They call it “The Classic Series” (伝統の一戦) any time the Hanshin Tigers face the Yomiuri Giants. This two-game mini-series was a chance for Hanshin to keep its strong momentum against the league’s better teams. But there was one problem: Giants’ pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano was coming off three straight complete game shutouts. Could the Cats stop his solid stretch?
Game 31 – Tuesday 5/9. Showing No Regard for Aces
Starting Pitchers: Takumi Akiyama (1-2) vs. Tomoyuki Sugano (4-0)
Top 1: Sugano’s bagel run didn’t last long. Shun Takayama led off with a bloop double on some fine hitting, and came home on a Yoshio Itoi single. A couple of batters later, Takashi Toritani cashed Itoi in. SugaNO! Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 0.
Bottom 2: Akiyama had been cruising until he faced Casey McGehee, who clubbed a low pitch off the left foul pole. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 1.
Top 3: Fumiya Hojoh reached base on a high chopper that neither Sugano nor Sakamoto was able to field cleanly. Kosuke Fukudome atoned for his first inning strikeout by sending a ball screaming into the right field stands. Hanshin 4, Yomiuri 1.
Bottom 4: Akiyama got himself into a bit of a jam after Abe and McGehee got back-to-back hits with one out. But he struck out Chono, then intentionally walked hot-hitting Ishikawa to face catcher Kobayashi. Grounder to short to get out of the inning unscathed.
Bottom 7: Seems the pitching coach knew what he was doing in the 4th inning, because that same Ishikawa hit a (barely over the fence) home run to left. Hanshin 4, Yomiuri 2.
Top 9: Masahiro Nakatani came inches from hitting a home run, but the ball curled just foul. Score remains the same.
Bottom 9: Rafael Dolis worked around a two-out double to preserve the win, and the Tigers extend their winning streak to 6.
Final Score: Hanshin 4, Yomiuri 2. WP: Akiyama (2-2). SV: Dolis (13). Team Record: 20-11-0
Game 32 – Wednesday 5/10. Bombs Away! Iwassadagain
Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (2-1) vs. Kan Ohtake (3-1)
Bottom 1: It didn’t take long for Iwasada to fall apart once again in the first frame (which he has done consistently this season). A two-run home run by Abe opened up the scoring. Hanshin 0, Yomiuri 2
Top 2: A Fukudome walk was followed up by a near-home run by Masahiro Nakatani, whose double off the wall set the table nicely for Toritani to hit a sacrifice fly, which was followed by a Kento Itohara RBI single to right. We’re all knotted up! Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 2
Bottom 3: Well isn’t that something. Home runs are being given out like candy tonight. Sakamoto hits a 3-run blast, which is followed by a McGehee solo shot. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 6
Bottom 4: Something about home runs and candy and such. Chono belts one over the wall, too. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 7.
Bottom 5: New pitcher, same result. Careful now, you’re giving them diabetes here. Sakamoto home run off Ryoma Matsuda, followed by a few more hits to bring in another run. This one looks like a runaway. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 9
Top 6: Fukudome, Nakatani (singles) and Toritani (the walking bird) all reach base. Itohara pushes one home with a walk of his own, and after a couple of outs and a pitching change, Takayama hits a single to right for a run, and Hojoh belts a double to left for two more runs. Maybe this one’s not over, after all. Hanshin 6, Yomiuri 9
Top 9: Were it not for Fukudome trying to gobble up double plays like they’re candy (remember, home runs are candy tonight, not GIDPs), this could have been a tie. With two outs and the bases vacant (thanks to the ‘Dome), Nakatani took care of his unfinished business from the second inning. This one was a no-doubter. Hanshin even got the tying runner to the plate. But it was not to be…
Final Score: Yomiuri 9, Hanshin 7. LP: Iwasada (2-2) Team Record: 20-12-0