4.23.2011

Yakult Swallows - 6 Hiroshima Carp - 6

Not pictured: Hiroshima player's devastated faces after blowing a five run lead.
Shun Takaichi made his first start of the season; hopefully it is his last until he learns to keep the ball down. His final line: 2 1/3 IP, 14 batters faced, 7 hits allowed, 6 ER. Flat out awful. 

The bullpen was key to the Swallows clawing back to steal a tie in this one, so not all the pitching was atrocious. While they allowed baserunners, Takehiko Oshimoto, Tony Barnette, Kenichi Matsuoka, and Chong-Yong Lim didn't let up a single run. This allowed the Swallows to stay within striking distance for the whole game.

After 3 innings the score was 6-1 in favor of the Carp and I was ready to call it a night. Next inning,
however, Shinya Miyamoto hit a double (remember this phrase), Shingo Kawabata singled, and Yuichi had an RBI groundout. 6-2.

I decided I'd stick around to see what kind of heart the team had. In the 5th, they made their big push. Kazuki Fukuchi added his league leading 6 steal after grounding into a fielder's choice. This is where it fell apart for the opposing pitcher, youngster Ren Nakata. He gave up three straight RBI doubles to the same exact left-center field alley to Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, Wladimir Balentien, and Miyamoto (2nd double). After Kawabata walked and Oshimoto reached on an error, Norichika Aoki had a chance to tie the game or take the lead with a hit. Instead he had the worst at-bat of the game for either team and struck out swinging. 6-5 after 5.

Nothing of note happened, other than Miyamoto hitting his 3rd double of the game in the seventh. His hit forced Balentien to third. On an grounder Balentien broke for home and trucked the catcher, who held onto the ball for the out. Balentien has now trucked two Carp players in two games, let's see if he can go for the trifecta tomorrow. Miyamoto was stranded and it was still 6-5.

The Swallows had one more chance to squeeze out a tie. Ryoji Aikawa looked like a little-leaguer waving at a pitch that bounced in front of the plate for a K. 2 outs to go. Balentien saw two pitches go by for a strike and a ball. He didn't let the third one go by. He sent it to the center field bleachers and tied the game at 6. The rest of the side went down in order and we moved to the bottom of the frame. The 3 and a half hour mark had passed so this would be the final half inning of play. Because of that, Lim was called on to "save" the tie. He obliged, and the Swallows can't help but feel lucky to have gotten a tie after being down 6-1. It showed heart and it will be exciting to see how they come to play today.
Notes: Balentien is made for the 5 spot, I would expect him to move to 5 or even 4 eventually. His power is somewhat being neutralized in the 6th spot. Hatakeyama has been one of the best hitters in the league so far. His clutch hitting has saved the Swallows more than once. Aoki has really struggled. He broke an 0-16 slump with a single in the eighth inning. The probable starter in the final game of the series is Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi.

© 2011, copyright Julian Jowise

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