It really doesn’t matter too much what the Tigers’ record is. They need to beat their longtime rivals, the Yomiuri Giants. Wada himself said, “We’re more focused on the rivalry than our record in this series.” He backed that up by slotting three of his strongest pitchers to take the mound under the EGG in Tokyo. Let’s see how the team fared, and ultimately how the standings turned out at the end of the series.
Game 1: Sometimes your pitcher gets the best of the other team. Other times, it’s the other way around. Our starter Randy Messenger just didn’t seem to have his curve ball working for him, and he walked 5 guys in his season-low 3 1/3 innings of work. That plus the six hits meant he left with a 5-0 deficit and the bases loaded. The Giants’ starter was about as stingy as a pitcher can get – his first base runner allowed was on an error in the top of the sixth. A walk and another error later and the Tigers were on the board, but still hitless. In fact, the lone hit for the Tigers was a leadoff single in the seventh by Mauro Gomez. By then the score was 8-1, and the game was all but over anyways. The Tigers continue to cower at the Dome. Final Score: Giants 8, Tigers 1.
Game 2: The second inning saw the Tigers put up three quick runs. Matt Murton and Ryota Arai hit back-to-back solo shots, then Taiga Egoshi followed with a triple and was knocked in by Kazunari Tsuruoka. Starter Atsushi Nohmi pitched brilliantly through four, allowing just a walk, but the wheels came off in the fifth. Then the axles fell off. Then the entire car collapsed. The Giants went through Nohmi, Hiroaki Saiuchi and then Shoya Yamamoto like it was batting practice. At a T-ball game. I’ll be honest, I turned the TV off when it reached nine hits versus just one out (a sacrifice fly) and ten runs. All in the fifth. Final Score: Giants A Billion, Tigers 3.
Game 3: Two young pitchers faced off in the third game of the series, and they put on a show for the ages. Shintaro Fujinami continued his act of striking out as many batters as he gets out in other ways, while walking players liberally all evening. He had just one clean inning in 8, but allowed just one run, stranding 10 runners. The Tigers managed just eight base runners on the night including a solo shot by Kosuke Fukudome in the 4th inning. With the game tied at one heading into the bottom of the ninth, Wada allowed Fujinami to keep throwing despite already expending his energy on 130+ pitches in the first eight innings. The result: hit-by-pitch, Fujinami error on a bunt, single, and finally a pitcher change. Poor Seung-hwan Oh had to deal with a bases-loaded, no out situation facing the meat of the Giants order. One out later, the crushing blow came, and the series ended in a sweep. Final Score: Giants 2, Tigers 1.
Series Notes: Relievers Kazuyuki Kaneda, Saiuchi and Yamamoto all got demoted after giving up runs in relief. Called up in their place were Tsuyoshi Ishizaki, Kazuhito Futagami and Kazuya Tsutsui. Ishizaki pitched two shutout innings in Wednesday’s loss… The 12 runs allowed in the fifth inning on Wednesday were the most given up in a single inning in team history… The Tigers (7-13) have now lost the season series against the Giants for the 8th straight season. The teams play five more games against each other – three at Koshien (9/8-10) and two at Tokyo Dome (9/22-23)… Fujinami has issued 17 walks (or hit-by-pitches) in 25 2/3 innings since his complete game win on July 24… Murton collected two hits on both Wednesday and Thursday, bringing his average up to .295… Gomez has no RBIs in his last 5 games. The team is 1-4 during that stretch… Here are the once-again tight standings after play on Thursday night: