When it rains, it pours. Even when the weather is nice, as it was all week, it still felt rather gloomy at Koshien. The Tigers got swept by the Giants at home since 1999. The slump has been well documented, including my own analysis (click here), so I will not talk much about the Giants sweep. Simply put, the hitters did not do their jobs, and the pitchers who were supposed to slow the Giants down (namely, Messenger on Tuesday and Nohmi on Thursday) did not even come close. Their lacklustre performances likely did not inspire much confidence in their teammates. Iwata pitched really well on Wednesday, only to have the lead blown by Fukuhara in the eighth.
So the Tigers looked to regroup on Friday as they faced the Hiroshima Carp on the weekend. Given that first place was now out of reach, the least they could to was bridge the gap between themselves and the second place Carp. After the Tigers snapped their six-game losing streak in convincing fashion on Friday (full report here), they made history once again on Saturday. Once again, it was not “good history” as they allowed a whopping 17 runs at home for the first time in 64 years. Young ace Yuta Iwasada gave up four in the first inning and was yanked after recording three outs. Hiroaki Saiuchi came in and struck out six in three perfect innings of relief, and even laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt that led to a run in the second. He left with the Tigers down 4-3, but Kazuyuki Kaneda coughed up 5 runs in two innings (including 2 home runs to the same guy) and then Tsutsui put the game out of reach by surrendering another 8 runs in relief. Gomez hit a home run in the eighth to extend his league leading RBI total to 97, but there was little to cheer about in this one.
Capping off the week, Messenger came through on Sunday to redeem himself by throwing 7 shutout innings as the Tigers blanked the Carp 5-0 to end the series on a winning note. They now sit 2.5 games behind the Carp with just over a dozen games left, including just two more against their second-place rivals.
Here is the calendar week and its results, as well as current standings.
Here are the stat lines for our import players.
Notes: Former big-leaguer Tsuyoshi Nishioka made his return to the big club after months of being on the shelf due to injury. He made three pinch-hit appearances and recorded a double and an RBI triple. Hopefully he sees more action this coming week. The team has also recalled young pitcher Ryoma Matsuda for the first time this season. He really can’t do much worse than the other relievers! Hope he makes a strong impact on the team. This week, they play three on the road against the Yakult Swallows (Monday to Wednesday), then come back home to face the Chunichi Dragons (Friday to Sunday). Hopefully they can redeem themselves for poor showings against both teams in the past two weeks. GO TIGERS!