The last three seasons of cat fights, the Lions have remained kings of the jungle. As the Tigers try to claw their way back into the hunt for first, beating the team out of Saitama at home would be key, especially with the best team coming last on the Interleague schedule.
Game 59 – Tuesday 6/13. Replacing Itoi Proves Simple
Starting Pitchers: Takumi Akiyama (5-3) vs. Ryoma Nogami (4-5)
Bottom 2: Masahiro Nakatani walked and Takashi Toritani pushed him up a base with a single, and little Shunsuke, replacing an injured Yoshio Itoi, brought both runners home on a double. Akiyama got a hit to keep the pressure on (and also to become the better-hitting Akiyama on this night), but no further damage… Yet. Hanshin 2, Seibu 0
Top 3: The little rookie who’s turning everyone’s heads in the PL, Sosuke Genda, took an Akiyama offering for a ride right into the outfield bleachers. Fortunately there were no runners on the base paths. Hanshin 2, Seibu 1
Top 4: Different inning, same story. This time the damage was done by big bad Ernesto Mejia, who is actually known for his powerful bat. Again, vacant bases means the damage is kept to a minimum. Hanshin 2, Seibu 2
Bottom 4: And wouldn’t you know it? Little Shunsuke brought his big bat to the stadium on this night. He got enough of a low pitch to drive it over the left field wall, surprising everyone in the stadium, including his manager Tomoaki Kanemoto. Hanshin 3, Seibu 2
— 阪神タイガース (@TigersDreamlink) June 13, 2017
Top 7: After getting one out, Akiyama surrendered back-to-back hits, and left the mound. (Final Line: 6.1 IP, 103 TP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K) Suguru Iwazaki was called on to take care of the mess, facing two lefty bats. He got the first, walked the second, and needed Kentaro Kuwahara’s help (one pitch) to escape the inning unharmed.
Bottom 7: Toritani got a hit, followed by a failed bunt and a successful one (see how serious we are about moving the runner over – waste TWO outs to do it!), then a walk, and then a bases-clearing double by Kento Itohara. Hanshin 5, Seibu 2
Bottom 8: Shun Takayama got drilled in the back, and was replaced by a pinch runner. Kosuke Fukudome singled to right, and with runners on the corners, Nakatani blasted a triple to the deepest part of the field. Despite there being no outs yet, he remained stranded at third at inning’s end. It didn’t matter, though.
Final Score: Hanshin 7, Seibu 2. WP: Akiyama (6-3). Team Record: 35-24-0
Game 60 – Wednesday 6/14. Repeat of Friday’s Loss
Starting Pitchers: Atsushi Nohmi (2-2) vs. Yosuke Okamoto (1-0)
Top 1: With two outs, Nohmi walked Akiyama (theirs, obviously) and Asamura, and then big butterball Takeya “Okawari Kun” Nakamura knocked in a run with a single. Hanshin 0, Seibu 1
Top 3: With two outs, Nohmi gave up back-to-back singles (to Akiyama and Asamura) and then a big blast to Nakamura. Just like his apprentice Iwasada did last Friday night. Swap out Lions names for Hawks and it’s pretty much a carbon copy of that story. Hanshin 0, Seibu 4
Bottom 4: At long last, Hanshin gets something going. But a Fukudome double play (his league-worst 13th) ends the inning.
Bottom 5: Nakatani and Toritani set the inning up beautifully with back-to-back hits. Shunsuke brings Nakatani home on a grounder, and Ryutaro Umeno brings Tori home on a sacrifice fly. Nohmi’s night ends here (5 IP, 95 TP, 4 H, 3 BB, 4 R, 9 K) as pinch hitter Ryota Arai collects his first hit on the season, but alas, itch two runners on, Yamato pops out and the threat ends. Hanshin 2, Seibu 4
Bottom 6: Fukudome and Nakatani set up this inning in the same way as the fifth rolled out, but with one out already recorded. The next two outs come without a runner crossing home.
And from there, the Tigers mostly stayed away from the bases on offense.
Final Score: Seibu 4, Hanshin 2. LP: Nohmi (2-3). Team Record: 35-25-0
Game 61: Thursday 6/15. Tenth Inning Gucci Excellent Rip, Schlitter Weeps In Nishinomiya
Starting Pitchers: Randy Messenger (7-2) vs. Ken Togame (3-2)
Bottom 1: Making his second straight start, Yamato walked with one out, and scored on a Fukudome single to right. Hanshin 1, Seibu 0
Top 4: Randy’s control was an issue in this one, and after walking the portly Nakamura, big bad Mejia made him pay with a sharply hit ball into the left field stands. Hanshin 1, Seibu 2
Bottom 6: With a couple of guys on board, Kanemoto made a bold decision and pinch hit for Umeno. It paid off, as Hayata Itoh put one through the right side of the infield and brought in the tying run. There was a chance to take the lead, but Ryota popped out to shallow right and Itohara hit a line drive that was nicely caught by Akiyama. Randy’s final line: 6 IP, 121 TP, 5 H, 5 BB, 2 R, 6 K. Hanshin 2, Seibu 2
Top 7: Kuwahara struck out the side.
Top 8: Marcos Mateo struck out two.
Top 9: Rafael Dolis struck out one, and for three straight innings the Lions look clawless.
Top 10: Akifumi Takahashi walks the leadoff guy but struck out Akiyama to end the inning with the potential go-ahead run on third.
Bottom 10: Hanshin got runners on in every single inning, often in scoring position, but could not cash anyone in to save their lives. But Takayama took first on balls, then got bunted (!) over by Fukudome, advanced to third on a Nakatani hit, and after Toritani took first for free, the game was in the hands of Fumihito Haraguchi. With two strikes on him, he took an inside fastball over shortstop and into left field. Game over. Series won.
Final Score: Hanshin 3x, Seibu 2. WP: Takahashi (2-0). Team Record: 36-25-0