After practically gift-wrapping the final game of the Lions series at home (bringing the Tigers record at Koshien this season to an atrocious 11-14-1), the Tigers hit the road for two straight series against two of the tougher Pacific League teams. The first of these would be held in Chiba against the Lotte Marines at QVC Park. Perhaps the winning road record thus far would breathe new life into the team.
Game 60 – Tuesday, 6/7: Then again, perhaps not. Once again, poor offensive performance against the opponent’s top pitcher is to blame in this one. Granted, the Tigers did record 10 hits against starter Ishikawa, including two in each of the third and fifth innings (and subsequently failing to even advance the runners, let alone scoring them), and three more in the seventh (finally scoring their first run on a Kosuke Fukudome single to left). Starter Atsushi Nohmi continued his penchant for giving up homers to PL import players. Last week it was Wheeler of the Eagles. This week it would be Navarro, who took him deep to left in the sixth. This would be the big Dominican’s second RBI of the game, the first taking place in the second inning, which was the third consecutive hit off our aging lefty. For once the bullpen didn’t leak, but that’s an irrelevant piece of trivia since the bats could not push any more runs than the one they scored in the seventh. Another disappointing showing from the hitters. While I am not a proponent of the bunt, if we are going to employ the strategy we need to do so with success – the last three attempts have all failed us and cost us good chances at scoring when it mattered. Final Score: Marines 2, Tigers 1. LP: Nohmi (3-5)
Game 61 – Wednesday, 6/8: If only it were just the bats that aggravated the fans this week, we would have stood a chance in this one. But Koyoh Aoyagi allowed lots of base runners – 10 in his 4 2/3 innings of work, six of whom plated. These were spread out quite nicely, with one coming in the first, three in the third and two more in the fifth. For their part, the Tigers “replied” with a single run in each of the first two frames after the Marines did their scoring. The first came off the bat of Shintaro Yokota, who brought May’s CL player of the month Fumihito Haraguchi, with a single through the right side of the infield. The second run, scored in the top of the fourth, when Fumiya Hojoh hit one to center, scoring Naomasa Yohkawa. The Tigers threatened several times in this one, but were impotent when it was important. Down six runs (thanks in part to reliever Hiroya Shimamoto) heading into the ninth, they loaded the bases with no outs, but pushed just one runner across the plate, and that only came thanks to a walk to Shun Takayama. The team’s 2-for-13 (.154) average with runners in scoring position is perhaps even more responsible for the loss than the atrocious pitching we put on the mound. Final Score: Marines 8, Tigers 3. LP: Aoyagi (1-1)
Game 62 – Thursday, 6/9: It didn’t take long for Shintaro Fujinami to go back to his habits from earlier in the season. Once again, the leadoff batter reached base in the first. Once again, run(s) scored in the first. Once again, the offense found itself in a hole. The hole got deeper in the second, when with two outs, back-to-back singles scored two more runs. Sadly, just as Fujinami was starting to get settled in, and just as the offense fought back a little (two runs in the top of the fourth, thanks to Tsuyoshi Nishioka‘s RBI single and Fukudome’s groundout RBI), the unthinkable happened. A come-backer hit Fujinami directly in the pitching wrist, and he had to leave the mound. The bullpen (namely Koki Moriya) failed to keep it close (is anyone surprised here?) and the team continued to leave runners in scoring position, and this one was a laugher… for the home team. Final Score: Marines 7, Tigers 2. LP: Fujinami (4-3)
Series Notes: Matt Hague was sent back down to the farm on Monday. Yohkawa took his place on the first squad, and went 1 for 12 in the series… Gomez struck out six times in the first two games of the series. He looked a lot like the slumper from the end of 2015. He came back in game three with two hits and “just” one strikeout… The team’s #1-3 hitters batted 5 for 12 (.417) on Thursday, while the 4 through 9 spots combined for 1 hit in 20 at bats… The team’s 4-game losing streak is a season high, and keeps the team firmly in fifth place. Fortunately for them, most of the Central League also took a pounding early in the week, so they have not slid too far. Standings are here.