Every loss stings a little. And with the season winding down and the pennant already decided, the only thing left was to see if the Tigers could sweep this one and keep the Grim Reaper waiting around a little while longer. The pounding on the door was in fact the angel of death.
Game 134 – Thursday 9/15: Poor Defense a Real Head Scratcher
Somehow the two runs that Randy Messenger surrendered in the first inning felt different than the ones Shintaro Fujinami had the day before. The first of them was on the game’s opening pitch, and then after a tough 11-pitch walk, a wild pitch advanced the runner to third. All it took to get him home was a Tsutsugoh sacrifice fly. The Tigers started a little comeback in the bottom of the second, as Masahiro Nakatani hit one to shallow center and the throw home (it was confirmed on video replay) was on time but the tag was not. An inning later, Shun Takayama smoked a ball into the right field stands with a runner on first, and the lead was Hanshin’s. For a while. In the fifth, things unraveled as with runners on the corners and nobody out, a grounder to a drawn in Fumiya Hojoh was fielded cleanly but thrown wildly, allowing the tying run home. Then with two outs and runners in scoring position, Lopez hit a soft grounder through the left side, and Tsutsugoh hit one through the right side. Lead back to Yokohama. However, recently recalled farm superstar Naomasa Yohkawa took an Ishida offering halfway up the right field stands just south of center, tying the game at 5. Unfortunately, he would later miss a foul fly (looked hard to catch but he was charged with an error), and the BayStars hitter took that second chance and blasted a ball to the right center gap for an RBI three-bagger. Lead back to Yokohama. They would extend the lead with another run on a Lopez sac fly, and yet another in the eighth off reliever Yuya Andoh (who was unable to clean up the mess Minoru Iwata left him). The lone run the Tigers got after that came on a double play grounder by Mauro Gomez, snuffing out what looked like a potential rally. When all was said and done, Messenger allowed 7 runs, but only two were put on his tab. The fielders let him down in key moments and he was unable to bail them out.
Final Score: BayStars 8, Tigers 6. Team Record: 56-75-3. LP: Messenger (11-11)
Game 135 – Friday 9/16: Perfect Swing, Gritty Pitching Gets the W
So Iwata (1.1 IP 5 ER in two relief appearances since his recall) got sent to the farm to make room for starter Takumi Akiyama. He had not won a game in 4 seasons, and despite a poor start to this season, was starting to find a good groove. (He also has 9 wins on the farm, which goes to show you there’s a big gap between the two levels.) An infield single to short was followed by a stolen base on a strikeout. Lopez hit a grounder between third and short, which glanced off Hojoh’s glove and into left field foul territory, easily scoring the game’s opening run. But Akiyama took over after that. Just one more hit the rest of the way on his tab – a single to left in the top of the sixth. Fortunately for him, he got to play most of his start with a lead, as Kosuke Fukudome drove a 3-0 cutter into the right field stands, with Fumiya Araki on second already. That was all the scoring in this one. Akiyama collected two hits, and twice the Tigers had a runner on third with one out, but could not push him across the plate. Fortunately, the relief squad got out of a tough situation in the seventh, and the 8th and 9th looked too easy, with Cody Satterwhite and Marcos Mateo mowing down 6 straight (3 K’s, 2 foul flies and a Tsutsugoh liner to right).
Final Score: Tigers 2, BayStars 1. Team Record: 57-75-3. WP: Akiyama (1-1)
Game 136 – Saturday 9/17: Pitchers Who Walk Pitchers Don’t Win
For a change, the Tigers were the ones who scored first – a Gomez home run gave the Tigers a crooked number in the bottom of the first. The score stayed the same despite a huge chance by the BayStars in the top of the second and a huge shutdown by starter Atsushi Nohmi. With the bases juiced, he struck out two straight hitters (one looking, one swinging) before getting an easy grounder to get out of the inning unscathed. However, the fifth inning would be a different story. A leadoff home run was followed by a one-out walk – to their pitcher – then a hit, another out, another walk, and with the bases juiced and two outs, he could not get out of the jam. Tsutsugoh slammed one to left, and as it bounced off the wall, every base runner came around to score. Two run lead becomes two run deficit. In the bottom of the seventh, Mr. Clutch, Takayama, brought the game to within one with an RBI single to right. The very next inning, though, Satterwhite gave Tsutsugoh his third hit of the game, Hiroki Uemoto put Satterwhite behind the eight ball with a trademark error, and a two-run RBI put the game back out of reach. The Tigers got a decent chance in the bottom of the eighth, with two runners in scoring position, but a feeble grounder to pitcher isn’t going to score you any runs, folks. With this loss, the Tigers are officially eliminated from the playoffs in 2016.
Final Score: BayStars 6, Tigers 3. Team Record: 57-76-3. LP: Nohmi (8-12)