They wanted a sweep. They needed a sweep. They didn’t get it. The basement-dwelling Yakult Swallows pulled off a come-from-behind win in the second game, 5-3. Starter Minoru Iwata looked to have this one under control, but with a one-run lead in the sixth, he gave up a hit to leadoff hitter Kawabata, then served up a fat pitch to Iihara, and the Tigers suddenly found themselves behind again. In what has become a disturbing trend, the Tigers’ starters have given up at least one run in the first inning in six of their last 11 games. The last chance the Tigers had to make a comeback came in the eighth, when Toritani led off with a double. Unfortunately, neither Gomez nor Murton nor Fukudome could cash him in, leaving the score 4-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth. It was a tough game to lose, and Iwata admitted afterwards that his pitches were too hittable.
Fortunately, newcomer Suguru Iwazaki pitched a gem in the series opener on Tuesday, allowing just a run over 7 innings. In picking up the victory, he became the first sixth-round draft pick in team history to get five wins in his rookie season. He is looking good so far since his recall from the farm team, allowing just 3 ER in 13 innings. Again in this one, the team started in the hole, as Iwazaki gave up a run in the first. Murton tied it up in the fifth with a solo shot, his second home run in two games. The floodgates opened up in the eighth. With T. Arai on second and one out, Sekimoto slashed a double to right, Nishioka walked, Uemoto walked, Yamato grounded up the middle for another RBI, then Toritani hit to center for another two runs. Fukuhara helped make things interesting in the bottom of the inning, allowing 2 runs before being pulled for closer Seung-hwan Oh, who got the four last outs to end the game.
Atsushi Nohmi took the mound in the rubber match, and pitched exceptionally well. He scattered 5 hits over 8 shutout innings, and the Swallows never threatened to score in this one. Toritani came through with RBI hits in the first and third, and picked up another modasho with his third hit in the seventh.
The series looked like this:
Here are the current standings, as of the end of play tonight:
So the Tigers still sit 1.5 games behind the Carp. Honestly, the Giants are out of reach so we need to hope the Carp slump a little and we catch fire, so we can finish second and at least host a few Climax Series games!
The imports had a somewhat quiet week. These are their stat lines. Note: Randy Messenger has not yet pitched this week, so I have not included him in the stat line.
Series notes: After a 1-for-30 (including 0-for-20) slump, Toritani broke out this series, amassing 7 hits in 11 at bats… Tsuruoka has started 4 of the past 6 games at catcher. One has to wonder if Umeno is tired, or if management has grown weary of his poor performance in the batter’s box… Uemoto also collected a modasho in the third game of the series, setting the table nicely for Toritani… Fukudome flashed his leather in the field and even surprised the Swallows fielders with a bunt single in the eighth tonight. He is heating up at the right time.