The triumphant return to Koshien was everything the fans wanted. The follow-up two games were every fan’s nightmare, unless you count the 7 runs in the last two innings of Sunday’s game (the team still lost that one, 11-8). With three more at Koshien against the team that took two straight from them in Hiroshima last week, the Tigers were looking for revenge. Could they get it on their home turf?
Game 1: Due to heavy rain in the area, the start of the game was delayed by 40 minutes. After two Atsushi Nohmi strikeouts, the game was called as heaven’s floodgates stayed open. The Tigers avoided Kris Johnson this time, but would still have their work cut out for them the rest of the way.
Game 2: Happy birthday, coach Wada! Minoru Iwata gifted him two perfect innings to start the game, and Takashi Toritani opened up the attack with a double in the bottom of the first. A bunt and sacrifice fly later, the Tigers had a 1-0 lead. Iwata struggled a little in the third, then a run scored in the fourth on a badly thrown pick-off to first, followed by a bad throw to try and get the runner (former Tiger Takahiro Arai) at home. Everything fell apart in the fifth, when Iwata gave up an RBI double followed by a walk and a 3-run home run. He finished the inning and called it a night. The Tigers bats were unable to bail him out or even make a match of it. In both the sixth (one out) and seventh innings (no outs) they put runners on first and second, but Carp ace Kenta Maeda locked and loaded, getting outs when he needed them most. Final Score: Carp 5, Tigers 1.
Game 3: Despite a shuffled starting lineup, the team wasted no time getting down to what it has done best in recent games: scoring in the first. Toritani singled, Hiroki Uemoto bunted, and Matt Murton knocked Tori home. Once again the Tigers ended the first content with just a single run, but they didn’t need much more the rest of the way anyway. Shintaro Fujinami allowed just two hits through seven innings (though he did walk an astounding 9 men), striking out twelve and giving up a single run in the fifth. The momentum looked to be in the Carp’s favor but Kosuke Fukudome swatted a leadoff home run in the bottom of the sixth, and then Murton struck again in the seventh with a bases-clearing double. Shinobu Fukuhara created a jam in the eighth but got out of it unscathed, and closer Seung-hwan Oh, seeing action for the first time in well over a week, finished the game off in a rare non-save appearance. Final Score: Tigers 5, Carp 1.
Series Notes: Toritani tied manager Wada for third in career hits on Wednesday with 1,739. He then surpassed him in the first inning on Thursday with a single… Murton collected his 1,000th career NPB hit on Thursday (video clip here). He now has 750 singles, 169 doubles, 7 triples and 76 home runs with the Tigers in under six seasons and is the fastest player to reach 1,000 hits in NPB history… First baseman Mauro Gomez went 0-for-8 with 4 strikeouts in the series, and also took some criticism for flying a drone around the field during practice on Wednesday. The slugger is mired in a major slump, with just three RBIs in the last 15 games… Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka (right elbow ligament) appears to be done as a fielder this year, but management would like to use him as a lefty pinch hitter later in the year should his condition improve. Here are the league standings as of the end of play on Thursday: