Myth: The BayStars have a terrible pitching staff and a dynamite hitting order. The opposite has been true more often than not this season so far. Though the Tigers entered this one 6-2 against the last place team so far, they would need their best pitching and hitting just to stay competitive in this one.
Game 39 – Friday, 5/13: The rain on Tuesday pushed Shintaro Fujinami’s start back – and gave him an opponent he is historically stronger against. On 9 days’ rest, the young phenom was able to hold the BayStars to just 3 hits in seven innings. His lone blemish/blip on the night came when a stolen base attempt was successful as shortstop Takashi Toritani dropped a perfect-looking throw from home. Instead of that being the third out, the runner was able to score on a subsequent single. Still, Fujinami looked much like his dominant self in this one. The Tigers bats, though, were held at bay by Inoh, who kept them off the board through seven. At long last, the floodgates opened in the eighth. Yamato used his newfound strength to drive a run-scoring double to left center, and Mauro Gomez followed it up with a double down the right field line. The lead was ours, but only for a short time, as reliever Rafael Dolis struggled with control (walk followed by errant pickoff throw) and gave up the tying run. With an out in the top of the ninth and TV networks showing a banal drama (probably about hospitals or banks), pinch hitter Ryota Arai cranked the first pitch he saw from closer Yamasaki deep into the left field stands. Marcos Mateo worked around a walk to end the game. Final Score: Tigers 3, BayStars 2.
Game 40 – Saturday, 5/14: The last time these two faced off (April 29 at Koshien) the Tigers fanned 16 times but pulled off the win anyways. The winning pitcher for us was Yuta Iwasada, and the unfortunate loser was rookie Imanaga. This one would not produce the same results, despite the low score once again. Iwasada gave up a leadoff home run to slugger Tsutsugoh, then recorded two outs but not until there were runners on first and second. With Imanaga at the plate, this should have been “inning over” and just a one-run deficit. Unfortunately, Iwasada was not able to control his pitches, and he walked the southpaw hurler, loading the bases for their leadoff hitter. He made no mistake, sending one to left field for two insurance runs. The team found itself down once again and heading into the later innings needing production. The Tigers’ lone run of the game came in the fifth inning when pinch hitter Keisuke Kanoh (taking Iwasada’s turn at the plate) brought home Naomasa Yohkawa, who opened the inning with a one-out single to left. A great chance to tie it up in the sixth (runners on the corners with one out) went for naught when Arai’s hit up the middle was fielded by the shortstop, who stepped on second, threw to first and Imanaga got out of the inning scott-free. The eighth presented another great chance for the visitors, but Gomez’s two-out drive to center fell just short of the wall, and their center fielder adjusted at the last second to take it in. Toritani led off the ninth with his 300th career double, but the team was unable to bring him home. Final Score: BayStars 3, Tigers 1.
Game 41 – Sunday, 5/15: The rubber match stretched and stretched seeing both teams make great plays and miss others. Starter Atsushi Nohmi threw brilliantly through 7 innings, giving up the occasional base but never surrendering a run. The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth and scored the game’s first run on a disappointing double play. Fortunately the next batter up, Toritani, swatted one over the left field wall just south of the foul pole, pushing the lead to three. Another run off the captain’s bat in the sixth extended the lead further, but the BayStars put together a rally in the eighth. Nohmi departed with two outs and two runners in scoring position and a three-run lead. Akifumi Takahashi, playing in his third consecutive game, induced a high fly ball to first, which should have ended the inning. The ball had a mind of its own, though, or cast a spell on the Tigers infielders, who let it fall a few feet inside the baseline, and the lead was down to one. Gomez pounced on the first pitch of the ninth for his 10th home run of the season, and the lead looked fairly safe going into the bottom of the frame. Unfortunately, Mateo could not shut them down. After a leadoff home run to Lopez, he gave up hit after hit (4 in total) scoring the tying run. The extra innings played out cleanly, with the Tigers putting just one man on base (Gomez with a walk) and the BayStars doing even less. Dolis struck out 4 in two innings of work, atoning for his control issues earlier in the series. This one goes down as a sister-kisser, as does the series. Final Score: BayStars 5, Tigers 5.