@ Hawks – June 9-11 – Beaten by Big Bats

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Playing against these SoftBank Hawks is never easy. Though Hanshin seldom faces them, the head-to-head record isn’t too impressive (see below). But not only that, they have beaten the Tigers in the Nippon Series three times: in 1964 as the Nankai Hawks, in 2003 as the Daiei Hawks, and again in 2014 as the SoftBank Hawks. It’s high time Hanshin shows them that this team is not a pushover. Or maybe we’ll just wait until another time.

Game 56 – Friday 6/9. Nothing but Bad News (a.k.a. Iwasadagain)

Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (2-3) vs. Rick van den Hurk (5-3)

Bottom 1: The Hawks got right to work, as Imamiya doubled one off third base, and Yanagita knocked him in with a single. Hanshin 0, SoftBank 1

Bottom 3: The same combination struck again, this time with Imamiya singling and Yanagita muscling one over the left field wall, an opposite field two-run home run. Hanshin 0, SoftBank 3

Top 6: The team’s lone great chance, and certainly a fatal blow, came when Yoshio Itoi singled on the first pitch he saw (and left the game with a leg injury), which was followed by a Hiroki Uemoto single and stolen base. With two runners in scoring position and the heart of the order due up, Hanshin managed… a shallow fly ball to left, a strikeout looking, and a fly ball to first base.

Bottom 7: Iwasada settled in nicely after those first three innings, giving up just one hit the rest of the way. He ended his start with two straight strikeouts. Final line: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.

Speaking of settling down, the Hanshin bats did nothing in the game’s final three frames. One hit to open the seventh, and then nine straight outs. Kosuke Fukudome struck out in all four of his at bats.

Pictures for Friday’s Game Courtesy of MisterPictureMan

Final Score: SoftBank 3, Hanshin 0. LP: Iwasada (2-4). Team Record: 33-23-0

Game 57 – Saturday 6/10. Taming the Beasts One K at a Time

Starting Pitchers: Koyo Aoyagi (2-2) vs. Yuki Matsumoto (1-0)

Top 2: Three straight walks loaded the bases with just one out for Kento Itohara. He made no mistake, smacking one down the right field line and scoring two. An out later, Uemoto did the same, but to the other side, and two more men crossed home plate. Hanshin 4, SoftBank 0

Bottom 5: Aoyagi got two outs into the fifth inning before issuing his first (and only) walk of the night. With runners on first and second, everyone’s favorite ex-major leaguer Munenori Kawasaki poked one through the right side of the infield, scoring a run. Aoyagi finished up the inning and called it a day. 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K. Hanshin 4, SoftBank 1

Top 8: Once again, the walkers did their thing, only to have the inning take a turn for the worse on a double play. Still, with a runner on third and two outs, their pitcher threw one in the dirt, and it bounced far enough from the catcher to give us an insurance run. The way our bullpen (Akifumi Takahashi, Kentaro Kuwahara, Suguru Iwazaki, Marcos Mateo) pitched on Saturday, this one was never in question, really.

Final Score: Hanshin 5, SoftBank 1. WP: Aoyagi (3-2). Team Record: 34-23-0

Game 58 – Sunday 6/11. Letting Them Walk All Over Us

Starting Pitchers: Taiki Ono (0-1) vs. Hiroki Yamada (0-0)

Bottom 1: Playing in front of his hometown friends and family, Ono walked the first, third, fifth and seventh guys he faced. He also gave up a hit in between, and the Hawks got off to a quick and easy start. Hanshin 0, SoftBank 2

Bottom 3: Another walk started off this mini-rally, which ended on an RBI double by the one-leg hopping Matsuda. Hanshin 0, SoftBank 3

Top 5: With one out, Ryutaro Umeno picked up his second home run of the season. Both have been solo shots on the road. Hanshin 1, SoftBank 3

Bottom 6: Ono put another man on base via the free pass, and left the game with two outs and runners on first and second. Iwazaki bailed him out, and the score remained the same. Ono’s final line: 5.2 IP, 112 TP, 4 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 4 K.

Top 7: Itohara came in as a pinch hitter with runners on first and second, and hit one to right, bringing Hanshin to within a run. Hanshin 2, SoftBank 3

Bottom 8: Takahashi came in to the game, and uncharacteristically gave up a couple of runs. He got two outs after giving up a leadoff triple, but then back-to-back hits put this game out of reach for Hanshin.

Final Score: SoftBank 5, Hanshin 2. LP: Ono (0-2). Team Record: 34-24-0

All-Time Head-to-Head:  23 (3) 27 

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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.