@ Swallows – July 21-23 – Riding the Long Ball to Series Win

It’s actually a scary thing to be facing a team that is riding a 13-game losing streak. Because you know that streak will eventually come to an end, and you don’t want to be the team that helps them snap it. The Yakult Swallows last won on June 30th against these very Hanshin Tigers. So of course, the last thing we want is to bookend their losing streak… but fittingly, that is what happened. Still, the two wins were impressive ones, were they not?

Game 83 – Friday 7/21. Bombs Away! Panda > Soup in 1 Day

Starting Pitchers: Takumi Akiyama (7-4) vs. David Buchanan (5-6)

Having never beaten Buchanan, this was a must-win for more reasons than just prolonging the Swallows’ misery.

Bottom 1: Akiyama gave up a leadoff hit to Yamada, who advanced to second on a bunt and made his way home on a Sakaguchi single. But wait! Center fielder Shun Takayama hurled the ball home in time to get the lead runner by a long shot. Crisis averted.

Top 2: Leadoff hitter Kosuke Fukudome, who has actually been hitting well this month, put one just over the wall in right center field for his eighth of the season. Hanshin 1, Yakult 0

Top 4: Takayama fluked a “double” (high fly ball lost in the lights or blown astray by the wind or something) and then Jason Rogers showed Hanshin fans what they were getting – a nice home run deep to left. Hanshin 3, Yakult 0

Top 6: Following a Fukudome walk, the Panda took another ball over the fences at Jingu, this time landing one right about where Fukudome did in the second. A few hitters later, Seishiro Sakamoto split the outfielders, gapping one to left center and bringing home two more runs. Hanshin 7, Yakult 0

Top 7: With pinch runner Shunsuke on second, Rogers split the left side of the infield with a single. The throw at home looked to be on time and on target, and Shunsuke was initially called out, but video replay revealed that he was in fact safe. Five RBI (and 2 HR) on the day for Rogers. Hanshin 8, Yakult 0

Top 9: Fumiya Hojoh, who got the call up to cover for Kento Itohara (injury report here), led off with a single, and Takayama walked on four bad pitches. Rogers replacement Yusuke Ohyama then belted a home run deep into the night, putting this one well out of reach. Hanshin 11, Yakult 0

Bottom 9: The only thing left to see in this one was whether or not Akiyama could seal the deal with a shutout. He did not. With just one out to go, the runner on third made it home on a single to left. Still… 9 IP, 125 TP, 8 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 R

Final Score: Hanshin 11, Yakult 1. WP: Akiyama (8-4). Team Record: 45-38-0

Game 84 – Saturday 7/22. Bookending the Losing Streak

Starting Pitchers: Atsushi Nohmi (3-4) vs. Yoshinori (2-2)

Bottom 1: Nohmi put the leadoff guy on base with a walk, and a couple of outs later Yamada showed that he’s still got it – at least against the Tigers. Fuhgeddaboudit. Hanshin 0, Yakult 2

Top 2: The eyes of the Tigers once again put the team in a good position to score. Rogers and Takashi Toritani took their bases, and after a wild pick-off attempt, Yamato blooped one into shallow left to score a pair and even up the score. Hanshin 2, Yakult 2

Bottom 2: Nohmi alternated base runners and outs, which was enough for Yakult to get its 2-run lead back. Hanshin 2, Yakult 4

Bottom 5: After just one out and allowing two base runners, Nohmi’s night was mercifully brought to an end. His line: 4.1 IP, 83 TP, 5 H, 2 BB, 4 R, 7 K

Bottom 6: Ryoma Matsuda somehow bailed Nohmi out in the fifth, but set up a fine mess for a different reliever to get out of in this inning. He left Suguru Iwazaki with two guys on and one out. Zaki immediately walked the bases full, then got a force out at home, but beaned one hitter and walked the next to extend the lead and put this one out of reach. The cellar dwellers pick up their first win in July and see their 14-game losing streak come to an end.

Bottom 7/8: Roman Mendez made his debut on the top squad, replacing an injured Marcos Mateo. He threw two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit.

Final Score: Yakult 6, Hanshin 2. LP: Nohmi (3-5). Team Record: 45-39-0

Game 85 – Sunday 7/23. Self-Supporting Ace

Starting Pitchers: Randy Messenger (9-5) vs. Yasuhiro Ogawa (4-3)

Top 3: Messenger had pitched well through two innings, but got no run support from his boys. But everyone was in for a surprise when he opened the third inning with this… Hanshin 1, Yakult 0

Top 7: After Takayama’s poor start at the plate in this one, Kanemoto made the decision to give yesterday’s goat, Masahiro Nakatani, a chance to redeem himself. He fell behind in the count but then pulled a low outside offering off the left foul pole.

Then, after Takashi Toritani and Yamato got on base, Ryutaro Umeno laid down a nice squeeze-play bunt, and he ended up being safe at first on a poor throw. Two batters later, Hiroki Uemoto hit a two-run triple to the left center gap. Hanshin 5, Yakult 0

Bottom 8: Randy looked like he had enough in the tank to finish this game off, but instead ended on a strong note and with a safe lead. He fanned two more in this inning to finish with this line: 8 IP, 114 TP, 5 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 12 K

Final Score: Hanshin 5, Yakult 0. WP: Messenger (10-5). Team Record: 46-39-0

Season Series:  9 – 6 

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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.