Part of the reason for the Giants dive into the lower rungs of the Central League was a lack of hitting with runners in scoring position, but that isn't true of centerfielder Yoshinobu Takahashi and he proved that again Thursday when he produced the lion's share of his team's runs with two timely knocks in a 3-2 victory at Tokyo Dome over the Yakult Swallows to take the three game series. Jeremy Powell started for Yomiuri and avoided tying a pro yakyu record for most consecutive losses by a foreign hurler by going eight innings of two run, nine hit ball for his first win since May 21st.
Masanori Ishikawa started for Yakult and was fairly usual for him, five innings, three runs, nine hits and he absorbed his seventh defeat.
The Swallows went out to a shortlived lead in the first when centerfielder Norichika Aoki reached on a ground ball toward short and motored to third on first baseman Adam Riggs' single to center. Third baseman Akinori Iwamura grounded to first baseman Seung-yeop Lee, who put the tag on him while Aoki crossed, but Lee also dropped the ball and everybody was safe. Lleftfielder Alex Ramirez lined out to third. Rightfielder Ryuji Miyade walked to load the bases. However, shortstop Shinya Miyamoto grounded to his opposite number, Tomohiro Nioka, who flipped to second baseman Ryota Wakiya, who gunned it to Lee for the inning ending double play and Powell was out of it cheap enough.
The Giants put things back on an equal footing when they had their turn, as Nioka singled to right with two gone and Lee singled to center, Nioka busting for third. Takahashi singled to center to plate Nioka and it was one all. Catcher Shinnosuke Abe flied out to hold it there.
But Yakult grabbed the upper hand again in the third when Aoki and Riggs each singled to right and, one out later, Ramirez singled to left to redeem Aoki for a 2-1 edge. Two flyouts to center stymied any futher intent to commit a home invasion.
Powell would scatter two hits from there through the seventh. He realized a reward for that in the fifth, as centerfielder Takahiro Suzuki bunted for a basehit, his first ever safety hitting righthanded, with one out and, following another out,. stole second. Lee singled to center to chase Suzuki in and hustled to second on the throw home. Takahashi doubled down the leftfield line and sprung Lee to the dish to make it 3-2.
Powell's last jam would be in the eighth, but pinch runner Hajime Miki decided to try to steal third and was pegged out by Abe. Hisanori Takahashi finished it off by retiring three of the four men he saw in the ninth.
Powell ended his eight straight decision losing skid. The foreign record was set by Glenn Mickens in 1961, who dropped nine in a row for a pathetic Kintetsu squad. His ERA that season was tremendous, 2.42. Too bad his team was not. Other than that blemish, Mickens had himself a fine career in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The Japanese press seems to have fallen in love with Powell's young son who looks like he is going to be as big as his daddy. So I guess we can check the MLB draft list roundabout 2020 or so and see if he has followed in his father's footsteps.
Suzuki is 15-17 in steal attempts. That will get it, and having 5.7 second speed in the 50 meters surely helps.
What isn't satisfactory, though, for us Swallows fans is that the club can do no better than a tie for the season series with their crosstown rivals now, as they are only 5-11 in their tussles with the kyojin.
For Yomiuri, Lee was 2-4 and is at .324. Powell was 1-2 with a sac bunt and is at .108.
For Yakult, Riggs was 2-4 and is at .292. Ramirez was 2-4 and is at .286.
Yokohama third baseman Shuichi Murata and leftfielder Yuki Yoshimura are alumni of Higashi Fukuoka High and that old school tie was a garotte around the neck of the Hanshin Tigers, as they each homered and drove in three runs in a 7-1 victory at Osaka Dome. Yuji Yoshimi started for the Bay Stars and finally garnered his second win with eight innings of one run, eight hit pitching while Hanshin southpaw Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi was roasted for seven runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings and is now 9-9.
The Tigers jumped in front in a big way in the first, as first baseman Andy Sheets got a slider down in the zone and brought eternal damnation to it, sentencing it forever more to the fifth level of the leftfield seats. But as mammoth as it was, it was good for just a 1-0 lead. The interesting bit about this? On the previous pitch, Sheets appeared to be trying to drag a bunt. It was his first roundtripper in 25 games.
They would put two on in the second, but a brain cramp by second baseman Atsushji Fujimoto intervened. He hit a routine groundball to shortstop Takuro Ishii with two on and one out, but he thought that two were out, so as soon as he saw the force made, he began slowing up, making the double play turn easier than shooting fellow hunters on a Texas quail farm. Naturally, when he returned to the dugout, he was verbally blistered. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be the last bit of boneheadedness they would exhibit. .
Shimoyanagi had permitted only an infield hit through the first third of the match, but in the fourth, rightfielder Tatsuhiko Kinjo singled to center with one out and Murata doubled down the leftfield line. Yoshimura imitated his senpai (senior) and doubled into the corner as well for two RBIs and a 2-1 advantage.
They would enlarge that in the sixth, as Murata socked a heater over the leftfield wall and Yoshimura piggybacked on that by nuking a curve ball in the middle of the plate and pasting it into the leftfield stands to make it 4-1.
In the bottom of the inning, there was one out when third baseman Kentaro Sekimoto singled to center. Sheets, get this, sacrifice bunted. Yes, three runs down in the sixth with one already gone and he is ordered to sacrifice? What the fuck? Leftfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto walked. But rightfielder Osamu Hamanaka flied out to center to kill that opportunity off.
Yokohama then put it on ice in the seventh, as second baseman Seiichi Uchikawa walked and Yoshimi reached on an infield hit to jam the basepaths. Ishii grounded into a 1-2 force play. Centerfielder Masaaki Koike singled to left for a run. Kinjo grounded into a 4-2 force. Murata doubled to right to hail two more in and it was 7-1. Yoshimura, though, struckout this time.
Now you are going to love this one. In the eighth, backup catcher Ryo Asai got aboard on an infield hit and centerfielder Norihiro Akahoshi singled to left. Sekimoto pinged a shot off the rightfield wall for what should have been an easy RBI double. However, Asai misread it and got a very late jump on it. With Akahoshi and Sekimoto already sprinting to third and second, Asai had to try to score and he was caught in a rundown and tagged out. Sheets grounded to Yoshimi and Kanemoto popped up and the opportunity went by the wayside.
Takeharu Kato came on for the ninth for the Stars and coughed up a doublke, but the next three men couldn't transgress the frontiers of the infield and the Tigers pennant race pulse weakened just that much more.
For Hanshin, Sheets was 1-3 with a sacrifice and is at .308. Lin Wei-tzu was 0-1 in a pinch hit appearance and is at .259.
his big boy belt in Thursday's game against Teikyo High, the Tigers are
becoming more interested in Chiben Wakayama High backstop Ryohei Hashimoto.
There is a need at catcher with aging incumbent Akihiro Yano. So Hashimoto
may get a chance to fill that spot if Hanshn can't get its hands on Aikodai
Meiden High third baseman Naomichi Donoue.
Hiroshima Owner Gen Matsuda revealed that manager Marty Brown will be back for next season, though they won't formally talk about it until September. This is a team with some serious personnel problems (saying goodbye to Hiroki Kuroda, an aging core of Tomonori Maeda, Koichi Ogata and Shinji Sasaoka, bad gloves at the corners) and it will be interesting to see how Brown handles that since investment in talent hasn't been the club's historical strong suit.
In addition, their mascot dog, Mickey-kun, will be back next season as well. "When he's around it seems to lighten up the atmosphere," Matsuda noted.
However, his club isn't going to try to negotiate with soon to be free agent Kuroda, insisting that he wants the righthander to concentrate on the games in front of him and they will focus on possibly retaining him at the end of the season.
Yakult This Hirotoshi Ishii thing just took a turn for the worse Thursday as it was disclosed that he will be given an MRBI Monday and it is feared that he will have to go under the knife to fix whatever is causing the persistent shoulder problem he has had since the WBC.
Second baseman Greg LaRocca has decided to have arthroscopic knee surgery in Japan and hopes to be able to make it back before the end of the season. He had conferred with his agent about whether to have it in Japan or in the states before making this decision. Here's to hoping we don't have a repeat of the Steve Cox episode.
Yomiuri There was a story in Hochi Sports about a Fukui man who spent $60,000 to have a bronze statue made of former Giants third baseman Shigeo Nagashima. The man, Katsuzo Yamada, who works in the rela estate game, had the likeness made in Tokyo and then had it shipped to his home in Fukui. He reportedly had some cooperation from the Nagashima family, especially from son Kazushige, a former infielder with Yomiuri and Yakult, in helping to make it happen. "[Shigeo] Nagashima is one of the world's treasures and I want to preserve that," Yamada said.
Rookie lefty Takanobu Tsujiuchi threw 46 pitches in batting practice Thursday. A coach said that if Tsujiuchi doesn't experience any discomfort Friday he will be put into a game soon in the minors.
Before the start of Thursday's game at Tokyo Dome, players from 12 youth league teams got to meet and play catch with some of the Yakult and Yomiuri players as well as run around the bases. In all, about 220 kids took part in this event.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says that the city's ballclub is interested in first baseman Seung-yeop Lee. Pittsburgh has also been linked with Hiroshima ace Hiroki Kuroda. But how much are they willing to spend?
Koshien Tournament This tournament has not only set a new mark for total home runs, but it continues to be imbued with a never say die spirit and Thursday we saw that in spades, as Komadai Tomakomai High School got behind 2-0 to Toyodai Himeji High School in the first inning thanks to a two run homer to left by Hayashizaki and then dug an even bigger hole in the fourth when Toyodai ace Kinya Tobiishi doubled for an RBI and an error plated another to hand Toyodai a 4-0 cushion.
However, after executing his pitches extremely well for the first five innings, Tobiishi began to leave balls up in the zone in the sixth and Komadai smoked them for some sxtra base knocks that enabled them to knot it at 4-4. They pushed a run across in the sixth when Tadao Mitani beat the Toyodai pitcher to the bag with a man on third and two outs.
Toyodai attempted to rally in the ninth, as a hitter tomahawked one off the the top of the rightfield wall for a double and went to third on a groundout. But the next man grounded out and Komadai escaped by the skin of its teeth again. Kudos to a battling Toyodai nine.
Masahiro Tanaka started for Komadai and had better balance in this one than he did in his last outing. But he was still having problems with the command of his fastball. which was 86-91 and up way too much early on, ultimately being done up for nine hits. Fortunately, his slider was down more consistently and, make no mistake, he has a good one. He also threw the occasional curve ball and even a couple of forkballs, but it was almost exclusively fastball-slider, something he will have to change in the pros. He ultimately struckout 11 in a complete game. His father had reportedly sent yhim and email about his release point while using a comparison between Mark Kroon and Kyuji Fujikawa, saying that Fujikawa relases the ball further along in his delivery than Kroon and that is why he has been harder to hit than the Yokohama closer.
Tobiishi was maxing out at about 88mph and, except for a hanging changeup he got away with in the second, he was moving the ball around and everything was down until he wore out and got torched in the middle innings.
That would just be the appetizer, though.
In the second game of the day, Chiben Wakayama squared off against Teikyo High School, with Ryosuke Hiroi on the hill for Chiben, a guy who I wrote about glowingly last time, and Shohei Takashima went for Teikyo. It looked like Chiben was gong to stomp its opponent, as they went ahead on a three run second inning homer by Ippei Baba 3-0 and were denied another run only because of a diving headlong web gem by the Teikyo leftfielder, Yuta Shiozawa.
But in the fourth, after Teikyo third sacker Naoya Noguchi doubled to right because the rightfielder took a bad route to the ball, Hiroi was pulled in favor of Takaaki Takenaka and that would prove to be a costly miscalculation, as, one out later, Takenaka was taken off the rightfield wall for an RBI double by Shiozawa and he later scored on a double to center by shortstop Yasushi Sugiya to make it 3-2. Everything hit off of Takenaka was a rocket.
But Chiben got on the scoreboard again in the fourth on Baba's second roundtripper of the day on a hanging breaking ball and it was a towering drive to right. One out later, shortstop Kusumoto walked and second baseman Kiyotsugu Ueba then got a fastball right down the middle he scalded it into the rightfield seats to raise it to 6-2.
Koshien fun fact: no player has ever homered in three straight at bats in a game in the tournament's history. And Baba grounded out his next time up to keep that a reality.
In the seventh, Hiroi cleared one for landing in the stands in left on another center cut heater and it appeared that this was going to be a cakewalk at 8-2.
Toyodai countered with a two run homer in the eighth by Shiozawa to trim the deficit to 8-4.
Chiben leadoff man Katsuhito Furumiya barely missed leaving the yard in the bottom half, the ball caught right at the wall.
That was all just a prelude, though, to the craziest ninth inning you will ever see. With one out, Fuwa singled to center and centerfielder Ryosuke Katsumi was hit by a pitch. One out later, first baseman Akira Nakamura singled to center for an RBI. A single to left by Shiozawa loaded the bases. A single to left by second baseman Tatsuya Amemori brought in another run. A seeing eye grounder off the bat of catcher Sota Wagatsuma between short and third that all the shortstop could do with was put it in his pocket on got a run home. A single to left by Sugiya brought in two more, partially thanks to the leftfielder not fielding the ball cleanly. Hitoshi (Jun?) Numata got a fastball in the red zone and destroyed it, sending a missile over the leftfield wall for a three run jack (and he knew it was gone as soon as he made contact) to put it at 12-8. Finally, Chiben's head coach replaced Takenaka and the reliever got the next Fuwa to ground out.
Cue shots of girls from Chiben crying. Katsumi took the hill for Teikyo. This was another bad pitching change because, earlier in the game, Teikyo trotted a kid named Ota out there, a junior who is pro ready NOW. He is absolutely nasty. Why he wasn't left in is beyond me. But it would ultimately be musical chairs time in the nound for Teikyo in this inning. The first two men walked and Ryohei Hashimoto thundered, and that is no exaggeration, one into the regular seats where the pros have to put them, a 425 foot blast. Cue shots of Teikyo girls bent over in prayer. Katsumi walked the next two men and Sugiya, who was playing with a broken cheekbone, was waved in to replace him. His first pitch hits the batter. Yuya Okano is now at the center of the diamond. Baba flied out. A pinch hitter, Aoishi, singled to center for an RBI and we are tied. A walk loaded the bases. The next man, Furumiya, walked as well and it was over, scenes of girls on both sides weeping, the Chiben women in sheer relief and the Teikyo girls like they had just been hit with a two by four from the unexpected tun of events in a 13-12 final. This was the game of the tournament so far for sheer excitement, especially considering that it was the first time in summer Koshien annals that a team had charged back from a four run deficit to come up with a fiver to win it in walkoff fashion.
There were two records set in this one: Chiben broke the old record for most homers in a single game with five. The old record was four, which Teikyo had tied earlier in the tournament.
Furthermore, they combined for seven circuit clouts, eclipsing the old mark of five set back in 1985 in a game between PL Gakuen High and Kofu Kogyo High.
Chiben has eight dingers on the tourney, second most all time in the tournament. They need four more to establish a new standard. Don't put it past them. By the way, they also hold that record, as well (2000). Hiroi has four of the Chiben four plys. Baba? The two shots were only his fifth and sixth quadrangulars of his schoolboy career.
Now Chiben and Komadai will meet in the semifinal. Yikes! Gte out the heart medicine!
No truth to the rumor that the Kansas City Royals will replace their lineup with the one from Chibeb next season.
Miscellaneous The Seattle Mariners absorbed another loss Thursday. If there was a biright spot to a team that seems to be collapsing is that catcher Kenji Johjima has reached the .300 plateau with a 2-4 night. Rightfielder Ichiro Suzuki was 1-5.
Chicago White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi was 0-3 with a walk Thursday against Kansas City in a 5-4 victory
Cardinals outfielder So Taguchi was 0-3 Thursday against Cincinnati in a 2-1 victory. .
Colorado minor league shortstop Kazuo Matsui was 1-3 with a walk against Sacramento Thursday.
In that same game, Kazuhito Tadano gave up a run in two-thirds of an inning in relief.
Cubs famrhand Makoto Suzuki tossed two shutout innings at Round Rock Thursday on a hit.