vs. BayStars – July 25-27 – Ultra Disappointing Series Loss

This would be the final series that Hanshin plays at Koshien Stadium before the team vacated the premises so the 99th annual National High School baseball tournament could be held here during the first three weeks of August. With a slender 1-game lead on the hard-charging DeNA Yokohama BayStars, the Tigers would need all their power, plus that of the yellow freebie jersey-wearing fans, to hold on or even expand the lead a little. Unfortunately, all their power was not enough. At least not until the skies unleashed some serious power in the form of a rainstorm.

Game 86 – Tuesday 7/25. One Pitch Made Us Sad Again

Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (4-6) vs. Shota Imanaga (6-5)

Top 7: Iwasada hummed through the first six innings, but threw one pitch a little too much in the strike zone against a hitter that devours most fat pitches he sees: Tsutsugo. Iwasada ended with an 8 IP 94 TP 3 H 1 BB 1 R 9 K line. The Tigers bats mustered just two hits while striking out 12 times.

Final Score: Yokohama 1, Hanshin 0. LP: Iwasada (4-7). Team Record: 46-40-0

Game 87 – Wednesday 7/26. All Sorts of Problems

Starting Pitchers: Taiki Ono (0-5) vs. Joe Wieland (4-2)

Top 2: Ono didn’t have his best stuff today. Or at least, he had enough bad stuff to look like Shintaro Fujinami for one inning. Two hit batsmen, a walk, and three hits (and around 40 pitches) put the home team in a fairly deep hole fairly early. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 3

Top 5: With an out and a runner on second, Ono was unable to squeeze his glove on a come-backer, which led to a fairly easy run on the ensuing sacrifice fly. Ono’s night ended earlier than many hoped, with the following line: 5 IP, 112 TP, 6 H, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 4 R, 6 K. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 4

Bottom 5: Takashi Toritani led off with a generously recorded triple (his double to the corner bounced past a clumsy Tsutsugo in left). He would come around to score on Yamato’s grounder. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 4

Bottom 7: Jason Rogers led off with a double off the same left field wall, and after a Tori walk and a Yamato hit, Tsuyoshi Nishioka grounded out to second to bring a run home. Then Masahiro Nakatani pushed one into shallow right to score another. Hanshin 3, Yokohama 4

Top 8: Kyuji Fujikawa made sure Hanshin had a deep hole late, though. He got help from Nakatani, though, who dove to catch a fluttering ball in shallow center, but it bounced out of his glove. A couple of hitters later, with one out, Nakatani and Yusuke Ohyama looked at each other as a fly ball bounced between them, scoring the first insurance run. A walk and a strikeout later, another hit helped pad their lead just a little more. Hanshin 3, Yokohama 6

Bottom 8: KABLAMO! Say hello to Mr. Rogers and his new neighborhood, Koshien! The new arrival on the team smoked one over the center field wall after two easy outs to the guys in front of him. Hanshin 4, Yokohama 6

Bottom 9: With one out and a runner on first, Nakatani hit into what *could* have been a game-ending double play. Instead, their third baseman threw the ball into right field. With runners on the corners, Seishiro Sakamoto slashed one down the right field line to bring the game to within one. Ninety feet of dirt separated the tying run from his final destination. But two strikeouts to guys who shall remain nameless (H.U. and K. F.) left the home team a run shy of a comeback.

Final Score: Yokohama 6, Hanshin 5. LP: Ono (0-6). Team Record: 46-41-0

Game 88 – Thursday 7/27. After Sundown, the ‘Stars Faded

Starting Pitchers: Minoru Iwata (0-0) vs. Kenta Ishida (3-3)

Top 1: Making his first start in roughly 15 months, Iwata wanted to put his best foot forward. Unfortunately, that did not happen. A couple of hits and a double steal put two runners in scoring position, and a wild pitch brought home the first run of the game. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 1

Top 2: This time, a leadoff walk was followed by a bunt and an RBI single. Not the start to the game that Iwata was hoping for. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 2

Bottom 4: The offensive game itself started off with a Shunsuke double back in the first, but nine straight outs brought us to this inning. Fumiya Hojoh, getting a rare start at short, walked. Then Ohyama singled. One out later, Nakatani blasted one over the wall in left center, reversing the score in an instant. Hanshin 3, Yokohama 2

Top 5: After two quick outs, Iwata walked Tsutsugo, but got out of the inning without squandering the lead he had been given. His night ended here, perhaps because it had been so long since he’d thrown a game on the top squad. 5 IP, 85 TP, 3 H, 5 BB, 2 R, 4 K

Bottom 7: After two outs and midway through Nishioka’s at bat, the heavens opened up their floodgates and intense rain caused this one to be delayed for 40 minutes. The T-Ray family (two young kids in tow) left the premises.

Top 8: Kentaro Kuwahara got into a bit of a jam, but not really through any fault of his own. A leadoff dribbler of a single was followed by a Hojoh error. Naturally, a bunt came next, putting two runners in scoring position with just one out. But Kuwahara induced two infield fly balls to escape the jam.

Bottom 8: Shunsuke collected his second hit of the game, a fine piece of hitting as he guided a ball the opposite way. Hojoh bunted him over, and then Ohyama lined one over the fence in left center.

But the fun didn’t end there. Rogers and Nakatani hit back-to-back singles, Toritani walked, and Yamato knocked him in. Then with the bases juiced, Shun Takayama hit a sharp ball to the right center gap, clearing the bases. Shunsuke came up again this inning, this time reaching base and knocking one in via the error to through first. Hanshin 10, Yokohama 2

Top 9: Since the closer was not needed in this one, why not bring in the mop-up guy? Ryoma Matsuda gave up a one-out solo home run, but that was all. He struck out two and ended the game with an infield fly to Tsutsugo.

Final Score: Hanshin 10, Yokohama 3. WP: Iwata (1-0). Team Record: 47-41-0

Season Series:  8 – 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.