@ BayStars – August 2-4 – Grinding Out Third Straight Series

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Going on a good run at home against teams with similar records was one thing. Taking that act on the road and beating the higher-ranked teams would be another. Could Hanshin continue its mini-run in Yokohama to start its annual long road trip?

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Game 100 – Tuesday 8/2: The bats started out extremely silent against the same guy (Kubo) who shut them out at the end of June at Koshien. In fact, through six innings, only Fumihito Haraguchi (double) lit up the H lamp on the scoreboard. On the other side of the ball, starter Yuta Iwasada appeared to have regained what he had earlier in the season (and seemed to find after a disastrous first inning last Tuesday). He stumbled a little in the second, but kept the damage to one run on two hits and a walk. In the seventh, the Tigers bats at last rewarded their starting pitcher with a series of hits – and two runs on RBIs by Mauro Gomez and Takashi Toritani. The lead did not last long enough, unfortunately, as “the other Gomez” (BayStars backup player Gotoh*) pulled his usual tactics against the Tigers with a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth. Heading into the ninth knotted at two, the Tigers set up to face all-star closer Yamasaki (whom the Tigers failed to nab in the 2014 draft). The crowd went crazy for their favorite closer, however, the home crowd cheers quickly gave way to the ebullient visiting crowd and the sound of the bats connecting with balls. Shun Takayama walked a bases loaded run in, and pinch hitter Yamato knocked in two more insurance runs in on a knock to right, and a final point came on a double play groundout. The Tigers had their second winning streak of 3+ in just over a week! Final Score: Tigers 6, BayStars 2. Team Record: 44-53-3. WP: Iwasada (5-7)

* Taketoshi “Gomez” Gotoh joined the BayStars in 2012 after years with the Seibu Lions, and was frequently tardy to dinners, etc. at his first spring camp. He would apologize to his teammates by saying “Gomensu” (a shortened, sloppy form of “gomen nasai desu”) to which a teammate said, “Let’s just call Gotoh ‘Gomez’!) One hero interview in 2014, when the announcer called out his name to the crowd, Gotoh corrected the announcer by saying, “I’m Gomez!” The very next year, with permission from Mauro Gomez, he changed the name on his jersey from Gotoh to Gomez, and his official name on record with the team is Taketoshi Gomez Gotoh now.)

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Game 101 – Wednesday 8/3: A quick start out of the gates by the Tigers (Toritani double followed by a Kosuke Fukudome RBI double) was negated by a 4-spot in the bottom of the first by the home club. And ‘club’ they did. Starter Atsushi Nohmi plunked the first guy on the opening pitch, and a stolen base later, allowed the run to score had the game tied on a five-hole grounder to right. The ensuing two batters – Kajitani and Tsutsugoh – crushed back-to-back and the deficit was quickly three. The Tigers were unable to put anyone on base before getting two outs in any inning. In fact, the only times they got someone ‘on base’ before two outs scored, were in the seventh and ninth, when solo homers by Masahiro Nakatani and (our) Gomez made the game close. Unfortunately, the team ran out of chances too soon, and the winning streak came to an end. Final Score: BayStars 4, Tigers 3. Team Record: 44-54-3. LP: Nohmi (6-9)

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Game 102 – Thursday 8/4: Another Tori-dome start to this game (BB + 2-run HR) put the Tigers on top early. However, with out-of-control Koyo Aoyagi on the mound for the Tigers, there were no easy innings on the field. Ultimately the rookie surrendered a 2-run RBI double to Tsutsugoh in the third, then a shallow single to left in the fourth and his night was over before the game was official. Hiroya Shimamoto got him out of the mess he left on the field in that inning, and Taiga Egoshi made sure the “quarter-throw” freshman would not get tagged with the loss, willing a line drive over the right field wall in the top of the fifth. Shimamon gave the team its first clean inning on the field, taking care of the ‘Stars cleanup men in order. What should have been a shift in momentum ended up with the Tigers looking at a familiar scenario: bases loaded, no outs. And no runs scored. What should have been a shift in momentum was quickly snuffed out by Akifumi Takahashi, who quickly retired the BayStars side. An inning later, it was Cody Satterwhite‘s turn to try to hold the score even. A leadoff bloop single was followed by a sacrifice bunt, then an RBI triple over a drawn-in outfield. With just one out, a slow grounder to third brought in an insurance run and put the Tigers in a tough place. It would come down to the ninth again, facing the same BayStars closer for the third straight night. Haraguchi and Gomez singled, Seishiro Sakamoto bunted them over, and then Keisuke Kanoh brought home a runner on an infield single. The very next batter (Egoshi) hit the first pitch he saw for a game-tying sacrifice fly to right. This team would not go down without a fight! Unfortunately the go-ahead run did not score in the ninth. This one would go to extras. With a couple of runners on, the hitters showed great patience, battling back and drawing walks, including the go-ahead bases loaded push for Ryota Arai. Kanoh fell behind as well but stroked one to single for an insurance run. Marcos Mateo took the bottom of the tenth and induced fly outs to Tsutsugoh and Lopez before walking Kuramoto and bringing the tying run to the dish. But a grounder to second gave the Tigers the win and the series. Final Score: Tigers 7, BayStars 5. Team Record: 45-54-3. WP: Kyuji Fujikawa (5-5). SV: Mateo (12)

Series Notes: Toritani started on Wednesday, breaking an 8-game streak (during which the team went 7-1) of starting games on the bench. He recorded three hits and scored the team’s first run in a losing cause… The Tigers scored 7 runs in three innings against the BayStars’ closer in the series – once breaking a tie, once bringing the game to within one, and coming back from a two-run deficit…

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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.