@ Giants – August 25-27 – Strong Road Trip Ends With Thud

No matter how weak the Yomiuri Giants appear (1 game under .500 entering this series), they always seem to bring their best against the Hanshin Tigers. As the Tigers’ long 27-game stretch away from Koshien Stadium drew to a close with this series, the team hoped to end on a high note. Unfortunately, the note it ended on was a muffled one.


Game 113 – Friday 8/25. Goat Hits But Flounders Mid-Game

Starting Pitchers: Koyo Aoyagi (4-3) vs. Kazuto Taguchi (10-2)

Top 1: Despite struggling against Taguchi for the last two years, our boys got to him early with a Shunsuke leadoff hit and a Kosuke Fukudome RBI double. Hanshin 1, Yomiuri 0

Bottom 1: The Giants got one right back with the opposite: a one-out double followed by a two-out RBI single (by who else, fat Abe). Hanshin 1, Yomiuri 1

Top 2: Aoyagi’s first career hit (last year) was a sacrifice bunt that was spared the fate of rolling foul by a chunk of Koshien dirt that pushed it back fair. His second career hit looked a little better. With one out and two men on, he swatted a double to center, scoring a go-ahead run. Shunsuke followed it up with an RBI hit of his own. Hanshin 3, Yomiuri 1

Bottom 5: The inning started with a single and a huge home run deep into the right field stands by their rookie catcher. The fun continued until Aoyagi was pulled with runners on the corners and two outs. His line: 4.2 IP, 79 TP, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 R, 3 K. Five runs because with the score tied, Suguru Iwazaki allowed the hit parade to continue. Both inherited runners scored, plus one more for good measure.

The lone bright spot for Hanshin was the relief work in the sixth through eighth innings: Tsuyoshi Ishizaki continues to baffle hitters, and is now spotless in 11 innings pitched since his call-up. Kazuo Itoh got the garbage-time final inning and struck out two without allowing a runner.

Final Score: Yomiuri 6, Hanshin 3. LP: Aoyagi (4-4). Team Record: 62-50-1


Game 114 – Saturday 8/26. Big Early Inning, Nohmi Gets Long-Awaited Win

Starting Pitchers: Atsushi Nohmi (3-6) vs. Tappei Tanioka (0-0)

Top 2: The Tigers had a chance in the first but were unable to convert. Here, with runners on first and second, Yoshio Itoi sent a message to the rookie hurler: get that junk out of here! Home run!


Not finished there, Hiroki Uemoto walked and Fukudome hit the first pitch he saw, and then Jason Rogers smacked a double to right center to score two more guys. Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 0

Bottom 4: Nohmi cruised until this inning. Murata cashed in one runner with a double off the wall, and Ishikawa brought in two more on a double of his own. Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 3

Top 7: Rogers ripped his second double of the night (this one down the left field line), and a couple of outs and an intentional walk later, Fumiya Hojoh gave the team a little breathing room with a single to left. Hanshin 6, Yomiuri 3

Top 8: Yuto Morikoshi, who seems like a better hitter up top than he was on the farm, walked. Then pinch hitter Shunsuke got a hit, and Fukudome fought hard for a walk to load the bases for Yusuke Ohyama. Memories of one year ago flooded my memory (when Takayama hit a grand slam as a rookie), and on a 2-1 count, Ohyama hit one deep, the fielders go back, back, back… off the top of the wall. Just missed a grand slam. But two runs scored anyways. Good enough! Hanshin 8, Yomiuri 3

Bottom 8: Marcos Mateo gave up an infield hit, a single up the middle and then an RBI to fat Abe. That’s all the Giants were able to muster the rest of the way, though…

Final Score: Hanshin 8, Yomiuri 4. WP: Nohmi (4-6). Team Record: 63-50-1


Game 115 – Saturday 8/27. Shintaro, Kentaro: One Bad Inning

Starting Pitchers: Shintaro Fujinami (3-4) vs. Seishu Hatake (3-1)

Both pitchers came out with their best stuff, and there were no runs scored through six innings. Then…

Bottom 7: Fujinami remained in the game a little too long. After getting the first out, he… beaned Murata, gave up a double, threw a wild pitch, semi-intentionally walked a batter, and took a seat. His line: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 3 R, 9 K. Kentaro Kuwahara needed just 7 pitches to give up three more hits. Ishizaki came in and another run scored on a fielder’s choice, then he walked one, then a sacrifice fly, and at last, the inning came to an end.

But the Hanshin bats replied on this day with just 2 hits. One of those, a leadoff double by Hojoh in the sixth, was followed with the classic Wacky Tomoaki bunt-before-the-pitcher’s-turn. What was the point? The double play was not a possibility. Why sacrifice the catcher’s at bat so that the pitcher would inevitably fail when his turn came up? Why not let the catcher try to hit, and if he fails, have the pitcher bunt the guy over if you’re so desperate to bunt? Argh. Anyhow…

Final Score: Yomiuri 6, Hanshin 0. LP: Fujinami (3-5). Team Record: 63-51-1


Season Series:  8 – 11 

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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.