Heading into the All-Star Break, the Tigers were the hottest team in Japanese baseball. They took 11 of their 13 matches in the first half of July. Waiting for them out of the gates for the second half were key matchups against the Giants at home and the Carp on the road. Let’s look at how they fared.
The team’s winning ways continued in their first game against the Giants as Iwata and Oh combined on a 3-0 shut out. (Oh recorded his 300th career save: 277 in Korea, 23 in Japan.) Ever-improving rookie catcher Ryutaro Umeno hit a two-run double in the second, and that’s all the team needed as the Giants never really threatened in this one.
The second game was one of the more dramatic games this year, with the Tigers leading 2-1 heading to the ninth inning. With one pitch to go to seal the victory, Seung-Hwan Oh gave up a home run to pinch hitter Takahashi and the Giants tied things up. The game continued into the twelfth, when the Giants threatened to score the go-ahead run with a runner on base and only one out. Enokida was pulled for Kaneda, and the reliever threw just one pitch, inducing a ground ball double play. In the bottom of the inning, with two outs, the bases empty and a tie looming over the team, Kosuke Fukudome hit a long home run into the right field stands, and the crowd went wild!
That’s when the week started to fall apart. As I highlighted in an earlier article, the team lost a very winnable game on Wednesday, falling 3-2 after a terrible ninth inning.
The Tigers needed to regroup with some good play in Hiroshima over the weekend, and they responded well in game 1, coming from behind late with an Uemoto two-run home run in the seventh, followed by an RBI double in the eighth by Imanari. Oh came in and sealed the game off, mowing down three straight batters.
Saturday and Sunday were less kind to the Tigers. They could have won the former, but fell 7-5 after giving up two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Sunday’s game was never even close, as the Tigers scored just one run in the top of the first, and never threatened after. The Carp attack was strong all night, chasing Messenger in the fifth inning, and some poor defence by pitcher Saiuchi gave the Carp one more run in the sixth, as the game ended in a disappointing 6-1 loss.
Here is the week that was.
Three wins, three losses is not terrible, but one more win would have been nice. The Tigers hold second by a thread, and gained just one game on the slumping Giants. Here are the standings as of the end of play on July 27th:
Here are this week’s stat lines for our foreigners:
Due to the upcoming high school baseball tournament, the Tigers play home games this week and then do not return to Koshien until the end of August. They host the Yakult Swallows for three and then the DeNA Baystars for three more. Great week to pad the stats and make a charge for first! GO TIGERS!