A three-game sweep at the hands of the then-fifth place Swallows pushed the Tigers down a spot in the standings, and the dream of reaching the playoffs seemed less likely to come true. A two-game stint in Nagoya with the team’s two best pitchers slated to start should have been the remedy to the team’s recent woes. Instead, it extended the misery even more for the team and fans alike.
Game 123 – Tuesday 8/30: Fujinami Has His Worst Start Ever
After the Tigers went down quickly in the top of the first, it was time for Shintaro Fujinami to show his stuff. A fluky leadoff infield single was all it took to unravel him. He walked the next guy, then was victim of a pass ball, an infield RBI single – no one covering first base <cough cough Shintaro> – then another hit, another fluky infield single, a walk, and a grand slam home run! Sorry, there was an out in there somewhere, too. Any way you look at it, the inning went 13 hitters and resulted in a 7-run deficit and a career-short 1 inning (52 pitch) outing for the young “ace”. Fumihito Haraguchi hit a solo home run to lead off the top of the second and after back-to-back hits, a double play grounder scored a second run. Two innings later, a Masahiro Nakatani double was followed by a Yamato RBI single, and it looked as though the Tigers might be able to fight back. But despite piling up runners the rest of the way, they managed no more points. Yuya Andoh contributed to the blowout by allowing two more runs late in the game. And the Hanshin faithful start screaming for Fujinami to be farmed.
Final Score: Dragons 9, Tigers 3. Team Record: 54-66-3. LP: Fujinami (6-10)
Game 124 – Wednesday 8/31: Game of Inches Lost on Close Plays
This one was a true batter of the hurlers. The Tigers got just 4 hits – all in the first four innings – against Yoshimi of the Dragons, while Randy Messenger continued to exert his dominance over the soft-hitting Dragons. Through six innings, the big man had seven strikeouts versus just three hits and two walks. In the seventh, he issues a one-out walk on a close full count pitch, then the runner stole second, and a single up the middle scored him – though the throw from Nakatani was on time, the tag was late. That would be the difference. Messenger’s night ended after seven, and the team could not push anyone across the plate, despite threatening in the ninth (runners on first and second, one out).
Final Score: Dragons 1, Tigers 0. Team Record: 54-67-3. LP: Messenger (11-9)