The Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ chances of making the playoffs are slim, but they weren’t about to let a little rain wash away their hopes.
The Swallows overcame a rain delay and an eighth-inning breakdown by starter Masanori Ishikawa to outlast the Yomiuri Giants 6-4 on a wet Thursday night at Jingu Stadium.
“It was a good game,” Swallows first baseman Jamie D’Antona said. “It looked like we were going to have a rainout. Our pitcher pitched a hell of a game.”
Ishikawa looked as if he would get a shot at a shutout with a 6-0 lead and two away in the eighth. The last out of the inning proved elusive, however, and he fell apart, giving up a run-scoring double, an RBI single and a two-run home run in consecutive at-bats.
Reliever Kenichi Matsuoka stopped the bleeding by getting out of the eighth and Lim Chang Yong closed out the game in the ninth for his 30th save.
Yakult snapped the Giants’ five-game winning streak and remain 6 1/2 games out of the third and final spot in the Central League Climax Series.
“The season isn’t over yet,” Yakult infielder Hiroyasu Tanaka said. “We have to keep this feeling for the rest of the season and play each game the way we played this one.”
The Swallows may have kept themselves on the fringe of the playoff hunt with the win, but the biggest news of the day came much earlier.
Prior to the game, team president Tadashi Suzuki hinted that he would make a decision on Yakult’s next manager before the end of the season.
The Swallows are currently under the guidance of interim skipper Junji Ogawa, who took over when Shigeru Takada stepped down on May 27.
Ogawa has led the team to a 49-30-3 record since Takada’s exit and is being considered for the job. The fans in the right-field stands stood and chanted his name as he left the field after the game.
“He was with the ni-gun team when I was there,” Tanaka said. “So I understand his style (of managing). The fans, everybody, really seem to like him.”
Swallows pitching coach Daisuke Araki is said to be the front-runner for the position. Speculation has been rampant that Araki, who is well-liked by many of the players, would be the team’s choice from the time Takada resigned.
On the field, Yakult veteran Shinya Miyamoto led the way, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer. Ryoji Aikawa also drove in a pair of runs and D’Antona was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
Despite his troubles, Ishikawa (12-8) earned the win, allowing four unearned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
Yomiuri, which entered the day alone in second place, fell into a virtual tie with the Hanshin Tigers with the loss.
Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe hit his 41st home run of the season in the eighth, and Michihiro Ogasawara and Alex Ramirez also drove in runs.
Giants starter Yasunari Takagi held the Swallows to a run and three hits through four innings, but took the loss to fall to 1-1. Reliever Micheal Nakamura gave up three runs — one earned — in a third of an inning and Masumi Hoshino allowed a pair of runs on two hits.