The “Road Trip of Death” (which hardly deserves that name anymore) has officially begun. Not only will the Tigers spend the month away from the confines of Koshien Stadium (where they boast a great record this year), but they will suffer through the heat of summer while trying to remain close to the top of the standings. They opened their travels in Hiroshima at Zoom Zoom Stadium. Here’s how the action unfolded:
Game 1: This looked to be a pitchers’ duel as MLB returnee Hiroki Kuroda finished his first inning of work in 7 pitches, and Minoru Iwata struck out the side in his half. However, the wheels fell off both pitchers’ vehicles. The Tigers scored three in the second inning (Ryota Imanari with just his fifth RBI of the year, and Kazunari Tsuruoka with a 2-run single up the middle), but the Carp got a big home run in the bottom of the same inning. The Tigers got another in the third as Hiroki Uemoto (3 hits, 2 stolen bases, 2 errors on the night) scored on a double play. The Carp retaliated in the bottom of the inning once again and tied it in the fifth, but the Tigers again took the lead in the seventh when Uemoto doubled Takashi Toritani home. Unfortunately, the Tigers relief could not hold things down. Yuya Andoh gave up four hits in 2/3 innings of work and was the victim of some poor fielding and lucky hits, and the Carp took their first lead of the game late. The ninth looked hopeful as the Carp closer walked the bases loaded, but no runs crossed the plate for the visitors, and the game ended in a loss. Final Score: Carp 6, Tigers 5.
Game 2: A veteran finally getting on a roll vs. a fifth-year guy making his season debut. Looking good for the Tigers as Atsushi Nohmi looked to continue his recent string of good outings. Speaking of doing well, Matt Murton hit his sixth homer of the year in the second, opening the scoring. The Tigers scored another in the third (Mauro Gomez RBI) and three in the fourth (Taiga Egoshi double, Tsuruoka double, Yamato grounder). They put runners on in the fifth and sixth as well, but did not score. For his part, Nohmi looked better than ever in this one, allowing just one hit through five. He walked his first batter in the sixth and allowed a hit to leadoff the seventh, and then surrendered a 2-run blast in the eighth, but by then the game was out of reach. The Tigers had already extended the lead in the seventh with a Ryota Arai RBI grounder and a Toritani 2-run single. The series was tied after a convincing win. Final Score: Tigers 8, Carp 2.
Game 3: This was a textbook start for the road team, with Toritani singling, Yamato bunting and then Kosuke Fukudome hitting a home run into the right field bleachers. Starter Yuta Iwasada needed that cushion, as he allowed 9 men on base in 3 2/3 innings of work. Fortunately for him, only two scored, one on reliever Akira Iwamoto‘s bases-loaded walk. Also fortunately for Iwasada, the Tigers bats kept rolling the rest of the way. Imanari and Egoshi each picked up RBI singles in the fifth. Then Gomez (2) and Murton (1) inflicted further damage on the Carp pitchers in the seventh. Pinch hitter Keisuke Kanoh drove in a run in the ninth. Another runaway victory for the Tigers, spoiling Hiroshima’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the A-Bomb dropping. Final Score: Tigers 8, Carp 2.
Series Notes: Before Wednesday’s outburst, Toritani was riding a 1-for-15 slump and Gomez had been 2-for-23 since his 16-game hit streak ended on July 28. Both recorded multiple hits… Murton collected a modasho (3 or more hits in a game) on Wednesday and Thursday, bringing his batting average up to a team-best .287… Uemoto and Kentaro Sekimoto were both deactivated on Thursday with minor injuries. Both could be back with the parent club in 10 days’ time. Called up to replace them were outfielder Masahiro Nakatani and infielder Fumiya Araki… The 21 runs in the series were the most for the Tigers all year, as were their 34 hits. Here are the Central League standings as of the end of play on Thursday: