Yakult Swallows-4 Yomiuri Giants-1

It's a bomber plane, it's Timothy McVeigh, it's......Wladimir Balentien!!

Wladimir Balentien can drop bombs like a F-22 Fighter Jet. He dropped two today and the Swallows extended their unbeaten streak to 10 on the arms of some strong pitching.

Yoshinori Sato struggled early, allowing multiple runners in the first two innings. In the second, the Giants capitalized, using a squeeze play to get Hisayoshi Kamei in (give them credit for an exciting play). 1-0 Giants.

Their lead didn't last long. Kazuhiro Hatakeyama took the second pitch he saw from Tetsuya Utsumi deep to left-center for a no-doubt homer. Balentien, not to be outdone, hit an even more impressive homerun to left field. It was absolutely crushed and nearly left the park. Alex Ramirez watched it sail over his head and didn't move from his position, that's how far and fast the ball got out. 2-1 swallows.

 In the bottom of the fourth the Swallows added another run on a Shinya Miyamoto タイムリ. There was a chance for more runs with the bases loaded, but the pitcher, Sato, struck out swinging. 3-1 Swallows.

He made up for it with a big performance in the fifth. With the rain pouring, it was crucial that he recorded three outs as quickly as possible in order to give the Swallows the win should the game be stopped. He had his best inning yet, sending down the top of the order in 1-2-3 fashion, thus making the game official.

The umpires decided to allow the game to continue however, and the Swallows had more chances for runs. questionable umpiring stifled the opportunities, however. Hatakeyama was punched out on delayed strike three. He was already looking to the third base coach for signs by the time the umpire decided it was his time to sit down. Hatakeyama was left baffled, standing in the batter's box glaring at the ump. On the next play, Ryoji Aikawa grounded to short and although Hayato Sakamoto bobbled it he got it to second just in time. Yasushi Iihara was none too happy being called out at second and nothing was going the Swallows way in the bottom of the 5th.

*There was a prolonged delay prior to the start of the 6th inning but it looked like the umps were ready to continue several times. The players took the field after about 30 minutes but were quickly ushered off after the rain became heavier. After about an hour they took the field and this time they stayed on for good. Takehiko Oshimoto took over for Sato after the long break.

After Oshimoto did his part in the top of the 6th, Balentien added to his stats for the day by tallying another homerun. Balentien is really vying for that fifth spot in the order, and his performances so far have backed him up. 4-1 Swallows.
Michihiro Ogasawara had a chance to make things interesting with a man on first and third with 2 outs in the seventh, but he displayed why he was having such a rough start to the season by looking foolish on a breaking ball by Tony Barnette for strike three.

Kenichi Matsuoka had a 1-2-3 eighth and Lim Chang-Yong struck out the side in the ninth to get his second save. The Swallows go for the sweep tomorrow with Shohei Tateyama on the hill.

Hero: Balentien, no doubt. From goat yesterday to hero today. He had the go-ahead homer and one for insurance.

Goat: The umpires. Not only did they have a terribly inconsistent strike zone, they didn't call the game in the 5th inning, depriving me of much-needed sleep.

Notes: Norichika Aoki was pulled early for the second straight game...I have yet to hear whether it was for the same reason (left hamstring)...The game lasted about 4 and half hours because of the delay...The Giants are scoreless after innings one and two in the first two games of the series.

© 2011, copyright Julian Jowise

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