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There is definitely no lost love between these two teams. Last time the two faced off, a brawl ensued that will surely be talked about throughout the season, and will make highlight shows for years to come. Hanshin took that series after losing the first game. This one would be no different, though the way in which Hanshin won and lost was.
Game 25 – Tuesday 5/2. Defense Fails, Veterans Fail
Starting Pitchers: Takumi Akiyama (1-1) vs. David Buchanan (1-1)
Top 1: Shun Takayama seems to enjoy reminding Swallows manager Mitsuru Manaka of what could have been. On the second pitch of the game, Takayama sent a long fly over the center field wall, giving Hanshin an early lead. Hanshin 1, Yakult 0.
Bottom 2: The lead evaporated when a one-out single scored a runner from second base. Hanshin 1, Yakult 1.
Top 3: With the bases loaded and one out, Kosuke Fukudome snuffed out the rally with an inning-ending double play.
Top 5: With runners on the corners and two outs, Fukudome once again grounded out (to short) and Hanshin remained stuck at one run.
Bottom 6: Eric Campbell took the blame for a “who’s got it?” miscue behind the mound on a Yamada infield fly. The ball dropped between him and a few other infielders. Fortunately it did not cost the team any runs.
Bottom 7: The Swallows broke the game open. A leadoff triple was followed by a groundout one out later, just deep enough to score the go-ahead run. Akiyama’s night was over, and despite his best efforts, he would once again not get the W. Hanshin 1, Yakult 2.
Bottom 8: After Suguru Iwazaki gave up a leadoff single, the Swallows were given a bit more of a nudge from the Tigers defense, when catcher Ryutaro Umeno was called for interference. Two runs would score.
For the record (to give the headline a bit more credence), Takashi Toritani also looked bad at the plate, not getting a single ball out of the infield. He and Fukudome combined to account for 10 of the 27 outs at the plate.
Final Score: Yakult 4, Hanshin 1. LP: Akiyama (1-2). Team Record: 14-11-0
Game 26 – Wednesday 5/3. Late for Work, Still Got the Job Done
Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (1-1) vs. Hirofumi Yamanaka (0-2)
Bottom 1: Once again, Iwasada started a game shakily, loading the bases with two outs and then walking home the first run on a full count. Hanshin 0, Yakult 1.
Top 6: Finally, a rally! Kudos to Yakult’s poor defense in this frame. A leadoff single (plus bobble in left to turn it into a two-bagger) by Fumiya Araki was followed by a failed Hiroki Uemoto bunt, redeemed by Araki’s fast dash to third, beating the throw. Then Yoshio Itoi grounded one to first, but Yamanaka was unable to cover the base in time, and a run scored. This was followed a couple of batters later by a Toritani hit just hard enough to escape their second baseman’s reach, and the lead was ours. Hanshin 2, Yakult 1.
Both starters went 6 innings and called it a day.
Top 8: Itoi walked, Fukudome sent him to third on a single, and then Toritani grounded into a fielder’s choice – the first baseman chose to throw home, but Itoi’s fleet feet got there first. A walk and an out later, pinch hitter Masahiro Nakatani ripped one to left for two more insurance runs. Hanshin 5, Yakult 1.
Bottom 8: Marcos Mateo gave up back-to-back hits, then got two straight outs, but loaded the bases with a beanball and gave them a run with a walk. Then another with a wild pitch. Yet a third with a double-bobbling of a weak grounder. Hanshin 5, Yakult 4.
Ninth Inning: Yamato led off with a single, Fukudome brought him home on a deep double, and then Fumiya Hojoh knocked him in with a line drive single. Two batters later, Kento Itohara doubled to left and gave us one more insurance run. Rafael Dolis came in to close things off, but not before putting two men on base with no outs. Still, he coaxed a double play out of Yamada and struck out Balentien to preserve the win.
Final Score: Hanshin 8, Yakult 4. WP: Iwasada (2-1) Team Record: 15-11-0
Game 27 – Thursday 5/4. Crushing the Competition
Starting Pitchers: Shintaro Fujinami (2-1) vs. Masanori Ishikawa (2-2)
Top 3: Nakatani led off with a double off the wall, and advanced 90 feet on a groundout to the right side. He scored on a Fukudome RBI single to center. Hanshin 1, Yakult 0.
Top 4: With two outs and the bases vacant, Umeno hit one that somehow carried over the wall, giving him his first taco of the year. Hanshin 2, Yakult 0.
Top 5: Nakatani joined the home run parade with a blast to left to open up the scoring. Itoi got on base in time for the conclusion of the parade: a Fukudome long fly into the right field stands. The party didn’t end there, though. Hojoh, Toritani, Umeno and Fujinami stroked consecutive singles, the latter two bringing home a run each. Hanshin 7, Yakult 0.
Bottom 5: Fujinami gave Yakult two base runners for free, simulating a WBC tiebreaker, and after advancing those runners a base each on a ground out, Yakult broke the shutout on another ground out.
Fujinami left the game in the bottom of the eighth inning after his seventh walk of the game. It didn’t matter at that point, though, because…
Final Score: Hanshin 7, Yakult 1. WP: Fujinami (3-1) Team Record: 16-11-0