Despite starting the month with two wins against the Swallows and a split series against the BayStars, one couldn’t help but think that this Hanshin team had still not yet found its way out of the post-interleague funk it was in. This series confirmed fans’ worst fears but ended with some hope and joy on Monday morning.
Game 75 – Friday 7/7. Wishing for a HIT!
Starting Pitchers: Taiki Ono (0-4) vs. Miles Mikolas (6-4)
July 7th is a day of wishes in Japan. Called “Tanabata“, people write their wishes/hopes on think strips of paper and attach them to trees. Apparently Tigers’ fans wishes were not to come true on this night.
Top 1: Ono gives up a pair of runs on an infield single (was rolling foul but fielded too soon) and a single up the middle. Inning mercifully ended with Masahiro Nakatani threw a laser from center field, gunning down the runner at home. Hanshin 0, Yomiuri 2
Bottom 1: Hiroki Uemoto launched a full-count fastball over the wall in left. Hanshin 1, Yomiuri 2
Top 5: Tubby Abe knocked in a run for the Giants, and Ono’s night came to an end after three outs here. Hanshin 1, Yomiuri 3
Top 7: Chono hits a solo shot into the left field crowd. Hanshin 1, Yomiuri 4
Top 9: McGehee spanks a ball to deep center, good enough for a run-scoring sacrifice fly.
Final Score: Yomiuri 5, Hanshin 1. LP: Ono (0-5). Team Record: 40-35-0
Game 76 – Saturday 7/8. More Messiness. More Ugliness.
Starting Pitchers: Atsushi Nohmi (3-3) vs. Tetsuya Utsumi (1-5)
Each of our four pitchers gave up runs. Nohmi dug himself into an 0-3 hole early, and there was no fight in the Hanshin bats – just a run-scoring ground-out at some point in the game. I’ll spare you the details of this embarrassment. You’ll thank me.
Final Score: Yomiuri 8, Hanshin 1. LP: Nohmi (3-4). Team Record: 40-36-0
Game 77 – Sunday 7/9. More Messiness. Rookie Emancipates Closer
Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (4-5) vs. Shun Yamaguchi (1-1)
Bottom 3: After wasted chances in the first two innings (bases loaded 1 out in the first, runner on second, no outs in the 2nd), the team parlayed a Kosuke Fukudome walk into two runs as Nakatani took the team lead in homers by hitting one over the left field fence. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 0
Top 4: Iwasada started really in this game but fell apart here, giving up back-to-back RBI doubles. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 2
Bottom 4: Not content to play this one tied for long, Hanshin struck back with a Hiroki Uemoto poke through the left side of the infield. Kyojin avenged Friday’s outfield assist at the plate by throwing Taichi Okazaki out at home for the third out of the inning. Hanshin 3, Yomiuri 2
Top 5: The lead wouldn’t last for long, though, as Chono hit his second bomb of the series, again a solo blast to left. Hanshin 3, Yomiuri 3
Bottom 5: His first double went to waste and his second one led to the third run of the game, but Kento Itohara wasn’t done hitting the long ball. He hit his first career home run deep to right center with two on base, giving the Tigers a comfortable lead. Hanshin 6, Yomiuri 3
Top 9: Rafael Dolis was called on to protect a slight lead for the first time in a week. The results weren’t pretty. Walk. Double. Two-run single. Sac bunt (a free out). Grounder. Walk. Two on for Abe. Single scores one. Walk loads the bases. Bailed out by McGehee chasing a bad pitch on a full count for an inning-ending grounder to short. But… Hanshin 6, Yomiuri 6
Bottom 9: Our old cleanup guys walked up and down the dugout steps in succession, leaving the game in the hands of the youngsters. With two outs and the bases empty, Nakatani singles. Fumiya Araki walks. Up comes Itohara, who already has three extra-base hits on the night. Does he have it in him to walk this one off? Here’s your video replay.
Final Score: Hanshin 7x, Yomiuri 6. WP: Dolis (1-3). Team Record: 41-36-0