@ BayStars – April 11-13 – Rain-Aided Sweep

Last year, the Tigers had success against just one team that finished higher than them in the standings: The Yokohama DeNA BayStars. This year, the hope was that the BayStars (along with the rest of the CL) would sit below Hanshin in the standings. The first matchup of the season was set to take place at Yokohama Stadium in the first half of the week.

Game 9 – Tuesday 4/11. A Dome-Only Night

Rain, rain and more rain throughout the day meant that this game, as well as the ones in Sendai (Eagles vs. Lions) and Tokyo (Swallows vs. Dragons).

Game 9, Take 2 – Wednesday 4/12. A Real Nail Biter

Starting Pitchers: Takumi Akiyama (0-0) vs. Shota Imanaga (0-0)

It didn’t take long for Hanshin to get to Yokohama’s super sophomore lefty. A Kosuke Fukudome double in the top of the first brought Hiroki Uemoto home, giving the road team a quick lead. Unfortunately, it evaporated in the bottom of the second when Akiyama gave up multiple hits, including a high-bouncing grounder by their pitcher, which led to a throwing error by Uemoto. Down two runs heading into the top of the fourth, the Tigers put on a hitting display of their own. The inning started with Yoshio Itoi walking, and ended 10 batters later with a Fukudome strikeout (which came on the heels of an Itoi 2-RBI single). And if the 4-run lead were not enough, Fumihito Haraguchi padded the lead some more with a leadoff solo home run in the top of the fifth. Akiyama cruised through the middle of the game, running into a little trouble in the sixth but escaping scot free. That would not be the case in the seventh, though, as he gave up three straight hits before being replaced by the reliever who can’t strand runners (I’m pretty sure that’s what his kanji means): Kentaro Kuwahara. The inning would have been disastrous had Akifumi Takahashi not come in and gotten Tsutsugoh out. Still, the lead was down to three runs heading into the ninth. Rafael Dolis gave up a few hits and a run scored. With two runners in scoring position (thanks to a wild pitch), the game’s most dangerous hitter, Tsutsugoh, was back up at the dish with a chance for a come-from-behind walk off home run. Fortunately, Dolis got him to chase a pitch in the dirt, and the win was preserved. Click here for highlights.

Final Score: Hanshin 8, Yokohama 6. WP: Akiyama (1-0). SV: Dolis (3). Team Record: 5-4-0

Game 10 – Thursday 4/13. An Older, More Mature Fujinami

Starting Pitchers: Shintaro Fujinami (0-1) vs. Shoichi Inoh (0-1)

A day after turning 23, Fujinami looked to redeem himself for last Tuesday’s disaster. He nearly escaped the first inning without a walk, but squeezed one in before getting the third out. On the offensive side of the game, Hanshin was held hitless through five innings, but still got on base via the free pass 4 times. Finally in the top of the sixth, Uemoto broke the vault, and his single was followed by a Fukudome single and a Haraguchi RBI. Unfortunately, one bad trait from Fujinami’s prior outing found its way into this one: the monster home run. Fortunately it was a solo shot, and also fortunately it was not to the sleeping giant (Tsutsugoh). In any case, the score remained knotted at 1 until the ninth inning. Kento Itohara led off with a single to left, followed by a Ryutaro Umeno bunt single (good hustle!). Fumiya Araki moved them both into scoring position, and both made it home: the first on a Shun Takayama single, and the second on a wild pitch. Uemoto drove one last nail in the coffin with an RBI double to left. Once again, Dolis shut the barn door to seal the victory.

Final Score: Hanshin 4, Yokohama 1. WP: Fujinami (1-1). SV: Dolis (4). Team Record: 6-4-0

Number of the Series: 10 = consecutive games in which Hanshin has gotten at least one man on base in the game’s first inning. That’s right, no 1-2-3 starts for our opponents’ pitchers on the season so far!

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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.