There’s something special about being in attendance at a Tigers game. Arriving early on a train full of fellow Tigers fans, walking towards the stadium in great anticipation, checking out all the shops/vendors, buying the requisite meal for the evening (game time is typically 6pm), getting into the stadium nice and early to watch the teams warm up, listen to the starting lineups… it’s all a little bit surreal.
Then the opening pitch comes. In the blink of an eye, there is one out, and you start to feel good about this one. One pitch, one out. What’s not to like? Then they get a hit. No worries. These things happen. Next guy strikes out. You start to feel good again. Then before you know it, kablamo! Wladimir Balentien crushes an Atsushi Nohmi offering clear over the center field fence.
And that’s all you need to know, folks. It was that kind of game. By the end of the third inning, Nohmi had surrendered 7 hits (but miraculously held the Swallows to just two runs). The middle-third of the game went extremely well for the Tigers on defence – no hits, no runs. In fact, Nohmi retired twelve straight. The crowd was all ready to release their balloons into the air (a Koshien tradition) as the first two batters of the seventh went down on strikes. Then something happened. Nohmi got tired, or something, because he allowed a hit, followed by a walk, and then an RBI single, and the score was 3-0 and the fans grew tired of waiting to release their balloons. Finally the third out was recorded. Let the magic begin!
And the Tigers responded well in the seventh, starting the inning with Toritani hustling to first and reaching safely on an error, then Gomez advancing him to third with a long single. Unfortunately, the lone run of the game for the Tigers came on the subsequent Matt Murton double-play. No one cheered, many groaned, and the next hitter meekly grounded out to second to end the inning. Tigers down, 3-1.
Bring in the “relief” – three guys who proceeded to allow six hits and five runs over the final two innings, and the game ended in a blowout. Still, the beauty of the Hanshin Tigers fans is that many stayed until the end, all cheered when Uemoto led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, but then all groaned as Itoh struck out and Toritani put everyone out of their misery with a game-ending double play (his second of the night).
Truly a disappointing night for Tigers fans, and one can only hope they regroup tonight as they play their final home series until the end of the month. Crush the DeNA, Tigers!!!