vs. BayStars – September 8-10 – Showing Grit, Sweeping Stars

The gap has shortened once again. With hopes of first place completely vanished, and eight matches remaining against these Yokohama DeNA BayStars, this series was crucial in establishing that (a) second place is OURS, and that (b) if we meet in the Climax Series, it won’t be easy for them. In three days, the Tigers undid what happened earlier in the week against the Carp. And they sent a strong message to the ‘Stars, too.

Game 125 – Friday 9/8. Tori Flies Into Golden Players Club

Starting Pitchers: Atsushi Nohmi (5-6) vs. Shoichi Inoh (5-8)

Top 1: It only took 5 pitches for Nohmi to give up the game’s first run on a hit, bunt, hit combo. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 1

Top 2: This time around it was a walk, bunt, hit combination that added to the deficit. Nohmi not looking too crisp. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 2

Bottom 2: With a man on first via the walk, Takashi Toritani took a 2-0 forkball and split the outfield for an RBI double. It was the 2000th hit of his illustrious career.

A couple of batters later, Seishiro Sakamoto hit a moon shot just right of the left field pole, giving the Tigers the lead. For now. Hanshin 3, Yokohama 2

Top 3: For the third straight inning, Nohmi coughs up a run. This one was a no-doubter by Tsutsugoh (his name comes up frequently in recaps, doesn’t it?). Hanshin 3, Yokohama 3

Top 6: Fortunately, Nohmi settled in nicely for the next three frames, and got out of this inning cleanly to end the night with the following line: 6 IP, 97 TP, 4 H, 3 BB, 3 R, 7 K

Bottom 7: Unfortunately, it meant he didn’t stick around long enough for the win. But the Tigers really went to work in the game’s final two innings. Tsuyoshi Nishioka came up with the bases loaded (three straight singles) and added one of his own to give the Tigers the lead back. Kosuke Fukudome hit a sacrifice fly to pad that lead a little more. Hanshin 5, Yokohama 3

Bottom 8: Masahiro Nakatani stroked a double to the corner in left, Toritani walked, and the ensuing bunt attempt was poorly thrown away at third, scoring a run. Then Sakamoto smoked a single past a drawn in infield to score two more.

Final Score: Hanshin 8, Yokohama 3. WP: Suguru Iwazaki (4-0). Team Record: 69-55-1

Game 126 – Saturday 9/9. The Bird’s Encore

Starting Pitchers: Taiki Ono (1-7) vs. Kenta Ishida (4-6)

Bottom 1: Shunsuke led off with a single to left, which was followed by a Hiroki Uemoto walk. A couple of BayStars errors later and we have ourselves a lead. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 0

Top 7: Ono was about as good as we have ever seen him in this one. I mean, he struck out Tsutsugoh in the previous inning to avoid giving up a run. Unfortunately, his shutout came to an end here, as a Kajitani double scored Miyazaki from first. Ono finished the inning with this line: 7 IP, 93 TP, 6 H, 0 BB, 1 R, 9 K. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 1

Our relievers were dynamite tonight. Kentaro Kuwahara struck out the side in the 8th. Rafael Dolis did the same in the 9th. Marcos Mateo allowed a single, but struck out three in the 10th. The lone shaky inning was the 11th, but no damage came of it. Kyuji Fujikawa concluded the Hanshin pitching night with two more strikeouts, and putting the team in a position for…

Bottom 12: With just an out left in the game, Yoshio Itoi doubled, and a couple of walks loaded the bases for Toritani, Mr. 2000. Make that 2001!

Final Score: Hanshin 2x, Yokohama 1. WP: Fujikawa (3-0). Team Record: 70-55-1

Game 127 – Sunday 9/10. 9-Round Slugfest Ends in KO

Starting Pitchers: Luis Mendoza (0-1) vs. Haruhiro Hamaguchi (9-5)

Bottom 1: The Tigers took the DeLorean back to 2015 under Wada. Itoi singled, Shunsuke bunted and Fukudome singled him in for an all-important first run. (Against Hamaguchi, one run is about all we tend to get). Hanshin 1, Yokohama 0

Top 2: Mendoza loaded the bases with two hits and a walk, then got one out before a 2-RBI single and an RBI double put the home team in a hole. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 3

Bottom 2: The bottom half of the order got it done, as Yamato doubled, Sakamoto singled and then Mendoza helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly. Hanshin 2, Yokohama 3

Bottom 3: Fukudome legged out a triple and got cashed in on a Yusuke Ohyama double. A few guys later (an out and three walks) and we had the lead back. Hanshin 4, Yokohama 3

Bottom 4: On a full count, Itoi hit an opposite field home run to extend the lead and give us five runs against the pitcher that previously dominated us this season. Hanshin 5, Yokohama 3

Top 5: Just an Ohyama error prevented Mendoza from throwing a clean inning. Either way, his night ended here with this line: 5 IP, 93 TP, 6 H, 2 BB, 3 R, 1 K. He was in line for the win, except…

Top 6: Daiki Enokida came in and gave up three hits while recording just one out. He left right after the score changed. Hanshin 5, Yokohama 4

Top 7: The ‘Stars tied up the game on a Toritani error. Hanshin 5, Yokohama 5

Top 8: Then they got a lead when Shibata hit his first career home run – off Kuwahara. Hanshin 5, Yokohama 6

Bottom 8: The walk parade began. Shunsuke, take your base. Fukudome hit. Wild pitch. Nakatani, take your base. They’re loaded. So what happens? Yuto Morikoshi checks his swing just enough to give us the game-tying RBI on a walk. Hanshin 6, Yokohama 6

Bottom 9: The walk parade continued. Toritani, take your base. Itoi hit. Shunsuke bunt failure. Wild pitch. Fukudome, take your base. Bags juiced. Ohyama strikeout. The game is in the hands of Hayata Itoh. With two balls and two strikes on him…

Final Score: Hanshin 7x, Yokohama 6. WP: Dolis (4-4). Team Record: 71-55-1

Season Series:  13 – 7 

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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.