How can a team forget a humiliating (and frustrating) sweep at the hand of the league leaders over the weekend? Beat up on an opponent that has been kind to them so far this year! That’s right, the Tigers found a lot of strange ways to lose to the Carp in Hiroshima to open the post-interleague schedule, but would host the BayStars (against whom they were 7-3-1 heading into this series) for three at Koshien. Could they bounce back from this rough patch, which has seen the team go 7-13 in the month of June?
Game 75 – Tuesday 6/28: Once again called on to get the team out of its funk was Randy Messenger. He was up to the task and then some. The hefty righty sawed off the first 15 hitters he faced, striking out 9 of them. The bats came through in two consecutive innings, as well, starting in the bottom of the third. Shun Takayama and Takashi Toritani set the table for Mauro Gomez (RBI groundout) and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (RBI double) to cash them in. One frame later, Taichi Okazaki set up Takayama’s sac fly, and then Toritani got on base for Gomez’s RBI single. This game was looking extremely comfortable until the top of the sixth. Messenger gave first base to the leadoff hitter via the free pass, and that crack in the wall slowly spread until four hits (and a Randy error) later, the lead was down to one and the ‘Stars had runners on the corners with nary an out on the board. But the big man stayed calm and got the next three guys out, including a fine defensive play to get the final out and preserve the lead at one. The hitters pressed for another score in the bottom of the seventh after Randy had retired for the evening, as Fumiya Hojoh hit one deep enough to center to score the runner from third on a sacrifice fly. Kyuji Fujikawa showed the fans his new flair for the dramatics (they are most unwelcome, mind you) but got out of the eighth inning by striking out Tsutsugoh looking. Rafael Dolis, the team’s newly appointed closer, pitched a calm and clean ninth, putting a brief end to the bitter taste in the mouths of Hanshin’s faithful. Final Score: Tigers 5, BayStars 3. Team Record: 33-39-3. WP: Messenger (7-5). SV: Dolis (4).
Game 76 – Wednesday 6/29: Rain all day forced the club to call this one off two hours before game time, despite a rain-free night.
Game 76 – Thursday 6/30: It didn’t take long for the BayStars to strike in this one. A leadoff single up the middle was followed by consecutive runner-advancing outs, and an infield single to Tsutsugoh brought home the first run of the game. The ‘Stars repeated the feat an inning later, although this time with cleaner hits. None of them were terribly impressive, though. One just out of Nishioka’s reach. Another past Toritani. A third just beyond the reach of the drawn in infield. Still, all runs count the same. For the Tigers’ part, hitting was a challenge and they were not up for it the entire match. Nary a base runner through five (their starter Yasutomo Kubo matched Messenger from the last game) and finally a one-out infield single from Hojoh in the bottom of the sixth. Then another single from Fukudome in the bottom of the seventh. A third single in the bottom of the eighth, this one also from Hojoh. That is all. No runner touched second base all night for the Tigers. Meanwhile, Suguru Iwazaki gave the BayStars some more padding for their lead in the top of the fourth with a solo home run. The game took just 2 hours and 21 minutes to complete, and that is only a good thing when the good guys come out on top. Tonight, that was not the case. Final Score: BayStars 3, Tigers 0. Team Record: 33-40-3. LP: Iwazaki (1-2)