That second win against Chunichi was a bad omen. Just three hits? Maybe it was just a fluke. Perhaps our bats will wake up at small Jingu Stadium against the mediocre pitching of the Yakult Swallows. Perhaps our pitchers will continue to deal, and stifle the Yakult bats. Then again…
Game 38 – Friday 5/19. I Was Sad Again
Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (2-2) vs. Juri Hara (0-1)
Bottom 1: Yet again, Iwasada struggles out of the gates. A leadoff walk, a hit, and another walk – half intentional – loaded the bases with two outs. An Ohbiki single combined with a Kosuke Fukudome bobble in right to score the game’s first two runs. Hanshin 0, Yakult 2
Bottom 3: Yet again, poor control costs Iwasada. A one-out kerplunk put a runner in scoring position for Balentien, who stroked a ball through the right side of the infield. Hanshin 0, Yakult 3
Top 6: At long last, Hanshin gets its second hit of the game. And what a hit. Pinch hitter Hayata Itoh took the first pitch of the inning deep into the right field stands. Despite getting two more runners on base without an out, the solo trot around the bags was the lone run of the inning. Hanshin 1, Yakult 3
Top 8: Shun Takayama smoked a low breaking ball over the right field wall, and his circle around the diamond turned this into a one-run affair. Hanshin 2, Yakult 3
Bottom 8: Balentien did his Hayata impression: one Kyuji Fujikawa pitch and the lead was back up to two. Takayama stood still as it flew well over his head and halfway up the left field stands. Hanshin 2, Yakult 4
Top 9: With one last gasp, Fukudome led off with a single, giving the three guys behind him a chance to tie the game with one swing of the bat… but alas…
Final Score: Yakult 4, Hanshin 2. LP: Iwasada (2-3). Team Record: 24-14-0
Game 39 – Saturday 5/20. Shindoitaro
Strikes Balls Bawls Again!
Starting Pitchers: Shintaro Fujinami (3-1) vs. Yasuhiro Ogawa (3-2)
Bottom 3: Four pitches. Take your base. (To their pitcher!) A couple of strikeouts later, another walk. Then with runners on first and second, a wild pitch advanced the runners. The first field action of the inning was a hit to right, giving Yakult the lead. Then another walk gave them another guy in scoring position. A triple down the right field line cleared those bases. Hanshin 1, Yakult 4
Bottom 4: Four pitches. Take your base. Aaaaand Fujinami’s night is over. 3 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 4 ER.
Bottom 6: Ryoma Matsuda took inspiration from Fujinami, walking their pitcher, and allowing for Tetsuto Yamada’s turn to come up during the inning. Kablamo! Oppotaco! Hanshin 1, Yakult 7
Top 7: At long last, Hanshin’s bats show some life. Eric Campbell (remember him?), Toritani and Hayata single the bases full. Masahiro Nakatani takes one for the team to bring home a run, which is followed by a Takayama sacrifice fly. Unfortunately, that was all she wrote. Hanshin 3, Yakult 7
Bottom 7: Kyuji followed the lead of his predecessors on the mound, walking a guy and then allowing an RBI extra-base hit. Ho-hum. Hanshin 3, Yakult 8
Hanshin put two runners on base in each of the final two frames, but got nothing to show for it. The losing streak extends to three.
Final Score: Yakult 8, Hanshin 3. LP: Fujinami (3-2) Team Record: 24-15-0
Game 40 – Sunday 5/21.
Lucky Lueke Break Salvages Series
Starting Pitchers: Taiki Ono (0-0) vs. Tomoya Hoshi (1-2)
Bottom 2: After a clean first inning, Ono got a big welcome to the bigs. A leadoff hit was followed by a mammoth home run from a mammoth man. Balentien hits a tater (he also hit the catcher twice in this game with his backswing). Hanshin 0, Yakult 2
Top 3: Not to be outdone, Takayama started the inning with a solo shot deep to right. Hiroki Uemoto followed it with one of his own to deep left. Hanshin 2, Yakult 2
Bottom 3: Perhaps Ono needs more than just a fastball. Sakaguchi, who joined Yakult at the start of 2016, hit his first ever home run for the birds. You know you’re not a power hitter when you go 180 games (half in the matchbox stadium that is Jingu) without a bomb. Hanshin 2, Yakult 3
Bottom 5: An infield hit and stolen base put a man in scoring position for Yamada, who drove a ball right up the middle. With the outfielders playing fairly deep, the run scored easily. Ono’s debut ended one out later. 4 1/3 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Kentaro Kuwahara came in and made sure the bleeding stopped. Hanshin 2, Yakult 4
Top 7: Perhaps Yakult got a little cocky, leaving their rookie pitcher in the game despite already being at 109 pitches. (He batted last in the sixth, so they had a perfect chance to pull him.) Instead, with one out, Campbell walked, Hayata hit a double down the right field line, and Hoshi’s night was over. Relieving him was everyone’s most hated therapist (insert Sean Connery space), Josh Lueke. Takayama brought home a run on an infield hit. Uemoto did the same, though it was a fielder’s choice and the throw to second was not in time. With two runners in scoring position and two outs, the Swallows elected to intentionally walk Fukudome. OOPS! Lueke lobbed one too high for “Not Shaq” Nakamura, and Takayama scored easily from third. Click here for pic. Hanshin 5, Yakult 4
Bottom 9: With little action this week, Rafael Dolis should have been ready for this one. His arm was. His glove was not. The first batter hit one back to him, and perhaps his reflexes were not quite sharp enough, but the ball caromed off his glove into no-man’s land. Next batter popped his bunt a little too high but just out of Dolis’ reach. He bobbled the ball. No outs. The next batter bunted too, and the throw should have gone to third for the force out… but Toritani was not waiting on the base for the throw. One out, two guys in scoring position. Walk off loss imminent. Next guy walks on some really close pitches. Yamada due up with just one out. Cringe. He hits a 1-2 offering deep to left…. and just barely foul. Dolis regroups and gets him swinging feebly at an inside slider. Still, Yuhei up with a chance to end it. (He hit the 2015 pennant-clinching RBI against our own Tigers…) Dolis rears back, throws heat, and GOT HIM. Crisis averted.
Final Score: Hanshin 5, Yakult 4. WP: Kuwahara (3-0). SV: Dolis (17). Team Record: 25-15-0