight’s game, Ueda has been having a decent season on the farm team. Through 349 official at-bats, he’s hitting .281/.373/.355 with 98 hits, 55 stolen bases and 37 RBIs. He’s also mixed in 47 walks, seven HBP, and 55 Ks. In other words, he sounds a little like a 23-year-old Fukuchi.

Miyamoto went 1-1 in his first game back after being held out of a few games due to pneumonia. He also got on base a second time thanks to a HBP. Morioka took his place on first as a pinch-runner after his single in the fifth. It was also Morioka who replaced him at third base.

Tanaka was the only Tokyo player besides Fukuchi to record more than one hit. He also added a walk.

Tokyo’s 3-4-5 hitters, Kawabata, Hatakeyama and Balentien, went a combined 0-11 at the plate.

In addition to leading the league in homers (30) and slugging percentage (.478), Balentien is top in strikeouts (124) as well.

Hatakeyama leads the league in walks (74) and pudding consumed per inning (2.2 cups).

Tokyo are still a half game behind the Chunichi Dragons in the fight for the right to host the second stage of the Climax Series at home. Tokyo has nine games remaining on its regular season schedule. Chunichi has 10. Tokyo will face Chunichi in five of those contests.

Yes, this could go down to the wire, folks.

About Christopher Pellegrini

Christopher is a budding sabermetrician and long-time supporter of Tokyo’s more lovable team, the Swallows. He has publicly volunteered, several times, that he plans to buy the team at some point in the future. When he finally runs the joint, it is likely that he will fine any player who swings at the first pitch or sac bunts (unless it’s a pitcher, of course). Follow him on Twitter: @chrispellegrini

  • Anonymous

    Hi Chris, I’ve noticed a couple of times that you’ve mentioned that “what is at stake is home advantage in the playoffs”.  I thought the CL championship was decided by the regular season games only, and the CS playoffs were just to determine who continued on to the Japan Series?

    So, if that were the case then what is at stake is much more than just home advantage in the playoffs, but the CL title itself!  Glory!

    Now, I base all this on 3rd party information, given to me by friends, colleagues etc (I don’t read Kanji so cannot read much baseball info other than I get here – this site is priceless) but I certainly spent all of the last 2 seasons believing this to be the case, and if I am mistaken, I’d love someone to let me know!  Is it possible that the decision on how this was done has changed since the first CL playoffs 2 years ago?

    Appreciate the info.

    Cheers,
    James

    • You’re correct. The team that finishes in first place at the end of the regular season is declared CL champs and gets a bye through the first stage of the Climax Series. They then take on the winner of the first stage in a second stage series that is played completely at their home ground–and they start the series up 1-0.

      I think I’m guilty of undervaluing the significance of winning the league in one way–I don’t really care if we win the CL pennant unless we make it to the Japan Series (and win that as well). So for me, the most important reason to win the league during the regular season is that the second stage is heavily weighted in the pennant-winner’s favor. A secondary benefit is going down in the history books as the CL champs for 2011.

      Does that make sense?

      • I disagree with you here.

        For me, the Japan Series has been devalued a fair bit since the introduction of the playoffs (see Lotte’s win from last year), so winning that has lost a bit of it’s lustre for me.

        So putting “CL Champions” in the record books and losing in the second stage of the CS would be fine with me (relatively speaking of course).

        Perhaps it’s something we can discuss in the next episode of the podcast (and by then we’ll know our regular season fate, and thus upcoming CS schedule).

    • You are indeed correct James. And just to clarify it for you:

      1st place come the end of the regular season = CL champions, with the winner of the subsequent playoffs going on to represent the CL in the Japan Series. This has always been the case in the CL since their playoffs came into effect in 2007.

      This wasn’t always the case in the PL though, and from 2004-2006 their initial version of the playoffs saw the winner of stage 2 be crowned PL champions and then advance to the Japan Series.

      This changed when the CL joined in and both league’s “climax series” formats were unified.

      • Anonymous

        Got it, thanks both for your replies. So, it is as I thought, but perhaps just a difference of opinion on what is more “glorified” – winning the CL, or qualifying for the Japan Series.  

        My experience of baseball really only stretches as far as the past 6 years of watching Swallows (No MLB experience or anything to relate it to) but in this case I would be in David’s camp.  

        Offered a choice right now of either 1) Win the CL but not make it to the Japan Series or 2) Finish 2nd in the CL but make it to the Japan Series – I would be inclined to choose the first option.

        Obviously, the decision would be complicated by bringing in the factor of actually WINNING the Japan Series – i.e.  Would you prefer to win the CL, but lose the Japan Series final, or finish 2nd in the CL but win the Japan Series?

        On this topic, what is your feeling from talking to Japanese baseball fans?  I am sure that “pre-playoffs” the Japan Series was seen as the ultimate, but now that 3rd place teams can win the Japan Series, is it more prestigious to win the CL/PL or still the Japan Series? I’m really quite interested to gauge the feeling of other people out there.

        My personal feeling is that winning the league is the most important thing.  For me the Japan Series is comparable to the Champions League of European football.  

        It used to be just league champions who contested it, but in recent years 3rd or even 4th place teams get to enter to.

        It’s great to win it, but it’s ultimately a knockout short-term tournament which the “best team” (over the course of the season) may not win.  

        I am sure I get this bias from being brought up on football in England and not having “post seasons playoffs” to decide championships.  But while winning the Japan Series is surely still the ultimate achievement in Japanese Baseball, the achievement must be somewhat devalued by doing so as a 2nd or 3rd placed team in the regular season.

        Anyway, there’s my tuppence worth!

        James

        • Kozo

          The Japanese (Swallows) fans we hang out with value the pennant and say that they’d prefer to win the CL over getting to the Japan Series through the Climax Series. One of our more outspoken friends refers to the Climax Series as the inchiki (cheat) series.

          In the world in which we have always won our Japan Series after winning the pennant, those fans don’t view the Japan Series as the ultimate prize anymore since, in their eyes, the quality of teams that can make it there are inferior.

          Obviously people’s thoughts and perceptions may change if we make it
          into the playoffs in 2nd or 3rd and then win the Japan Series.