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Rob Smaal

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Swallows on brink of playoffs

by Rob Smaal (Oct 9, 2009)

Shohei Tateyama has 16 wins for the Swallows this season, not many bigger than Thursday's complete-game 5-0 shutout of the Hanshin Tigers that moved Yakult one game away from clinching a Central League playoff berth.

Tateyama limited the Tigers to just five hits in a 121-pitch outing at Jingu Stadium as he improved to 16-6 on the season. The right-hander put himself into a tie for the Central League lead in wins with Chunichi's Kazuki Yoshimi but, more importantly, he gave the third-place Swallows a half-game edge over Hanshin as the season winds down. The two teams meet again tonight at Jingu and a Yakult victory would put them in the playoffs and eliminate the Tigers from postseason play.

Offensively, little-used catcher Ryohei Kawamoto came through with a two-run homer to help the Swallows' cause on Thursday.

After loading the bases in the first inning against Hanshin starter Yuya Ando and coming away empty-handed, the Swallows were able to push a couple of runs across in the third. Veteran Shinya Miyamoto, who is playing with a broken thumb, hit a one-out double off Ando and came around to score when Tigers third-baseman Takahiro Arai made a throwing error on a ground ball hit by Norichika Aoki.

Aoki was later thrown out at home trying to score on a grounder to first by Aaron Guiel, but Yuichi Matsumoto followed up with an RBI double to right to score Guiel from first.

The home team tacked on two more runs when backup catcher Kawamoto hammered a two-run homer to left off Hanshin reliever Yasutomo Kubo. It was just the third dinger of the year for Kawamoto, who is getting some late-season playing time with regular catcher Ryoji Aikawa out with an injury.

Another run came home in the seventh on a groundout to short by Miyamoto.

Ando (8-12) took the loss. The eighth-year right-hander gave up two unearned runs on four hits and a walk over four innings.

The Tigers' final regular-season game is tonight while the Swallows have three more games left on their schedule, all at Jingu.

Whichever team does end up finishing third will take on the Dragons in Stage 1 of the CL Climax series, a best-of-three affair in Nagoya.


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