Rare is the day that the Hanshin Tigers baseball game is not broadcast on a local TV station. Almost as rare is the day that a game will be broadcast in its entirety. Perhaps this is because of the early start times (6:00pm, which I suppose is when the news is supposed to be on), or the mysterious popularity of dramas (which start at 9:00pm). Long story short, unless you shell out for a cable package, you’ll either start your game watching in the third inning or finish watching in the 8th or 9th on most nights.
Game 7 – Friday 4/7. Disturbing Trends at Koshien Continue
Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (0-0) vs. Miles Mikolas (1-0)
Unfortunately, the broadcast for this game started at 6:16pm. By then, you’d hope to be into the second inning, or at least the bottom of the first. Nope. Bases loaded and one out in the top of the first. *Sigh* Iwasada was stumbling through a first inning again. A hit to the gap by Casey McGehee was kind of by-passed by both fielders in the vicinity (this one looked very catchable), arced downward in the misty rain, and hit the warning track. Fortunately the runners also thought it would be an out, and only one run scored on the play. Two batters later, a weak grounder through the vast gap on the left side of the infield brought two more runs home. Two outings for Iwasada, three runs against in the first inning of each. Other trends that continued at Koshien for Hanshin: not being able to hit Mikolas, bad fielding, and rain. Iwasada gave up a run in the second inning, a solo shot to their diminutive leadoff hitter. Hanshin could not figure out Mikolas until the fifth. Fumiya Hojoh and Ryutaro Umeno hit back-to-back singles, and on the ensuing double play, Hojoh crossed home plate. Then in the next inning, Hiroki Uemoto and Yoshio Itoi copied the start of the fifth, and Kosuke Fukudome knocked in a run on a bloop single to shallow left. Itoi drew the Tigers to within one on a wild pitch, and the Tigers looked primed to pounce all over Mikolas and the Giants. But a couple of grounders later, the threat was over. The Giants stretched the lead back to two runs in the top of the seventh, and Hanshin only got one base runner the rest of the way. So another trend at Koshien also carried over into 2017: losing to the Giants.
Final Score: Yomiuri 5, Hanshin 3. LP: Iwasada (0-1). Team Record: 3-4-0
Game 8 – Saturday 4/8. “Merciful” Rain Ruins Blue Goat’s Start
Starting Pitchers: Koyo Aoyagi (0-0) vs. Kazuto Taguchi (0-0)
Hanshin had the first great scoring chance in this one. Uemoto and Itoi got runners on first and third with one out in the first. But a Masahiro Nakatani strikeout was followed by a Takashi Toritani grounder to first to put an end to dreams of an early lead. Aoyagi cruised for the most part, giving up just a leadoff double to tubby Abe in the top of the second. He walked no one in his 2 1/3 innings of work. Unfortunately, just a strike from getting his second out of the third, the game was called on account of rain. It will likely be made up sometime in September. Both managers were grateful for the rainout, as it gave their bullpens an unexpected day of rest.
Final Score: Hanshin RAINED, Yomiuri OUT.
Game 8, Take 2 – Sunday 4/9. Middle Infield Powers the Win
Starting Pitchers: Atsushi Nohmi (0-1) vs. Kan Ohtake (1-0)
Both of these guys could reach 100 wins for their careers this season. Both brought their A-games and great control. Nohmi was perfect through the first 11 batters he faced, and didn’t get into trouble until the seventh. Other than a second inning Hojoh home run to center, Ohtake was keeping pace with Nohmi quite well. In the top of the 7th, Nohmi gave up three straight hits – none of the batters made particularly good contact, though – and got knocked out of the game with the score knotted. Reliever Kentaro Kuwahara got two quick outs but served up a fat fastball to their pinch hitter Kamei, and Yomiuri headed into the bottom half of the inning up 2. But just like his counterpart, Ohtake got lit up in the “lucky 7th” as well. A one-out Toritani single was followed by Hojoh’s second bomb of the day – this one just inside the left field pole – and the score was tied once again. An inning later, Uemoto took their reliever deep to left, breaking the tie. The Dominican duo each pitched a shutout inning, earning the win and save. Hanshin would not have to wait until September for its first home win against the Giants this year. For the record, despite the TV broadcasts “extending” themselves to show the game’s conclusion, they did cut out exactly halfway through the hero interviews. So I never got to see Uemoto tear up (reminiscent of Tsuyoshi Nishioka‘s teary-eyed hero interview in the club’s first Koshien win last season).