The long, hard road trip continues on with two crucial matchups. We put the series loss to the Yomiuri Giants in the rearview mirror, and try to remain positive in light of the bad news about Randy Messenger. On tap over the weekend was a crucial set against the hard-charging Yokohama DeNA BayStars. Getting swept would drop us down to third, and with three of our weaker pitchers due up, the bats would need to carry the load, too. They did in one of three games, and the pitching held strong for two of three games. But that third game… nothing went well at all.
Game 101 – Friday 8/11. Peaking Nicely on Mountain Day
Starting Pitchers: Minoru Iwata (1-0) vs. Kenta Ishida (4-4)
Top 2: Masahiro Nakatani hit a towering shot to left. It looked like an ordinary fly ball, but it kept carrying, and in the end, Tsutsugo (who is not the best of fielders) failed to squeeze his glove on it. Takashi Toritani followed that up with what was first called a home run, then downsized to a double after it was determined that the ball never left the park. Still, the first run of the game was ours. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 0
Top 3: And the next few runs would be ours, too. Shunsuke and Jason Rogers set the table for Nakatani, who made no mistake this time around, giving a souvenir ball to one of the rabid Tigers fans in the left field stands. Hanshin 4, Yokohama 0
Top 5: Tsuyoshi Nishioka legged out an infield single and was replaced by seldom-used Yuto Morikoshi. He scored all the way from first and Yusuke Ohyama‘s double to the left-center gap. Then Rogers hit his first home run in a couple of weeks, landing one in almost the same spot as Nakatani had a couple innings earlier. Hanshin 7, Yokohama 0
Bottom 5: At long last, Iwata cracked. Having strung along the BayStar bats through four innings, he gave up a one-out RBI double to lose his shutout bid. Hanshin 7, Yokohama 1
Top 7: But the man who so seldom gets support from his hitters (Iwata) got another one here, after Rogers walked (and was replaced by Shun Takayama on the base paths), Toritani hit a single, and Seishiro Sakamoto split the left side of the infield to become the ninth starter to get a hit. Hanshin 8, Yokohama 1
Bottom 7: Iwata ended his night in style. After getting the leadoff guy, he beaned Kajitani. (That’s not the style part.) Then a pinch-hit grounder that looked primed to find outfield turf got scooped up by Yamato, who quickly threw out the lead runner while still running to his right, and the relay to first by Morikoshi was on time. Iwata’s line: 7 IP, 99 TP, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 1 R, 4 K. Watch this play. Again. And. Again.
Final Score: Hanshin 8, Yokohama 1. WP: Iwata (2-0). Team Record: 55-45-1
Game 102 – Saturday 8/12. Old Man Flashes Glove, Swings Stick
Starting Pitchers: Atsushi Nohmi (3-6) vs. Shoichi Inoh (4-6)
Bottom 4: Both pitchers were cruising along, allowing a few base runners but not finding themselves in trouble (other than the previous inning, when Nohmi was bailed out by a superb diving catch by Kosuke Fukudome). Then Nohmi met Tsutsugoh. Or should I say, Tsutsugoh’s bat met Nohmi’s low outside offering. It was on a rope, and barely cleared the center field wall. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 1
Bottom 6: Though Nohmi had pitched well, his night came to an end as his turn to bat was coming up in the top of the 7th. His line: 6 IP, 74 TP, 8 H, 0 BB, 1 R, 7 K
Top 8: Chance after chance in the first seven innings resulted in no score for the Tigers. But Nishioka led off the 8th with a double and made it home on a Fukudome single – a hit that went off pitcher Spencer Patton’s leg and trickled into shallow right. Fortunately, he was not injured on the play. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 1
Top 10: With one out and the bags empty, Fukudome struck again – this time slicing one just fair and just over the fence in left.
Bottom 10: Rafael Dolis came in to close things down, and aside from a fluky Miyazaki single – it bounced funny where the turf meets dirt – he was vintage Dolis.
Final Score: Hanshin 2, Yokohama 1. WP: Marcos Mateo (7-4). SV: Dolis (29). Team Record: 56-45-1
Game 103 – Sunday 8/13. Kid’s Not a Starter, He’s Barely Even a Pitcher
Starting Pitchers: Ryoma Matsuda (1-1) vs. Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-4)
Top 2: Both pitchers allowed guys into scoring position in the first. In the second, Nakatani started things with a walk, Toritani moved him to third on a single to right, and Yamato broke the scoreless tie with a sacrifice fly. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 0
Bottom 2: A leadoff double was followed by a walk, an out, and then a “double” that Nakatani seemed to lose in the lights. Two runs scored. The next pitch was also laced for a double, scoring another run. This would be the end of Matsuda’s night. Much earlier than anyone would have guessed. 2 IP, 50 TP, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 R, 1 K. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 3
Bottom 4: With our third pitcher on the mound, Suguru Iwazaki, the ‘Stars got a one-out triple (Shunsuke almost caught it), then flipped a little single past a drawn-in infield. Then Tsutsugoh hit a home run to the opposite field. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 6
Bottom 6: Roman Mendez came in as the team’s fourth pitcher, giving up a one-out hit, then barely missing an inning-ending double play. Too bad because Tsutsugoh made him pay the price with a huge home run to center field. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 8
Top 9: Down to their last gasp, Yamato hit a one-out single, pinch hitter Fumihito Haraguchi doubled to right, and Takayama walked to load the bases for Nishioka. His hit up the middle took a funky bounce and stayed in the infield, but no outs were recorded. But that was all the Tigers could muster. Two pop outs and the series ended on a down note.
Final Score: Yokohama 8, Hanshin 2. LP: Matsuda (1-2). Team Record: 56-46-1