vs. BayStars – April 25-27 – Split Series & Second Spot

The steady diet of opponents’ lefty pitchers continued at Koshien for the Tigers on Tuesday. One can’t help but wonder if other teams feel their greatest chance of success at stifling the attack is to put a southpaw on the mound to start the game. The Chunichi Dragons sent 3 our way (Valdes, Jordan, Ohno), which was followed by two from the Yomiuri Giants (Taguchi and Utsumi). This series we were scheduled to face two more. Only the rains prevented that from happening. So how did we fare against the only team that had yet to beat us this year?

Game 20 – Tuesday 4/25. Hard to Win Without Hits

Starting Pitchers: Takumi Akiyama (1-0) vs. Haruhiro Hamaguchi (1-0)

Sometimes defense kills you, and other times it’s just bad luck. The first inning was a mix of both for Akiyama. After the leadoff guy reached base on a broken-bat single, Akiyama got the next two outs but saw the runner advance a base per out. Then a blistering grounder stymied first baseman (?) Masahiro Nakatani, and the BayStars were on the board. But that was all they could do the rest of the night, as Akiyama struck out 11 and gave up just one more hit the rest of his 7 2/3 innings on the mound. Unfortunately, rookie lefty Hamaguchi had our guys baffled at the plate, too. No hits in the first six innings (and naturally, we left our three walkers stranded). Finally a chance at scoring runs presented itself in the seventh. Yoshio Itoi led off with a hit, and two outs later, Takashi Toritani got one of his own. Another walk later and the bases were juiced. Due up: the man who made the most of nearly every bases loaded situation he saw in 2015: Ryota Arai. But on this night, he whiffed at a low pitch and snuffed out the flame. The eighth inning saw us with yet another golden chance. This time with runners on second and third, Kosuke Fukudome grounded out to keep the Tigers lining takoyakis on the scoreboard. The ninth bagel came as easily as the first six, and the shutout loss was complete.

Final Score: Yokohama 1, Hanshin 0. LP: Akiyama (1-1). Team Record: 11-9-0

Game 21 – Wednesday 4/26. Rainy Weather Pushes Game 152 Days

Starting Pitchers: Shintaro Fujinami (1-1) vs. Shota Imanaga (1-1)

The rains all day in Kansai (and throughout Japan, really) meant this game was called nearly two hours before the game was set to start. It will be played on September 25 (Monday).

Game 21 Take 2 – Thursday 4/27. Riding a Quick Start to Victory

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

Shintaro being Shintaro. Two walks in the first, another in the second, two more in the fourth. Oh, and an error leading to a run in the third. His pitch count went into triple digits before the end of the fifth inning again, and his goal of reaching 200 innings on the season already looks to be in grave danger. With his control being what it is, he’ll be lucky if he doesn’t walk 200 on the year. (Quick question: if Toritani could face Fujinami for all of his at-bats, how many walks would he get in a season?) For the record, Fujinami gave up a second run in the fifth inning, this one courtesy of a Tsutsugoh home run. What’s with us and waking up sleeping giants? Fortunately for Fujinami, the bats tore Inoh up early. The first four guys of the game got hits, scoring two runs on an Itoi single to right, and a third on an Eric Campbell double play.

The next inning, Hiroki Uemoto collected his second hit of the game, bringing another runner home. The bats went quiet for awhile after that, except for… Campbell’s first career NPB hit in the third inning, followed by his first career RBI in the seventh. The two Dominicans, Marcos Mateo (1 K) and Rafael Dolis (3 Ks around a lucky hit), pitched clean innings to shut down the ‘Stars. Getting his first hero interview stage was Campbell, along with Itoi and Dolis.

Final Score: Hanshin 5, Yokohama 2. WP: Fujinami (2-1). SV: Dolis (10). Team Record: 12-9-0

Season Series: Hanshin 3, Yokohama 1

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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.