Sept 16th, 2017 @ Hiroshima

September 16th, 2017

TS Logo 150x transparentTokyo Swallows 5

Hiroshima Carp 4

Streak: Won 1 Last 5: LLWLW

(Mazda Stadium)

With the city of Hiroshima poised for an easy win and a pennant, the Swallows managed to play spoiler.

 123456789RHE
Swallows000110210592
Carp0022000004110
W: Kondo (2-3); L: Imamura (2-5); S: Lueke (6)
 Carp Swallows
1Kosuke Tanaka (SS)1Kotaro Yamasaki (CF)
2Ryosuke Kikuchi (2B)2Ryota Fujii (3B)
3Yoshihiro Maru (CF)3Wladimir Balentien (LF)
4Ryuhei Matsuyama (LF)4Tetsuto Yamada (2B)
5Takahiro Arai (1B)5Tomotaka Sakaguchi (RF)
6Tomohiro Abe (3B)6Carlos Rivero (1B)
7Xavier Batista (RF)7Yuhei Nakamura (C)
8Tsubasa Aizawa (C)8Naomichi Nishimura (SS)
9Kazauki Yabuta (P)9Yasuhiro Ogawa (P)

I made a decision in March lead me to actually be in attendance for this game. The Carp sell all of their tickets for the season from March, so I bought tickets for this weekend’s hoping to visit Mazda Stadium, a stadium that I like. But as the season went on the idea of going to Hiroshima became less compelling. Firstly, I realized that I could not attend Sunday’s game sine I had committed to participate at my local matsuri, meaning if I were to go to Hiroshima I would have to make it a day trip. But with friends of Tsubamegun Deanna “Marinerds” Rubin coming to town, and Ben “Friends in Ramen” Weber getting on board I decided to make the long trip to Carp Land.

Little did we know when plans were finalized that the Carp would be sitting at the top of the table with a magic number of 1, and that a typhoon would be approaching from the west. Rain knocked out the only other game with pennant implications (Tigers/Dragons at Koshien) but the forecast seemed to guarantee that Sunday’s game would be cancelled due to rain. So the Swallows needed to win just one game to delay the inevitable Carp CL championship and avoid having Swallows uniforms in the backgrounds of championship highlight videos for years to come. The Swallows had some oddly specific trends going in their favor. The Carp had only lost 4 weekend games at home this season, but two of them were to the Swallows. More specifically those wins both had Yabuta starting for the Carp and Ogawa for the Swallows, today’s starters.

We arrived in Hiroshima around eleven which gave us enough time to hit the local Pokémon Center and hit a Hiroshima-style Oknomiyaki joint before we headed to the stadium. The city was covered in Carp red, and “M1” signs. A light rain was fell on the city but not anything hard enough to cancel the game. We arrived at the stadium shortly before the planned start time of 14:00, but the game start had gotten pushed to 14:30 which meant we got to see all of the pre-game ceremonies. We arrived at our seats in the “Visitor Performance Area”. Of the ~1600 seats in the visitor’s section around 70% of them were filled although many seats were occupied by people wearing suspiciously no cheering goods. The group sitting next to us outed themselves at crypto-Carp fans when one of them took a phone call part way through the game and told they guy on the other side that he was there to “witness the Carp win a championship”. No doubt the ticket holders of the empty seats had put on their Carp gear and joined the rows of people three deep gathered around the concourse. So with the stadium over 95% filled with Carp fans with many more viewing parties being held around the city the Swallows were playing in front of a crowd that wanted them to go down as they had done many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many times this year.

The game started off with two and a half innings of strong pitching. Ogawa held the Carp to an infield single on a questionable call at first, and Yabuta gave up just a walk through his first three innings.

The Carp got on the board in the bottom of the third. Aizawa opened the inning with a single up the middle. Yabuta bunted the runner over, and Ogawa filled first base with a walk to Tanaka. Kikuchi grounded a to Yamada, but the ball made Yamada move enough that it became a infield single. With the bases loaded Maru got a solid single into right for two runs. 2-0 Carp Matsuyama ended the threat with a double play, but the mood in the stadium had already turned.

Yabuta walked Balentien after getting Fujii out, and uncorked a wild pitch to let Coco take second. Yamada hit the ball into the left field corner that was in the blind spot from the visitor seats. The Carp crowd did not react at all making us think the ball was foul but then we saw Yamada trotting into second and Balentien casually stepped on home for the first Swallow hit and run of the day. 2-1 Carp

The bottom of the inning didn’t go very well for the Swallows. Arai did his thing by leading off the inning with a homer. 3-1 Carp After getting Abe to strikeout Ogawa gave up a single to Batista. Balentien’s throw back to the infield missed the cut off man and let Batista take second. Aizawa promptly made the Swallows pay with a single that scored Batista. 4-1 Carp Ogawa got out of the inning without any further damage.

Nakamura then lead off the fifth with a homer to left that was greeted but zero audible reaction from the Carp crowd. 4-2 Carp Nishiura followed with a single and Okumura came in for Ogawa. The Swallows couldn’t get anything more from the inning and the bullpen as on the hook for five innings of work.

Ishiyama pitched two of those innings, and despite a two out runners on second and third situation in the sixth he got out of his innings unscathed.

With Yabuta still pitching, Nishiura got a one out single in the seventh. After Okumura got out, Yamasaki hit a double to put two men on with two out. With the pitcher’s spot up, Omatsu came up and promptly fell behind 0-2. Omatsu chased an outside pitch from Yabuta and got just enough bat on the ball to send it to right field inches past a diving Kikuchi. All of this was happening as Carp fans were inflating their red balloons for Lucky Seven. As Nishiura and Yamasaki stepped on home there was a palpable air of disbelief throughout the stands, even in the Swallows section. 4-4 All The Carp pulled Yabuta and Ichioka came in and walked Balentien. Unfortunately Yamada couldn’t play hero as he struck out to an Ichioka fastball.

Kondo pitched a scoreless seventh for the Swallows. The Carp brought out Imamura to face the Swallows in the eighth. After Sakaguchi fell to a strikeout looking, Rivero hit a single up the middle. Then Imamura lost control and issued back-to-back walks to Nakamura and Nishiura. Okumura then worked the count full against Imamura before he took a pitch deep enough to center for a sac fly. 5-4 Swallows Imamura gave up one more walk before he was pulled and Nakata came out to get Takeuchi for the last out.

The Swallows had two innings to preserve the lead and break the heart of a city. Akiyoshi pitched a perfect eighth with two Ks, and the Swallows bats didn’t get anything going in the ninth so it came down to the bottom of the ninth with a one run lead.

Lueke came into close out the game after getting a quick first out, he gave up a bounder to Tanaka. Lueke made an impressive play by fielding the ball barehanded above his head, but the play got Lueke off balance and he booted the throw to first allowing Tanaka to take second. Kikuchi then followed with a sharp single to right but the decision to play the outfield in saved the Swallows a run. The crowd was now louder than it ever was all day. Lueke then dug in and got Maru to strikeout for the second out. The Carp brought in Eldred to pinch hit for Noma (who pinch ran for Matsuyama in a previous inning). After getting ahead 0-2, Lueke threw a high fastball for a ball before dropping a breaking ball outside which Eldred swung just enough for a strikeout. From the visitor seats it wasn’t exactly clear that Lueke got the strikeout but the delayed reaction was just as gratifying. 5-4 Swallows FINAL

I ultimately spent as much time on a shinkansen as I did in Hiroshima but it was worth it to be one of the few Swallows fans in a sea of disappointed Carp fans. That was for the CARPocalypse! And when y’all beat us at Jingu when we sat at M1 in 2015.

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.

  • James

    It’s been a tough season for the Swallows but just wanted to say that us ‘gaijin’ appreciate the work you guys do to keep us informed of games that we don’t get to watch cause of the time difference. Keep up the great work!