@ Dragons – July 1-3 – Welcome to Last Place

0701-03Dragons

The way the team has been playing lately has not inspired a lot of confidence in fans. In fact, this fan (who tries to stay positive and objective as much as possible) has made the decision to write less until the team starts to perform better. For the record, since June 3 the team has gone 6-14 with just two home runs. So here you are – a barebones recap of a series played by a team who seems to have no meat on its bones.

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Game 77 – Friday 7/1: The bats continued to struggle mightily, putting up one measly single (in the first inning, during which they loaded the bases and still brought home a goose egg) in the game’s first seven innings. Shintaro Fujinami seemed up to the challenge of carrying the skinny team on his skinny back. He retired the first 14 batters he faced, but then allowed 9 of the next 10 (spread over two innings) to reach base. One of these came on his own error, which broke open the floodgates in a way that was reminiscent of last June 3 against the Lotte Marines. Anyways, the back breaker was a 3-run homer to (who else?) Viciedo (see above). Our “ace” left the game after that disastrous sixth, only to be replaced by mop-up specialist Kazuo Itoh, who coughed up three more runs. The bats “earned” two runs to break the shutout… but other than a nice gapper by Fumihito Haraguchi and a triple off the wall by Hayata Itoh, there was nothing exciting on the offensive (get it?) side. Another night, another three hits, another blowout loss. Final Score: Dragons 7, Tigers 2. Team Record: 33-41-3. LP: Fujinami (4-4)

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Game 78 – Saturday 7/2: Facing an inferior pitcher should have meant a lot of runs. Instead, it meant plenty of singles and walks, but very poor at-bats at the most opportune times. The second inning actually started well enough Kosuke Fukudome opened with a double, and came around on a Tsuyoshi Nishioka single. Another hit and a double-steal later, and the Tigers were in prime position to score a bunch. A pass ball brought Nishioka home, but with runners on the corner and one out, the sticks stopped working. Immediately in the bottom half of the inning, starter Atsushi Nohmi gave up the game-tying home run, but the rest of his six innings of work were fairly clean. The aging vet struck out 9, including Viciedo twice, and left the mound and the game in the hands of our up-and-down bullpen. Before that, let’s talk about the hitters’ woes. The bases were loaded with no outs in the third, but we got nothing. They were loaded with one out in the fifth, and we got one – on a dribbler that barely missed becoming an inning-ending double play. (Should I mention who got the game-winning RBI? Sure, why not. Hayata.) We had runners on first and second with one out in the sixth, and got nothing. Three double plays from our bats helped keep this one WAY closer than it should have been. However, in the end, Marcos Mateo, Kyuji Fujikawa (3 K’s) and Rafael Dolis combined to shut down the Koalas in the latter third of the game. A win at last! Final Score: Tigers 3, Dragons 2. Team Record: 34-41-3. WP: Nohmi (5-6). SV: Dolis (5)

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Game 79 – Sunday 7/3: An RBI single in the first by Mauro Gomez gave the Tigers an early lead, but that only lasted until their next trip up to the plate. And two innings later, starter Yuta Iwasada gave up his third grand slam in 5 starts. This was actually preceded by the go-ahead run. His start ended after three innings, and he has really looked like his younger, suckier self of late. Still, the Tigers bats fought back a little in the top of the 4th with two more runs coming off the bat of Shun Takayama in the form of a double to the left-center gap. Still, that is all the comeback fight the Tigers had left, as they managed just three base runners the rest of the way, while the relief squad let the Dragons pad their lead back up (like they needed to). Final Score: Dragons 8, Tigers 3. Team Record: 34-42-3. LP: Iwasada (4-6).

Series Notes: Reliever Kazuya Tsutsui got called up for the first time this season on Saturday. Kazuo Itoh got sent down to make room for him… Hiroki Uemoto also got called back up to the big squad, Ryota Imanari takes his place on the farm roster… The team now sits in last place for the first time this season.

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.