@ Giants – August 8-10 – Wacky Tomoaki Squanders Series

It doesn’t seem to matter how either of these teams are faring in the standings. These “Legendary Games” (伝統の一戦) have a special atmosphere, and neither team wants to lose. This is an important time of year for both teams – Hanshin needs to play well on the road and patiently wait for the high schoolers to finish using their home stadium, while the Yomiuri Giants have to work hard to push for a playoff spot in order to extend their 10-season streak. Against this Tigers team, they really didn’t have to work all that hard, unfortunately. We did ourselves in with poor relief, poor decision making and poor execution.

Game 98 – Tuesday 8/8. It Was a Sad Day

Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (4-8) vs. Miles Mikolas (9-5)

Iwasada’s line: 4 IP, 92 TP, 7 H, 6 BB, 6 R, 3 K. And that includes a pretty good fourth inning. He was on a bullet train back to Kansai before this game ended. He also got farmed.

With one out left in the game, Ryutaro Umeno doubled, Yamato singled and Hayata Itoh brought home our lone run. Way too little, way too late.

Final Score: Yomiuri 6, Hanshin 1. LP: Iwasada (4-9). Team Record: 53-44-1

Game 99 – Wednesday 8/9. Fukudome Owns the Dome

Starting Pitchers: Koyo Aoyagi (3-3) vs. Seishu Hatake (2-1)

Top 1: Kosuke Fukudome hit a two-out double and got cashed in by Jason Rogers, who hit one up the middle. Hanshin 1, Yomiuri 0

Top 3: After a Shun Takayama bloop single and stolen base, Fukudome hit his second double of the night, this one down the left field line, extending the lead by another point. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 0

Bottom 5: After four near-perfect innings, Aoyagi put himself into a bit of trouble. First he hit Abe with a pitch (not such a bad idea), but after collecting a couple of outs, he also gave up his first two hits of the night. Fortunately, he induced a fly ball to end the inning, but it was also the end of his outing. 5 IP, 81 TP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 0 R, 6 K.

Bottom 6: Our usually steady relievers were not so reliable on this night. First, Kentaro Kuwahara uncharacteristically gave up a run on two hits and a sacrifice fly… (to be continued) Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 1

Top 7: The Tigers got the run right back with a two-out, barely-over-the-shortstop’s-head single by Masahiro Nakatani. Hanshin 3, Yomiuri 1…

Bottom 7: … (continued from last inning). Then in came Suguru Iwazaki. Walk, hit, two outs, walk, pulled. Then Marcos Mateo. Bases-clearing double to Mr. McGehee. Actually the third run was initially called an out, but the call on the field was mysteriously reversed. In any case, Mateo walked the next guy before finally putting an end to the inning. Hanshin 3, Yomiuri 4

Top 9: Things looked pretty grim, but with one out, hot-stick-wielding Hayata stroked a single, came around to score on a Fukudome triple (gasp!) and he became the go-ahead run on a Rogers sacrifice fly. Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 4

Bottom 9: Rafael Dolis went back to being his usual dominant self, needing just 11 pitches to get the game’s final three outs.

Final Score: Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 4. WP: Akifumi Takahashi (5-0). SV: Dolis (28). Team Record: 54-44-1

Game 100 – Thursday 8/10. Bunting Ourselves to Death

Starting Pitchers: Randy Messenger (11-5) vs. Tetsuya Utsumi (2-5)

Top 2: A leadoff walk to Nakatani was followed by a Takashi Toritani single to right, and a couple of batters later, Umeno knocked in the game’s first run. Then a Messenger bunt put two guys into scoring position for Shunsuke, who brought home another run for the good guys. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 0

Top 3: An out and runners on first and second. Two strikeouts. No score.

Top 4: A runner on second and one out (that being another Messenger bunt). Grounder and strikeout. No score.

Bottom 5: Randy gives up a solo home run to Chono. No doubter. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 1

Top 6: A leadoff triple by Toritani. Shallow fly out, botched bunt, strikeout. No score.

Bottom 6: A leadoff triple by their guy. A successful sacrifice fly. Tie game. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 2

Top 7: Leadoff walk. Botched bunt (double play). No score.

Bottom 7: Randy took a hard liner off the ankle, and left the game in pain. He was taken to the hospital. No word on his condition. Kuwahara came in and took care of things. Randy’s line: 6.0 IP, 111 TP, 4 H, 1 BB, 2 R, 6 K.

Bottom 8: Mateo walks the leadoff guy, then gives up a hit. With runners on the corners and two outs, he finds himself facing Murata. When the count reaches 2-1, Umeno goes to the mound and they agree to walk him on purpose, loading the bases. OOPS. Next guy laces a double down the left field line. Then an error leads to a third run. That’s all she wrote.

Final Score: Yomiuri 5, Hanshin 2. LP: Mateo (6-3). Team Record: 54-45-1

Season Series:  7 – 9 

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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.