This Hiroshima Carp team is strong. Really strong. Though the Tigers entered this series with a slight 6-5 edge in 11 head-to-head games this season, the last two were lopsided enough to make it feel like it’s 2016 all over again. But things would be different in this series, right? I mean, the games are at Koshien Stadium. The boys (and the fans) are wearing ultra summer yellows. We’re riding a three-game winning streak. Plus, we’re getting two new guys into the lineup…
Game 80 – Monday 7/17. Mighty Messenger, Mightier Bullpen
Starting Pitchers: Randy Messenger (8-5) vs. Yusuke Nomura (5-3)
Top 3: The umpires weren’t calling the game nicely right from the start. In the third, Randy did himself in – two one-out singles were followed by two two-out walks, the second of which pushed a run across the plate. Fortunately, he got out of the inning before any more damage could be done. Hanshin 0, Hiroshima 1
Bottom 4: With two outs, this inning had the looks of another goose egg, until Takashi Toritani got on board with a single and Kento Itohara laced one into the right field corner to even the score. Then catcher Ryutaro Umeno hit one to shallow left (but deep enough) to score Itohara from second. Hanshin 2, Hiroshima 1
Bottom 5: With a great chance to extend the lead (runner on second, one out), Yoshio Itoi pulled an oblique muscle swinging at strike two. He left the game and was deactivated before Tuesday’s match.
Top 6: Randy’s pitch count was already high, but he came out for this inning. He worked two quick outs before walking his fourth guy of the game. Fortunately, he slammed the door shut on the Carp by striking out their pinch hitter. Mess’ line: 6 IP, 128 TP, 4 H, 4 BB, 1 R, 5 K.
Top 7: Kentaro Kuwahara allowed an infield single but worked his 19th straight scoreless mound appearance.
Top 8: Marcos Mateo allowed a two-out double but escaped with a bagel.
Top 9: Rafael Dolis needed just 12 pitches to strike out the side.
Final Score: Hanshin 2, Hiroshima 1. WP: Messenger (9-5). SV: Dolis (24). Team Record: 44-36-0
Game 81 – Tuesday 7/18. Whacked Around Early & Often, No Miracle Comeback
Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (4-5) vs. Daichi Ohsera (5-0)
Top 2: A couple of soft hits put Iwasada in trouble, and he had nothing in his arsenal to get out of the inning. With the bases juiced, a soft fly ball found grass between Itohara and center fielder (!) Tsuyoshi Nishioka (!). Two doubles in succession then racked the score up to an ugly number. Hanshin 0, Hiroshima 5
Top 3: Two straight hits to start the inning added another run to the board, and although Iwasada got out of the rest of the inning safely, his night was over when his turn came up in the bottom half of the inning. His line: 3 IP, 66 TP, 7 H, 3 BB, 6 R, 5 K. Hanshin 0, Hiroshima 6
Top 7: A one-out hit was followed by an error by new first baseman Jason Rogers, and with those runners in scoring position and two outs, a wild pitch brought an “insurance run” across home. Hanshin 0, Hiroshima 9
Bottom 8: It could have been so much more, but this is what we got: Itohara led off with a single, and one out later, Hayata Itoh blooped one into right. Nishioka walked, and Hiroki Uemoto took one for the team to break the shutout. Then on a 1-0 count, Rogers slapped one up the middle to push two more runs across. The next two outs killed a chance to cut into the lead even more. Hanshin 3, Hiroshima 9
Bottom 9: With runners on second and third and just one out, Shunsuke exchanged run for out with a grounder to second. Nishioka got his first RBI since coming back from his Achilles tendon injury, but that was all the fireworks the Tigers were able to put up.
Final Score: Hiroshima 9, Hanshin 5. LP: Iwasada (4-6). Team Record: 44-37-0
Game 82 – Wednesday 7/19. Epic Collapse
Starting Pitchers: Taiki Ono (0-5) vs. Yusuke Nakamura (3-1)
This game was alright (but still kind of frustrating) until the eighth inning. That’s when Hiroshima said “screw this, if Hanshin isn’t going to capitalize on their chances, we’ll just stomp them into the Koshien dirt.”
Final Score: You Don’t Want to Know. LP: Mateo (6-3). Team Record: 44-38-0