vs. Swallows – September 27 – Sloppy Win, Slip into Fourth

The Hanshin Tigers have found too many weird ways to lose too many games this season. Even against these Yakult Swallows, success has been fleeting and hard losses have become the norm. Heading into this, the third-to-last game of the season, the Tigers were 11-12-1 against the defending Central League pennant winners. This one would feature a “quarter thrower” on the mound for us, and a “submariner” on the mound for them.

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Game 141 – Tuesday 9/27: Sloppy Play on Both Ends but a Win’s a Win

With Koyo Aoyagi on the mound, you know control will be missing in action. But this was a game of firsts for the rookie fifth round draft pick. Two bad throws to first on sacrifice bunts, one resulting in an error. One bad pickoff to first. A double to the gap in left center. He definitely made his final start of the year a memorable one. And he got a little help in the messy department late in his time on the mound, too. Anyhow. Facing Yamanaka is not on any player’s “favorite things to do on a Tuesday night” list, but two youngsters gave the team a ton of hope in the game’s first 5 pitches. Yutaro Itayama hit the opening pitch to right center for a triple, and Fumiya Hojoh drove him in with a gapper on the other side of center. The team was gifted a chance to further the lead when the Swallows catcher fumbled the ball during a chase down, but with two runners in scoring position and just one out, the “core” of the team failed to capitalize. In the top of the third, Aoyagi was true to form, walking the leadoff batter and eventually seeing him score on an RBI single to left. With the score knotted at 1, we head to the seventh and once again, Aoyagi lets the leadoff hitter on base. He stole second and was bunted to third – and the situation was helped by a miscue between the Goat and Takashi Toritani… ultimately the throw to first by the pitcher was wide and the runners piled up. Reliever Suguru Iwazaki got a grounder out of the next guy and Hojoh threw home to get the lead runner out. Just when it looked like the team would escape the inning, Toritani let a dribbler through the 5-hole and the go-ahead run scored. The Tigers fought back to even the score in the bottom of the inning, with Fumiya Araki scoring from second on Shun Takayama‘s single up the middle. Unfortunately the lead went right back to the Swallows in the top of the 8th, as Cody Satterwhite gave up an RBI double with the outfield drawn WAY in (with two outs!). Fortunately the team wasn’t done battling. Araki put one down the right field line to score the tying run, and Ryutaro Umeno collected his first RBI in an eternity when it mattered most. Marcos Mateo got the save with a 1-2-3 ninth, including a strikeout against superboy Tetsuto Yamada to end the game. The team has its first 5-game winning streak of the year and leapfrog the Swallows into 4th to boot.

Final Score: Tigers 4, Swallows 3. Team Record: 62-76-3. WP: Satterwhite (1-1) SV: Mateo (20)

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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.