@ Carp – July 22-24 – Cementing Our Place in Last

Nothing has gone the Tigers’ way since the start of interleague play. They sure aren’t helping themselves, either. Heading on the road against the top team in the Central League was not going to help things, either. Even with the “ace” opening the series and the true ace closing it.

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Game 91 – Friday 7/22: It looked promising after Shintaro Fujinami had an unusual first inning (for him, that is) – he retired the side on 8 pitches. Then he showed his true colors in the second. Hit strikeout hit hit hit bunt walk strikeout. Tigers down 2 early. Next inning, another two hits put the team deeper in the hole. He saved his most typical inning for later, though, in the fifth. Strikeout hit grounder walk hit walk (scoring the fourth run for them). The Tigers got a run in the fourth when Takashi Toritani doubled home Kosuke Fukudome. Another came in the sixth when Shun Takayama brought Toritani home . Still, two key misses in the field (good throws on SB attempts by catcher Ryutaro Umeno, no catch by Tori) made this one a tough loss to stomach. Final Score: Carp 4. Tigers 2. Team Record: 37-51-3. LP: Fujinami (4-6)

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Game 92 – Saturday 7/23: All you need to know is that Suguru Iwazaki recorded six outs – one fewer than the number of runs he allowed. You do not need to know that the Tigers didn’t score any runs or that a certain pitcher (Hiroki Kuroda) got his 200th career win. Minor details. Final Score: Carp 7, Tigers 0. Team Record: 37-52-3. LP: Iwazaki (1-4)

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Game 93 – Sunday 7/24: We called upon our best pitcher to stop the bleeding, to somehow help us get ONE win this week. But Randy Messenger also had a 15.12 ERA against the Carp in 2016 heading into this one. He gave up a run in the first, but the team got two back in the top of the second, courtesy of Fumihito Haraguchi and Ryota Arai with solo home runs. Mauro Gomez fluked a hit to score a run in the top of the third, but Randy got some really bad calls and eventually surrendered the game-tying hit to Suzuki in the bottom of the frame. In the top of the fourth, Taiga Egoshi helped lift the bases-loaded curse from the team by hitting a sacrifice fly to left to give the Tigers the lead again, but the Carp would not go away – and they put up two more in the bottom half, giving them the lead. The last of those runs came on an Arai (ours, not theirs) bobble. Somehow, these Tigers were not willing to go away, and in the top of the sixth, they took the lead with a Haraguchi chopper over third, and then a Toritani chopper over first. Marcos Mateo pitched two stellar innings in relief to preserve the lead through seven. Toritani got another golden chance with the bases juiced in the top of the eighth, and he took one for the team, bringing home another run. Kyuji Fujikawa got into immediate trouble in the eighth, giving up consecutive singles. Fortunately he struck out two in a row and induced an inning-ending grounder to preserve the lead. Rafael Dolis kept the lead at three despite allowing some base runners, and the losing streak came to an end at LONG last. Final Score: Tigers 8, Carp 5. Team Record: 38-52-3. WP: Shimamoto (1-0) SV: Dolis (7)

Series Notes: The big news of the week was that manager Tomoaki Kanemoto put an end to Toritani’s consecutive innings streak on Sunday at 667 games. The shortstop had been underperforming all season, and the move was long overdue… Hiroki Uemoto got shipped down to the farm (where he has actually performed well this weekend) and Arai took his roster spot on the big club… Rookie catcher Seishiro Sakamoto recorded his first two career hits against Kuroda on Saturday. He came in to replace Umeno after Iwazaki was yanked… The Tigers exceeded six runs on Sunday for the first time since losing 9-8 to the Yakult Swallows on May 25… Speaking of the Swallows, the Tigers face them next at home, and they just swept the Chunichi Dragons (whom we face later next week, also at home). The standings now look like this.

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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.