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August 7th Tsuru v Masabuchi - Sweeping the Swallows

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August 7th Tsuru v Masabuchi - Sweeping the Swallows

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Both starting pitchers stunk and had to be removed quickly. Tsuru despite his triumphs in ni-gun didn't have the temperament to justify his inclusion in the first team. His control was poor and he looked out of his depth most of the time. This forced Mayumi to use his relief who responded magnificently. Perhaps the only mistake was the attempt to use Nishimura through two innings - he was rusty. We also saw the emergence of Kojima as a force to be reckoned with. One hopes that his pitching in Swallows sixth was the breakthrough innings for him. Both teams also wasted loads of chances - profligacy was the order of the day but Tigers batters came through when needed. Scores

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Swallows 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 8 1
Tigers 0 0 3 0 2 0 0 0 X 5 10 1

Starting lineups

1. Kawashima (Short)
2. Aoki (Centre)
3. Hatakeyama (Left)
4. Whitesell (First)
5. Takeuchi (Right)
6. Kawabata (Third)
7. Tanaka (Second)
8. Aikawa (Catcher)
9. Masabuchi (Pitcher)

1. Hirano (Centre)
2. Uemoto (Second)
3. Toritani (Short)
4. Arai (Third)
5. Brazell (First)
6. Kanemoto (Left)
7. Shibata (Right)
8. Fujii (Catcher)
9. Tsuru (Pitcher)

As I mentioned Tsuru was poor - he started Swallows first with a centre hit to Kawashima. Aoki hit into a double play which was so perfect that Toritani didn't need to move. Tsuru then gave up another hit, it was that kind of night. So Swallows had Hatakeyama on first with Whitesell next and Tsuru showed how good he could be strking out Whitesell swinging. Masabuchi was just as poor as Tsuru but lasted longer. Here Tigers wasted their first big chance. Hirano led off hitting into left centre then speeding round to third. This was a fantastic chance. Next was Uemoto who hit to left - he beat third but Kawashima dived and snagged the ball. He was up but unable to throw to first. He could throw to third though and so Hirano wisely didn't attempt home - runners on first and third. Toritani hit into centre where the ball was taken by Aoki. He threw to Tanaka who relayed the ball to Aikawa standing at the plate. The ball arrived before Hirano began his slide - he was sliding to the left with his arm outstretched to tag the plate. However, Aikawa's leg blocked the plate and Hirano spun away unable to touch home. Aikawa applied the tag and Hirano was out. You felt how on earth did he manage not to score? In the meantime Uemoto had taken second and the scoring chance was still on. It didn't come off as Arai flew out to first to end the innings. Tsuru started Swallows third by walking Takeuchi in four. Kawabata bunted him to second and then Tanaka turned one along the third baseline. It stayed in the air for some time but landed safe, Kanemoto having a long way to go to reach the ball. Takeuchi was home 1-0 Swallows and Tanaka made second beating the throw from Kanemoto which was very accurate. Next batter was Aikawa who struck out but then Masabuchi hit to short. Toritani dived but the ball spilled out of his glove into centre. This brought home Tanaka 2-0 Swallows, runner on first. This was ruled a hit but in reality was a Toritani error and if truth be told Toritani didn't have a good night in the field. It was a difficult take but the sort of take that a short should be able to manage. Kawashima hit to right to set up runners on first and second and then Tsuru walked Aoki to load the bases. This was the end of Tsuru who had totally failed to cope with conditions. He was replaced by Watanabe who struck Hatakeyama out looking with a magnificent outside straight to end the innings. It did look like Tigers were going down though. Tigers second seemed to confirm this. Masabuchi didn't look comfortable either but managed to retire first two batters. Shibata hit to right but then Fujii struck out swinging - he does need to work on this area. Because Fujii had struck out for the final out of the innings Mayumi could use Watanabe in Swallows third (he had Murton warming up to pinch hit). Watanabe did need to work to get Whitesell who grounded out to third but then the next two batters went down easily including a very sharp liner to Brazell at first to end the innings. Tigers third was led off by Murton making a pinch hitting appearance. He grounded out but Hirano bounced one nicely over the pitcher into centre for a single. Uemoto hit to right and Tigers had runners on first and second. Toritani drew a full count walk to load the bases but Arai struck out swinging for a high straight. Next was Brazell who hammered his first pitch deep off the wall for a bases clearing double 3-2 Tigers, runner on second. This brought a change of pitcher, Masabuchi being judged unable to continue. He was replaced by Akagawa who faced Kanemoto. Kanemoto drove fiercely into right and Brazell set off round the bases. The throw and relay were good and one expected Brazell to charge Aikawa but he didn't. Maybe he had been told not to charge the catchers otherwise there wouldn't be any left. Anyway he slid but he started his slide far too early and was an easy tag out for a no doubt relieved Aikawa to end the innings. Tigers had missed that chance but had taken the lead in spectacular fashion.

Fukuhara pitched the Swallows fourth and was quite reliable retiring his three batters in order. Shibata faced Matsuoka and led off with a hit to left. The outfield at Kyocera Dome was quite treacherous as Hatakeyama found out to his cost. He went to take the ball which bounced higher than he expected, over his glove and behind him. This gave Shibata the space he needed to take third. Once again Tigers had a runner on third with no outs. Once again they wasted it - Fujii grounded out weakly to third - so weakly that Shibata had no chance to go for home. Fukuhara was warming up but was replaced by Sekimoto. Sekimoto then struck out and maybe Fukuhara would have been the better bet. Finally, Hirano flew out to right watched by an open mouthed Mayumi. Certainly he had a right to be surprised after that particular failure. Nishimura took over for Swallows fifth. He looked rusty and nervous but got Kawashima to fly out. Aoki hit a grounder to Toritani who dropped an easy take to set up a runner on first. Then Hatakeyama hit deep into right and Aoki set off for home. The ball bounced over Shibata (once again the treacherous outfield) and was taken by Hirano who threw to Uemoto. Uemoto's throw to Fujii was good and Fujii was able to block and tag Aoki for the out. A huge play. Hatakeyama was safe on second. Next was Whitesell who took a dead ball on his elbow - the pitch was a bit inside but it did look deliberate by Whitesell. Nishimura then battled Takeuchi before striking him out looking on a full count. Tigers had escaped that one. Tigers fifth was a decisive innings. Uemoto struck out but Toritani collected a walk. Next was Arai who whalloped his first pitch high into the left stand for a two run home run 5-2 Tigers and a big hit. Brazell grounded out and then Kanemoto struck out to end the innings. Swallows sixth was the key innings. Swallows would have the chance to take the lead but fail due to some excellent pitching by Kojima. One is reminded of Nohmi's similar performance against the Marines. Nishimura returned which was perhaps surprising. He looked even more nervous and started with a single to Kawabata. Tanaka walked which set up runners on first and second with no outs. Serious enough but not compared to what came later. Aikawa hit to short where Toritani took it going away from first. Toritani did think about throwing to third but thought better of it and held onto the ball - bases loaded with no outs. This was the end of Nishmura who was replaced by Kojima - an unenviable task. He faced Miyamoto (pinch hitter) and his first three pitches were all too low and all balls. You kept on thinking - get it up. Then Kojima did just that and Miyamoto swung too soon popping the ball up into the infield where it fell into Toritani's glove. The first out. Then Kawashima tried to swing at a low pitch and missed - a strike out! The second out. The next batter was Aoki who hit straight to Toritani for the final out. Swallows had blown a huge chance and Kojima had pitched magnificently undoubtedly saving the game for Tigers. Oshimoto took over for Tigers sixth and retired the batters in order with Kojima being the last out. You sensed now that the Swallows were beaten.

Swallows seventh confirmed this impression. Once he threw a strike Kojima got an out and both Hatakeyama and Whitesell went this way. Ballentien (pinch hitter) presented a bit more of a threat but was lured to swing and struck out. Oshimoto gave up a two out single to centre to Toritani in Tigers seventh but Arai grounded out to short to end the innings. Kobayashi pitched Swallows eighth and was really pitching well. There was also an element of caution in his pitching - he wasn't going to get too over-confident again. His two strike outs were intelligent and clever and Swallows batters really had no answer. Tigers eighth didn't last long - Kyuko was the pitcher and he retired the batters in order. The ninth was Fujikawa who was much better than two nights before. The batters tried hard to hit him but their hearts weren't in it and they were all out quickly. Tigers victory.

This had been an excellent result and a superb series win against the Swallows. Fujikawa picked up his 24th save which was a lot easier than his 23rd. Arai hit his 10th home run and 50th RBI of the season. However, the relief had done really well - Watanabe got the win but Kojima got a well deserved hero interview with Brazell for his excellent pitching. The gap between Tigers and Swallows stands at five games now and with the Swallows stuttering Tigers do need to take advantage. They have started shi no rodo with 4 wins out of six but do need to win more of the next two series. The next one will be the difficult one because it is at Nagoya and Tigers traditionally do badly there.
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