@ Dragons – August 18-20 – First Sweep in Nagoya Since ’13

Typically, Nagoya Dome is not a friendly place for the Hanshin Tigers. In fact, in the team’s first two trips to face the Chunichi Dragons in their home park this season, the Tigers went 1-4 (with another loss coming in a countryside park). But the start of the “Road of Death” at the end of July produced a strong series, and the Dragons have been playing fairly mediocre ball since then. And so, with the long road trip of August drawing to an end in a week, the Tigers played perhaps their best ball of the second half in this series, taking all three games, the first two handily, and the third after threatening nearly every inning until finally taking it in extras.

Game 107 – Friday 8/18. Superman and Akkyaman FTW!

Starting Pitchers: Takumi Akiyama (9-4) vs. Shota Suzuki (5-4)

Top 1: The party started early, as Yoshio Itoi (who returned from nearly a one-month absence on Thursday) ripped a two-out double to right. Jason Rogers walked and then Masahiro Nakatani flared one into shallow right to open the scoring. A couple of batters later, Yusuke Ohyama knocked one through the left side to score a couple more. Hanshin 3, Chunichi 0

Top 5: With the recent injury to Yamato, our only healthy shortstop is the struggling Fumiya Hojoh. But he made good in this at bat, crushing one into the left field stands. Enjoy. Hanshin 4, Chunichi 0

Top 6: And why not enjoy this sweet home run from our starting pitcher, who cruised through his first five innings of work! (This, by the way, was the first home run in Nagoya Dome by a Hanshin Tigers pitcher. Ever.) Hanshin 6, Chunichi 0

Bottom 6: At long last, the Koalas got to Akkyaman here, with a solo home run by rookie Yota Kyoda. Hanshin 6, Chunichi 1

Top 7: Not to worry, though, folks! Itoi came back for more, punishing a ball and sending it into the Dragons den.

Then with two men on, Ohyama offered up one of his own. Hanshin 10, Chunichi 1

Bottom 7: Alex Guerrero led off with a double and made it home on a Fujii double. Akiyama finished the inning and sat down to rest. His line: 7 IP, 105 TP, 5 H, 0 BB, 2 R, 5 K. Hanshin 10, Chunichi 2

Bottom 9: Just for good measure and an attempt at respectability, the Dragons hit another home run, this one off the bat of Fukuda. But… too late!

Final Score: Hanshin 10, Chunichi 4. WP: Akiyama (10-4). Team Record: 58-48-1

Game 108 – Saturday 8/19. Goat Mows Down Dragons

Starting Pitchers: Koyo Aoyagi (3-3) vs. Shunta Wakamatsu (1-3)

Bottom 1: With two outs, Aoyagi walked his first batter of the game, then gave up a double to Guerrero for the first run of the game. Hanshin 0, Chunichi 1

Top 2: Nakatani got plunked, Takashi Toritani walked and Ohyama brought home the lead runner with a single to the gap. The very next batter was Ryutaro Umeno, and he did what was necessary to give us the lead: a sacrifice fly to left. Hanshin 2, Chunichi 1

Top 4: Fukudome ripped a double through the right side of the infield, and Toritani cashed him in with a double to center. Hanshin 3, Chunichi 1

Top 5: This time, it was Tsuyoshi Nishioka‘s turn to open the inning with a single and Itoi’s turn to cash him in on a double down the right field line. (This came after a Nishioka stolen base and a Hojoh sacrifice bunt.) Then Fukudome hit his team-leading 14th home run of the season. It barely cleared the wall but they all count the same! After 4 straight seasons without a homer in his old home stadium, he now has 2 in his last 3 games there. Hanshin 6, Chunichi 1

Top 8: Three consecutive hits, the last of which was a seeing-eye single up the middle by Ohyama, extended the lead further. Hanshin 7, Chunichi 1

Bottom 8: With just one out, Aoyagi gave up his second and third hits of the game. He was pulled, replaced by Tsuyoshi Ishizaki, and the score remained the same. Blue Goat’s line: 7.1 IP, 103 TP, 3 H, 2 BB (!), 1 R, 5 K.

Top 9: Hojoh got his first hit of the game and Shunsuke hit a double to the right field corner. With one out, Nakatani sacrifice flied another run home.

Final Score: Hanshin 8, Chunichi 1. WP: Aoyagi (4-3). Team Record: 59-48-1

Game 109 – Sunday 8/20. Sa- Kimi Ga Hi-ro- Da… Toritani Takashiiii

Starting Pitchers: Atsushi Nohmi (3-6) vs. Shinnosuke Ogasawara (2-6)

Top 1: Shunsuke led off the inning with a triple off the wall, and Hiroki Uemoto doubled one to the left field corner to open the scoring. Hanshin 1, Chunichi 0

Bottom 2: Nohmi struck out two guys but then gave up a home run to a seldom-used player. Hanshin 1, Chunichi 1

Top 3: Uemoto walked and Itoi singled, putting men on the corners for Fukudome with no one out. He hit into a double play, which normally would be a terrible thing, but hey, at least the go-ahead run scored. Hanshin 2, Chunichi 1

Bottom 5: Again, Nohmi got the first two outs pretty quickly, but then surrendered a run. This time, it was on three straight singles. His night ended when his turn came up in the top of the sixth. 5 IP, 94 TP, 8 H, 1 BB, 2 R, 7 K. Hanshin 2, Chunichi 2

Things remained knotted at two for a long time, as both team’s relievers did their thing. Chunichi only got 3 guys on base in the final 6 innings of the game. Hanshin was not without its chances, though. Runner(s) advanced into scoring position in the sixth, eighth, ninth and tenth before finally…

Top 11: With two outs and two guys in scoring position, Toritani, who has been hitting the ball like walks have gone out of style, drove one into shallow left field. Good enough.

Bottom 11: Rafael Dolis pitched his second straight inning of relief, this final one ending with three men cutting their bats through the air.

Final Score: Hanshin 3, Chunichi 2. WP: Dolis (3-3). Team Record: 60-48-1

Season Series:  12 – 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.