September 4th, 2016
Tokyo Swallows 3
Streak: Lost 1 Last 5: LWLWL
(Meiji Jingu Stadium)
Still two games behind Yokohama and third place, the Swallows need to win this series to turn up the heat a little. A win today would also help set the tone for an absolutely enormous series at Yokohama Stadium starting on Tuesday.
|W: Hagens (7-3; 2.66 ERA)
L: Yamanaka (6-10; 3.47 ERA)
S: Nakazaki (3-4 30 S; 1.41 ERA)
Yamanaka started for the Birds, and his opposite number, Bradin Hagens, beat the Swallows the last time he faced them in August. However, he also had a dismal start against Chunichi last week during which he was tagged with six earned runs. Both Tokyo and Hiroshima have a 5-2 record over their past 7 games.
|1||Tanaka (SS)||1||Araki (1B)|
|2||Kikuchi (2B)||2||Ueda (CF)|
|3||Maru (CF)||3||Yamada (2B)|
|4||Arai (1B)||4||Balentien (LF)|
|5||Suzuki (RF)||5||Ugumori (RF)|
|6||Matsuyama (LF)||6||Nishiura (SS)|
|7||Abe (3B)||7||Fujii (3B)|
|8||Aizawa (C)||8||Nishida (C)|
|8||Hagens (RHP)||8||Yamanaka (RHP)|
But it ended up being Yamanaka who had the rockier start tonight.
He was solid in the first, but the seams started to show a little in the second.
In the third inning he allowed three hits, the culmination of which was Arai’s 2 RBI knock that opened the scoring.
And the next inning was arguably worse. Matsuyama pulled an 0-1 slider into the seats in left for his ninth home run of the season, and one out later Aizawa ripped a full count “heater” to right.
The Swallows eventually fought back in the seventh when they opened the inning with four consecutive hits. They also got a little help from the Hiroshima defense, and Hagens was sent packing before he recorded an out. He would eventually get tagged with three runs, but only one of those runs was earned.
Nishiura singled and Fujii doubled to put two runners in scoring position.
Thanks to a throwing error, both runs scored on Nishida’s single to first.
And Nishida scored from second on Sakaguchi’s pinch hit double.
Araki successfully bunted him over to third for out number one, but Imamura struck out both Ueda and Yamada to strand the equalizer.
And that was basically it. Both teams managed a walk after that, but there were no more hits and no more scoring. Nakazaki closed the game without incident for his 30th save of the year.
The loss was all the more painful because both Yomiuri and Yokohama lost tonight.
But these things happen when you’re playing the most dominant team in the Central League. Hopefully the Carp will secure the pennant when they return to Tokyo Dome later this week.
The Birds are now 10 games below .500 and still two games adrift of the playoffs.
Next is the all-important series against Yokohama in their playground. It’s probably fair to surmise that the team who wins that series has the best shot at making the playoffs.
Tokyo would need to sweep Yokohama to leap them in the standings, resulting in a one game advantage. If Tokyo takes two of the games, Yokohama’s lead will be cut to one. If the opposite happens, then Tokyo deficit will grow to three games. And if Yokohama wins all three, Tokyo will be a full five games adrift of the playoffs, and they may sink to fifth place in the league depending on the results of the Hanshin-Yomiuri series.
Tune in here for the results if you can’t go to the game or watch it on TV.