Game Recap – Stayin’ Alive!

Disco’s dead but the man born in the disco era is showing signs of life. Disco went out in a blaze of glory on July 12, 1979, as fans (and haters of the genre) gathered at Comiskey Park in Chicago to burn up records, clothes and more. Kosuke Fukudome was born April 26, 1977, right in the middle of disco’s peak. Last night, number 8 showed us that both he and the Tigers are staying alive as they push for second place.

A little personal talk here. I had previously attended two Tigers games this season. Both games were a disaster for the home team — in one, they put up 3 weak singles (one got caught stealing, another became the victim of a double play) as no runner passed first base in a 4-0 loss to Shohei Ohtani’s Nippon Ham Fighters; in the other, they hit 4 lazy singles, took 1 walk and reached base on error once as they managed just 1 run (on a double play) in an 8-1 loss to the Yakult Swallows. That’s right… they hit 7-for-57. No RBIs. I felt like the fan who brought the team bad luck.

So when the Tigers put up 3 measly hits through 5 innings (but the first extra base hit I had ever seen live), it looked like the same old song and dance. Disco’s dead, and it brought the Tigers along to the grave. The team was down 3-0 and it looked like their chances of hosting a playoff game were about the same as Disco Stu coming to life and become a huge hit.

A huge hit. That’s what they needed! And that’s what they got! The bottom of the sixth was a completely different story, as Yamato led off with a single (his second of three on the night) and Toritani followed that up with one of his own. Gomez did not get a hit, but his fly ball was just a few feet from clearing the fence. You could sense that something was about to explode. And explode it did. Murton singled up the middle, scoring Yamato, and I got to witness my first Tigers RBI at Koshien this season. So we’ve got runners at first and second, and one out. For some reason, the Carp elect to change their pitcher. Kuri had been throwing well and keeping the Tigers under control through 5. So in comes Toda to throw to the man known as Dome-san. The former all-Japan player took a 2-0 fastball and sent it screaming over the wall in left-center. Fans responded with screaming of their own. It was euphoric at Koshien Stadium, as all the nervousness of the first five innings was released. Fans were high-fiving strangers, hugging, dancing, partying like it was, well, the disco era.

The next three innings passed quite uneventfully, as the Carp only threatened a little in the 8th when our relievers gave up a hit and a walk. Wada had had enough at that point, and brought in closer Seung-hwan Oh earlier than usual, asking him to get the last 5 outs. He did so effectively, needing just 17 pitches to coax 4 fly-outs and a strikeout. Game over, Tigers win, 4-3!

And with that, the Tigers hopes of hosting playoff games this season remain slim but alive. They won one game they absolutely could not afford to lose. The next is today! Realistically, with 4 games left and a 1.5-game gap, the Tigers pretty much have to win out the season. The finale could be the decider, though, as they face these same Carp on October 1 at Mazda Stadium in Hiroshima. I’d love to say I’ll be there, or that I’ll be at one of the next three home games, but I won’t be. So I’ll be reporting from in front of the TV screen. You can bet this fan will not give up on the Tigers season until the very end! GO TIGERS!

Game Notes: With his 37th save of the year, Oh clinched the saves crown in his first year in NPB. Congratulations!… Starter Shintaro Fujinami earned his career-high 11th win as he hung in just long enough for the Tigers to take the lead… Fukudome (and Yamato, for that matter) are heating up at the right time of the year – both are hitting over .300 in September… Tonight’s game against the Swallows features starter Suguru Iwazaki. Game time is 6:00pm. Get your rally caps out!

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trevorraichura

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