@ Carp – August 1-3 – Stalemate Settles Nothing

It’s never easy going up against the defending champs. And the Hiroshima Carp have been having their way with opponents of late, having won six straight series, and blowing out three different teams by double digits in the past two weeks. (This includes one against our Tigers at Koshien.) A sweep for us could give some hope that the pennant is still possible. A sweep against us and it’s all but over. An even split wouldn’t do an ounce of good.

Game 92 – Tuesday 8/1. Hiroki Homers, Helps Hiroshima

Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (4-7) vs. Yusuke Nomura (6-4)

Bottom 1: Walk bunt walk gets Iwasada in early trouble, having to face their best hitters. Suzuki brought one home and then Eldred found a low pitch to drive to the gap for two more. Hanshin 0, Hiroshima 3

Bottom 4: After Hanshin failed to capitalize on a bases loaded situation in the top half of the frame, Iwasada fell apart. Hit, plunk, grounder, RBI hit (on an at bat that took nearly 10 minutes), plunk, bunt, out. His night was done early. 4 IP, 85 TP, 4 H, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 4 R, 4 K. Hanshin 0, Hiroshima 4

Top 5: Seishiro Sakamoto got on base with a grounder that took a bad hop off the carpet, and pinch hitter Yusuke Ohyama followed it with a hit of his own. With no outs and the bases swollen, Hiroki Uemoto hit a ball deep to right, scoring one on a sacrifice fly. Then Kosuke Fukudome dropped one into shallow left to score a second run. The bases ultimately filled up again, but with two outs, Takashi Toritani grounded out to leave the comeback incomplete. Hanshin 2, Hiroshima 4

Top 7: Uemoto hit a high fly ball to left, which was clumsily missed by Matsuyama, who then bounced his chubby padding against that of the outfield wall. Uepon got on his horse and galloped all the way home to draw the visitors to within one. Hanshin 3, Hiroshima 4

Top 8: For cryin’ out loud, why does Yamato have to bunt from the left side, too? Clearly he is not accustomed to it, and he popped one out to catcher. Just complaining for the sake of it, because I needed to warm up for what came next.

Top 9: Tsuyoshi Nishioka got on for the third time in the game, and with one out and a full count on Uemoto, he bolted for second. He would have been safe, and he was safe. But here’s the problem. Uemoto swung at a terrible pitch, let his follow through take him out of the batter’s box and into the catcher’s way. Interference-ending game. *S*M*H*

Final Score: Hiroshima 4, Hanshin 3. LP: Iwasada (4-8). Team Record: 49-43-0

Game 93 – Wednesday 8/2. Panda-Powered, Pitcher-Preserved

Starting Pitchers: Taiki Ono (0-6) vs. Daichi Ohsera (7-0)

Bottom 1: It didn’t take long for Ono to cause fans to groan out his name. A leadoff single was followed by a 2-run home run. The inning got longer and messier but no more runs scored. Hanshin 0, Hiroshima 2

Top 3: Chances in the first two innings came up fruitless, but the team took advantage of an error on leadoff hitter Uemoto’s grounder to third. Fukudome finished what he started in the first (when his fly ball was caught at the wall) by burying one into the right field stands. Hanshin 2, Hiroshima 2

Bottom 6: Both teams continued to exchange chances without results, but with two outs and two runners on, Ono left the game with the following line: 5.2 IP, 118 TP, 6 H, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 5 K, 2 R.

Bottom 8: Akifumi Takahashi gave up a lead off home run to Matsuyama. He walked a couple of batters after that but escaped without any further damage. Hanshin 2, Hiroshima 3

Top 9: Their closer had no control tonight. Shun Takayama lucked out an infield single, and then with one out, we got two straight walks to load the bases. For the Panda, Jason Rogers. On a 1-0 count, he laced one into shallow left for two runs. Despite loading the bases after that, the Tigers were unable to extend their lead.

Bottom 9: Rafael Dolis came in and sat down the first two guys before walking Kamitteru Suzuki. Facing countryman Bautista, he induced a grounder to short to preserve the victory. That was a close one.

Final Score: Hanshin 4, Hiroshima 3. WP: Takahashi (4-0). SV: Dolis (26). Team Record: 50-43-0

Game 94 – Thursday 8/3. Win Wasted With Weak Welief

Starting Pitchers: Minoru Iwata (1-0) vs. Aren Kuri (6-6)

Top 1: Two outs into the game, it looked like our guys were going to be foiled by Kuri again. But then… Fukudome double, Rogers RBI single, Masahiro Nakatani double, Toritani 2-RBI single and a Yamato infield single + error brought in another run. For the first time in ages, the bats did something meaningful in the first inning. Hanshin 4, Hiroshima 0

Bottom 1: Iwata started similarly to Kuri. Two outs, then a few hits and a run scored. But he struck out Eldred to end the threat. Hanshin 4, Hiroshima 1

Top 4: Again with two outs, the hitters came out. Takayama threaded the right side of the infield, and then Uemoto hit a big double to the gap. Hanshin 5, Hiroshima 1

Bottom 5: A couple of guys reached base before an out could be recorded, and one of them scored on a grounder to second. Hanshin 5, Hiroshima 2

Bottom 6: Iwata was in all sorts of trouble, having put runners on the corners with just one out. His night was done: 5.1 IP, 87 TP, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 K, 2 R. Fortunately, Kentaro Kuwahara bailed him out by coaxing an inning-ending double play out of Eldred.

All was looking good until…

Bottom 9: Dolis gave up a couple of soft hits up the middle before recording the first out. The first run scored on a pinch hit single that split the right side of the infield. The second and third runs scored one batter later with a clutch pinch hit. Fortunately, there was no walk off here. Hanshin 5, Hiroshima 5

Bottom 11: Suguru Iwazaki pitched a perfect tenth but was the victim of some shady fielding by Nakatani, which got the Carp a runner on second with one out. Then with two outs and the bases juiced, he rang up Kikuchi to prolong the game one last inning.

Top 12: Ohyama hit one to the gap that Suzuki dove at but missed. Then Maru fumbled it a bit and a great scoring chance was born. But with one out and Ohyama on third, Shunsuke feebly grounded out to second and Fumihito Haraguchi popped out to second.

Bottom 12: After a quick out by Takahashi, Ryoma Matsuda came to the mound with hopes of keeping this one tied. He walked Suzuki, got Arai to fly out to deep left, and struck out the catcher to end this one safely. First tie of the season for our boys.

Final Score: Hanshin 5, Hiroshima 5. Team Record: 50-43-1

Season Series:  8 (1) 8 

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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.