Did you know the Hanshin Tigers have not won two consecutive games since defeating the Rakuten Eagles back-to-back at the start of June? Since those two wins, the team has gone: LWL-LLL-LWL-WL-WLL-W-LLL-WL-LWL-LLW. That’s right. One series win (a split series against the Orix Buffaloes) and a combined record of 8-18. Not the way you want to enter a series against the current top of the Central League. One of the above 3-game sweeps was at the hands of these very Carps, and before the series began, skipper Tomoaki Kanemoto said the team should pay them back in this one. What were we paying them with… fat pitches? Walks? The worst situational hitting in all of baseball? Whatever it was, the Tigers got absolutely walked over in this series.
Game 83 – Friday 7/8: Before this particular game, starter Shintaro Fujinami declared: “I hope to keep them off the base paths and ease the burden on myself by not giving up unnecessary walks.” Then he walked two in the first inning, including the leadoff batter, and before the home team could try to produce runs of their own, they were three in the hole. Then four after two. Then five after three. Finally he settled in a little, giving up no runs in the next four innings, while his mates pushed two runs across the plate in the fourth off a Kosuke Fukudome hit that was misplayed by their center fielder. With no outs yet, two walks later the bases were juiced. This team does not like bases loaded no out situations. A strikeout was followed by a double play, and a golden chance to tie the game up went to waste. The game remained locked at that score until the eighth, when for some reason with over 130 pitches under his belt already, Fujinami was sent out for another inning. Hit. Stolen base. Strikeout. Pickoff. OK, two outs and bases empty. Hit batsman. Hit. Walk. Bases clearing triple. Fly out. ONE HUNDRED SIXTY ONE PITCHES. No more. Final Score: Carp 8, Tigers 2. Team Record: 35-45-3. LP: Fujinami (4-5)
Game 84 – Saturday 7/9: Somehow the Tigers got out to a lead in the bottom of the second, with the bottom half of the order getting on base and Taichi Okazaki (who started every game at catcher this week) knocking in a run. They juiced the bases with no outs and the top of the order due up – one could not ask for a more ideal scenario to break the game wide open. However, as has been the case way too many times this season (and especially this week) the team came up empty-handed. Either the Carp were energized by that crucial stop, or starter Atsushi Nohmi was disheartened. How about both. A three-run homer in the top of the third was followed by another failed golden chance (Fukudome leadoff double + wild pitch = runner on third with no outs), and Nohmi gave up another run before being mercifully sent to the showers after six. His “relievers” didn’t fare any better and this one ended with another blowout loss and disgusted fans. Final Score: Carp 7, Tigers 1. Team Record: 35-46-3. LP: Nohmi (5-7)
Game 85 – Sunday 7/10: This is where I would normally write about Sunday’s game. But it was simply unwatchable. I hear Yuta Iwasada gave up 6 runs in 1 1/3 innings and the Carp leadoff hitter made three plate appearances before our #4 hitter got even one. I do not know how this one ended, and I don’t care. Final Score: Carp RULE, Tigers SUCK. Team Record: 35-47-3. LP: Iwasada (4-7)
Series Notes: Because next week is the All-Star Break, rookie pitcher Koyo Aoyagi was deactivated and replaced by Fumiya Araki… Fukudome was given a navy blazer before Friday’s game as recognition of his 2000th career hit (1502 NPB + 498 MLB), and is officially part of the meikyukai…