The Yomiuri Giants aren’t a fourth place team on paper. With three of the best starters in the Central, and a lineup of proven veteran hitters and free agents, they should be contending for the pennant. And when they play the Hanshin Tigers, they look like a pennant team. The reality in this series was that they looked like they wanted to win a whole lot more than Hanshin did – at least late in games.
Game 128 – Tuesday 9/12. Blown Lead, Blown Chances Lead to Sister Kisser
Starting Pitchers: Shintaro Fujinami (3-5) vs. Kazuto Taguchi (12-3)
Bottom 1: A couple of one-out hits by Hiroki Uemoto and Yoshio Itoi gave Kosuke Fukudome a chance to open the scoring. He did not disappoint, hitting a ball up the middle to open the scoring early. Against a pitcher who has dominated us for the past two seasons, this was the kind of start we needed. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 0
Bottom 2: After two quick outs, it looked like this inning would end with no damage. But Fujinami walked, Shunsuke advanced him with a hit, and Uemoto brought him home. Itoi and Fukudome repeated the feat, and the lead looked insurmountable. Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 0
Top 3: Fujinami cruised through the first two innings, retiring hitters in order. Unfortunately, his strong outing ended with a solo home run to Chono to start off this inning. Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 1
Top 4: But it gets uglier. He plunked Sakamoto (I’m OK with that) but after getting Abe out, he walked one and gave up two straight hits to score a few runs. His night ended prematurely (and he got sent to the farm the next day) with this line: 3.1 IP, 71 TP, 4 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 4 R, 3 K. Tsuyoshi Ishizaki came in and put an end to the Giants’ momentum. Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 4
Things remained the same thanks to solid relief pitching from both teams. Until…
Top 9: Rafael Dolis was asked to protect a one-run lead. The first batter hit a sharp grounder to second, which knocked Morikoshi down. Then a walk. Then a fluttering ball to shallow left. Yamato and Fukudome both charged the ball from opposite sides. Neither made the catch, but the runners were forced to stay near their bases. Fukudome tried the force out at third, but his throw was errant, and the tying run scored. Runners on second and third with no outs. But Dolis held strong. K, K, nice catch by Takashi Toritani on a liner heading foul.
And that’s how the ballgame ended. The Tigers got a runner to third base in the ninth and eleventh, but nothing became of it. The Giants had runners on second and third with one out in the twelfth. But nothing became of it. We have a sister-kisser.
Final Score: Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 5. Team Record: 71-55-2
Game 129 – Wednesday 9/13. Uglyball
Starting Pitchers: Minoru Iwata (2-0) vs. Mitsuo Yoshikawa (0-2)
It took two innings for the Giants to build up a 6-0 lead. You don’t need the details. Iwata lasted only until his turn in the order came up in the bottom of the third (by which time Daikan Yoh already had three hits). His line: 3 IP, 79 TP, 8 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 K.
Daiki Enokida pitched three relief innings, allowing an unearned run thanks to another error by the fielders. There were also a lot of bad plays that did not make it into the record books.
The Tigers bats were active all night, compiling an impressive 11 hits and earning 4 walks. But it wasn’t until the bottom of the ninth that Itoi crushed his 14th bomb of the year.
Final Score: Yomiuri 7, Hanshin 2. LP: Iwata (2-2). Team Record: 71-56-2
Game 130 – Thursday 9/14. Stopped the Carp from Clinching
Starting Pitchers: Takumi Akiyama (12-5) vs. Tomoyuki Sugano (15-5)
Bottom 1: Unbelievably, the Tigers got to Sugano early. Uemoto one-out hit. Itoi 11-pitch single. Stolen base. Yusuke Ohyama seeing-eye single puts two on the board. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 0
Top 6: Akiyama cruised for five innings, then ran into a little trouble. McGehee doubled to left (the throw from Fukudome looked good but the ump called him safe). Fortunately, he was saved when Ohyama made a great catch in foul territory and then threw out the foolish McGehee who was trying to advance to third. For some reason, that was the end of Akiyama’s night. 6 IP, 74 TP, 4 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 1 K
Top 8: Kentaro Kuwahara looked a little flat, giving up a run on three straight hits. He bailed himself out with a double play to McGehee. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 1
Top 9: Dolis came in, and fat Abe took a ball to the right field fence, thanks to a little help from the wind. A couple of batters later, the tying run crossed home on a little Chono poke through the infield. Dolis struck out Usami to end the inning. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 2
Hanshin had chances in the ninth and eleventh to finish things off, putting a man on second base in each, but without results. Ishizaki threw two perfect innings, ensuring at least a tie for the Tigers, thereby preventing the Carp from clinching the pennant on this night.
Bottom 12: After Yamato led off with a miracle hit (from the left side), Kanemoto elected to waste two outs bunting the runner into scoring position. The third out didn’t take much effort, either. Second sister kisser of the series.
Final Score: Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 2. Team Record: 71-56-3