On Tuesday night, Hanshin Tigers third baseman Takashi Toritani tied his manager Tomoaki Kanemoto for the second longest consecutive games streak in NPB history with 1766. (The top spot is held by Hiroshima Carp legend Sachio Kinugasa, with 2215 games.)
To celebrate the feat, Toritani went 0-for-4, striking out with a runner in scoring position early in the game, and grounding out with a runner on third base late in the game (that runner would get thrown out, while Tori made it to first base and later scored on Fumiya Hojoh‘s triple). Not exactly a great way to leave people in awe of your great accomplishment.
One night later on Wednesday, as the game officially got inked in the record books in the fifth inning, Tori was looking much better: two hits and the team’s first run of the game. He even got his requisite walk in his next at bat. But that’s where the wheels started to fall off the wagon. In the eighth inning, with Kosuke Fukudome on third base and just one out, Tori had a chance to give the team a lead with almost any ball put into play. Instead, he rested the bat on his shoulder and walked. Not the worst case scenario by any means, but when you consider he looked at two strikes, he clearly had a chance to make a positive contribution. Granted, he immediately put himself into scoring position and took away the chance of a Chunichi double play, by stealing second base. His attempt would go uncontested, as is typical when another runner is 90 feet from home. Ultimately, one run would score, giving Hanshin a slender lead and needing just six outs to win.
But the bullpen, which has been quite steady most of the year, gave up a run in the bottom of the inning and put the team in a bind in the ninth, as well. However, with one out and the winning run on third, Akifumi Takahashi induced an infield fly and a grounder to 3B. Third. Tori’s position. Bobble. Boot. Throw too late. Game over.
Tough way to celebrate longevity. I dunno, everyone. The media (and even Toritani himself) talk about his strong desire to win games, how he’s in it for the pennant, and wants to win every game. Well he didn’t contribute on Tuesday, and he blew a chance to put the team up on Wednesday. And his error ended the game (in a loss) much quicker than most hoped for.
I’m glad that Toritani was able to make some history early this season, and I’m also glad he has been playing better in 2017 than he did in 2016. But still, when I think about his contract not playing itself out until the end of the 2019 season, I shudder. The only consolation is that even if he plays in every game between now and then, his 2181 straight games won’t be enough to break Kinugasa’s record. For that to happen, Hanshin management will really have to make some terrible decisions. And we all know that isn’t possible. Right?