Yakult Swallows-7 Yomiuri Giants-1

I do not like Shun Tohno. I didn't like his smug smile after striking out Wladimir Balentien, and I didn't like his smug smile after the ump called a ball on a borderline pitch. So when he imploded in the seventh inning, I could not help but smile. Smugly.

The game started out poorly enough. The baseball gods smote me after saying Hayato Sakamoto was a "tolerable" Giant. He smacked a 3-2 pitch into the left field seats and the Giants enjoyed a 1 run handicap from the get-go. 1-0 Giants.

The Swallows had a chance to tie in the bottom of the third. Shingo Kawabata walked and was successfully bunted to secon. However, Norichika Aoki struck out a forkball and the mini-threat was over.

In the bottom of the fourth the Swallows finally got on the board. After Hiroyasu Tanaka led off with a double (a notable lack of effort from Alex Ramirez in left), Yuichi hit a grounder to first, allowing Tanaka to get to third. Following Kazuhiro Hatakeyama's second strikeout, Ryoji Aikawa hit a pitch to deep right that glanced off the glove of Yoshinobu Takahashi as he crashed into the wall. Tanaka scored as Aikawa strolled into second. Wladimir Balentien couldn't keep it going as he struck out for the second time. *Takahashi left the game after crashing into the wall and was replaced by Yoshiyuki Kamei. Hisayoshi Chono was replaced by Nakahiro Suzuki for an unknown reason. 1-1 going to the fifth.
 In the sixth, the Swallows took the lead with some remarkable baserunning by Tanaka. After collecting his second double, Tanaka stood at second, waiting to be driven in. Yuichi was able to fight off a pitch and bloop it towards left field. Tanaka took off right away, sure it would fall. It did, a mere few feet in front of Ramirez. I don't know many players that would have scored in that position. Tanaka deserves to be commended for his great read. Aikawa grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to cease any further threat. 2-1 Swallows.

In the bottom half of the seventh, after the Swallows loaded the bases, Tanaka came through with a single that was made worse for the Giants with an error in right. The end result: 3 runs scored and Tanaka standing on second. The 5 runs were enough to finally chase Tohno. In the next at-bat, a passed ball was enough to score Tanaka from second. 6-1 Swallows.

The Swallows added another run in the eighth on a Kawabata timely. 7-1 Swallows.

In the ninth, the Swallows called on Tony Barnette to finish up. He allowed two hits but closed the game without allowing a run. Final score: 7-1 Swallows.

Masanori Ishikawa grabs the win after allowing 3 hits through 7 innings. Great performance by Ishikawa in what was easily his best performance of the season. Take away the first batter of the game and he allowed no runs and two hits.

Hero: Tanaka gets this one on the batting side. 3-4 with two doubles, 2 RBI, and 3 runs score will win you this award every time. Great game at the plate and a key play up the middle that saved a run. Ishikawa gets a mention for a big performance to win the all important first game of the series.

Goat: Balentien went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts to take home today's prize.

Notes: Aoki left the game in the seventh with an apparent left hamstring injury, here's the article detailing it (in Japanese)...Josh Whitesell had a pinch hit appearance and battled to a full count before striking out...The Swallows have scored in their last 3 innings in the last two games: 7th, 8th, 9th against Hiroshima and 6th, 7th, 8th tonight.

© 2011, copyright Julian Jowise


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