vs. BayStars – May 26-28 – Dropped Balls, Drop in Standings

Hanshin needed a big series against an opponent that had been relatively easy to beat up to this point this season. Unfortunately, extremely poor fielding cost the team two of three at Koshien, and the team finds itself out of first place heading into Interleague play.

Game 44 – Friday 5/26. (Kuru)Shintaro Strikes Balls Bawls AGAIN!

Starting Pitchers: Shintaro Fujinami (3-2) vs. Shoichi Inoh (1-3)

Top 1: One walk.

Top 2: NO WALKS!

Top 3: One walk.

Top 4: One walk + one pitcher error.

Top 5: One walk.

Bottom 5: Our first base runner. Hayata Itoh walks. Then gets caught stealing.

Top 6: Three straight one-out singles (the last to their pitcher), and the scoreless tie is no more. Fujinami out, Suguru Iwazaki in. Another single. Then an out, then a Lopez high fly ball to left that caught some wind and went over Hayata’s head. Bases cleared. Fujinami’s final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 2 K. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 5

Bottom 6: Batman (Takashi Toritani) comes in to pinch hit, flies out to left on the first pitch he faces. One pitch faced (pun intended?) and the Iron Man streak continues.

Bottom 7: Finally a hit! And another! And an out later, the shutout is broken as Kosuke Fukudome slices one into left field. But a Soup double play ends the threat. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 5

Bottom 8: With two outs, two free passes (beaning and walk) were parlayed into an RBI double by Yoshio Itoi. That is all.

Final Score: Yokohama 5, Hanshin 2. LP: Fujinami (3-3). Team Record: 26-18-0

Game 45 – Saturday 5/27. Number of the Beasts

Starting Pitchers: Koyo Aoyagi (0-2) vs. Phil Klein (2-1)

Bottom 3: Kento Itohara reached on an error (he committed one earlier in the game, so things were even, for now) and then Taichi Okazaki got beaned. After Aoyagi failed to bunt the runners over, Itoi covered the mistake by going yard just east of the right field pole. A couple of hitters later, Fukudome did the same thing, but this one to the other field – clanging one off the left field pole. Hanshin 5, Yokohama 0

Bottom 4: Itohara walked, got bunted over by Okazaki, then moved another base by an Aoyagi grounder, and Itoi hit an infield single to score his fellow string-man. Run scores without a ball leaving the infield. Hanshin 6, Yokohama 0

Top 5: Things catch up to Hanshin eventually on defense. With a runner on first, Eric Campbell made a beautiful stabbing dive at a Lopez ground ball, but then threw it high and wide of first. Run scores. With two outs, their catcher (Tobashira) hit one up the middle to score Lopez from second. Hanshin 6, Yokohama 2

Top 6: Aoyagi didn’t walk as many as we have come to expect, but he also did not have a single clean inning. He got through this one with just a single on his record, but his line looked like this when he left the game: 6 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 K.

Bottom 6: Itoi strikes again, this time with a little help from the BayStars’ defense. With the bases loaded, it was Lopez’s turn to return the favor to Hanshin. He threw a cleanly fielded grounder wide of home, allowing two runs to score. Hanshin 8, Yokohama 2

Bottom 8: The other two team leaders in home runs (Itoi and Fukudome) hit their sixth on the year, so it was only fitting that Masahiro Nakatani did the same. His was a solo round trip. The beasts are all lined up with 6-6-6 home runs on the year.

Final Score: Hanshin 9, Yokohama 2. WP: Aoyagi (1-2). Team Record: 27-18-0

Game 46 – Sunday 5/28. Crash Test Dummies, Circa 2017

Starting Pitchers: Taiki Ono (0-0) vs. Shota Imanaga (1-3)

Top 1: Ono found himself facing a one-out, runner on third situation and Lopez due up. He hit one hard and deep into the left field stands. It was almost over the foul pole, which created a video replay situation. The ball hooked foul just in time for Hanshin fans. Ono escapes the first with a strikeout of Tsutsugoh.

Bottom 2: Campbell took his first of three free passes on the day, and righty Yamato slapped a double to left center, scoring the big American. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 0

Top 3: With two outs and runners on second and third, Ono had gotten himself into trouble. But he coaxed a pop fly out of Lopez to end the inning induce the 2017 version of Hanshin fielder collisionfest. Yamato charged out from short, and Itoi charged in from center. The end result was that the ball popped out of Yamato’s glove, two runs scored, Itoi was hurt (he came back after being looked at by trainers in the clubhouse), the inning got extended/delayed, a three-run home run was surrendered and another RBI found its way in there somehow before Ono’s day was over. 3 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 4 K. Yokohama 6, Hanshin 1

Bottom 7: Finally something got going for the home team. With an out and the bases juiced, Nakatani got good lumber on a pitch, but it was quite easily caught by their center fielder. Still, Itoi (who also took three free passes in this one) scored from third. That was all Hanshin could get, though.

Final Score: Yokohama 6, Hanshin 2. LP: Ono (0-1). Team Record: 27-19-0 

Season Series:  6 – 3 

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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.