@ BayStars – July 4-6 – Little Bats Lame, Big Bats Blast

The hard-charging Yokohama DeNA BayStars could leapfrog Hanshin with a series sweep in the two teams’ last showdown before the All-Star Break. But Hanshin was also showing signs of breaking out of their worst slump of the year, having won two straight to end the series against the Swallows. Which team would prevail?

Game 73 – Tuesday 7/4. No Baseball in Niigata

The rains came down most of the day, and as beautiful as it is, Hard Off Field in Niigata could not handle that much precipitation. The game was called well before it was scheduled to start.

Final Score: Rain 1, Niigata Baseball Fans 0. Team Record in Rainouts: 0-0-0 (in six tries)

Game 73, Take 2 – Wednesday 7/5. Catch a Whiff of that Bad Batting!

Starting Pitchers: Randy Messenger (7-4) vs. Haruhiro Hamaguchi (5-3)

Top 2: Shun Takayama legged out a dribbler to second base, and then advanced to third base on Yamato’s bunt walk (a wild pitch gave him enough time to take 2 bases). Ryutaro Umeno swatted the first pitch he saw deep enough in center field to open the scoring. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 0

Bottom 4: Control only came to Randy after he got himself into jams, but in this inning, he was unable to escape unscathed. With runners on first and second, a hard-hit ball to shallow left bounced under Kosuke Fukudome‘s glove, and as the ball rolled untouched to the wall, the Tigers found themselves falling into a hole. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 2

Bottom 5: After a golden opportunity was blown in the top half by our sticks, the BayStars took advantage of their small park by showing that even the tiniest of hitters can get one over the wall every now and then. Not a very well hit ball, but enough to extend the lead. Though he continued to play with fire, Randy finished the inning without any further damage. Still, his line isn’t pretty: 5 IP, 126 TP, 7 H, 6 BB, 3 R, 5 K. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 3

Bottom 8: Kyuji Fujikawa got himself out of a jam in the bottom of the seventh, but walked the first guy in this frame. Shoya Yamamoto wasn’t able to hold him on the base paths, as Miyazaki knocked him in with a double to left – his fifth hit on the night.

Final Score: Yokohama 4, Hanshin 1. LP: Messenger (7-5). Team Record: 39-34-0

Game 74 – Thursday 7/6. Batting Practice for Both Teams (but More for Us)

Starting Pitchers: Takumi Akiyama (6-4) vs. Satoshi Iizuka (0-0)

Top 1: Takashi Toritani started the game with a solid walk, and ultimately scored on a lucky Fukudome hit to left field. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 0

Bottom 1: On Wednesday night, Tsutsugoh was owned by Hanshin pitchers. On this night, he got his revenge, driving one into the right field bleachers. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 2

Bottom 2: A leadoff double was followed by a one-out RBI single to center, and the lead grew to two. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 3

Top 3: With Fukudome on first base and one out, Masahiro Nakatani blasted one high to the top left corner of the stadium. The very next batter, Fumihito Haraguchi, did the same, though not quite as deep. Still, the Tigers got back their slim one-run lead. Hanshin 4, Yokohama 3

Top 5: Nakatani singled and Haraguchi got on thanks to an error, and with runners on the corners with one out, Seishiro Sakamoto (making his top squad debut) successfully bunted a run home while also reaching first base safely (another bad fielding job by the ‘Stars helped). Then after an intentional walk to Toritani, Hiroki Uemoto blooped a lucky one to shallow right. Hanshin 7, Yokohama 3

Bottom 6: The ‘Stars slugged their way back into the game, as Takayuki Kajitani hit one over the left field wall. (It should be noted, neither of the BayStars bombs would have been homers at Koshien, but both Hanshin ones would have.) Akiyama’s night ended early with the following line: 5.1 IP, 93 TP, 9 H, 0 BB, 5 R, 6 K. Hanshin 7, Yokohama 5

Top 8: Uemoto led off with a single to right, which was followed by a wild pick-off attempt that allowed him to advance to third. Yoshio Itoi hit a fly ball deep enough to score an insurance run. Hanshin 8, Yokohama 5

Top 9: Pinch hitter Yusuke Ohyama legged out a grounder to shortstop, advanced on a wild pitch, and scored on Toritani’s triple to deep right center. Uemoto picked up a third RBI with a sacrifice fly to deep center.

Bottom 9: Rafael Dolis threw in a non-save situation and struck out two, ending the game with a feeble Tsutsugoh grounder to second.

Final Score: Hanshin 10, Yokohama 5. WP: Akiyama (7-4). Team Record: 40-34-0

Season Series:  7 – 4 

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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.