@ BayStars – September 27-29 – Playoff Spot Clinched

This shouldn’t have been a “must win” series. By now, Hanshin should have locked up second place. Unfortunately, life as a Tigers fan is never that easy. Two straight shutout losses to these BayStars left the team up just 3.5 games with 7 to go. Fortunately, now with 4 games to go, the gap is the same.

Game 137 – Wednesday 9/28. Bullpen Shines, Itoi Rakes, Tie Game

Starting Pitchers: Takumi Akiyama (12-6) vs. Haruhiro Hamaguchi (9-6)

Bottom 1: First pitch, first hit. With two outs and Lopez up, kablamo. Instant deficit. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 2

Bottom 2: Another leadoff hit, this one bouncing off second base, and then another hit put Akiyama in another bind. A bunt and strikeout later, he had a chance at getting out of the jam. Unfortunately, a bloop single to center scored two more runs. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 4

Top 6: With Akiyama long gone (4 IP, 60 TP, 7 H, 0 BB, 4 R, 2 K), Hiroki Uemoto got a one-out single, which was followed up by ball-tattoo artist Yoshio Itoi

But that was not all. Kosuke Fukudome took a free base, and then Masahiro Nakatani hit one to the gap in left-center. The middle-aged-wonder made it all the way around from first, though it took video replay for the umps to confirm that he was safe. Hanshin 3, Yokohama 4

Top 9: Shun Takayama fluked an infield single to lead off the inning. A couple of batters later, Itoi came through again, punching one through the right side of the infield. With the bases loaded and one out, though, that was all for the Tigers. Hanshin 4, Yokohama 4

The relievers held tough, pitching 8 innings of shutout ball. And honestly at this stage of the season, a tie is almost as good as a win. Just not in the hearts of fans.

Final Score: Hanshin 4, Yokohama 4. Team Record: 73-60-4

Game 138 – Thursday 9/28. Hit Parade in the Rain; Nohmi Goes Distance

Starting Pitchers: Atsushi Nohmi (5-6) vs. Shoichi Inoh (6-9)

Top 3: Nohmi got the rally going with his bat. His single was followed by another by Shunsuke, then an Itoi walk. With the bases loaded, Fukudome slapped one through the left side of the infield to score two. Nakatani cashed in two more with a double to the left-center gap, and then Yamato pushed a fifth run across home with an opposite field single. Hanshin 5, Yokohama 0

Top 4: Shunsuke hit a one-out double, and came home on an Itoi double off the wall. (Have you noticed he’s been raking? He had a home run taken away on a video replay in the first, too.) Hanshin 6, Yokohama 0

Top 5: Takashi Toritani got his second of three hits on the night, and was brought home on a Taichi Okazaki home run (!) Hanshin 8, Yokohama 0

Top 6: The scoring did not end here, folks. Fukudome collected his third and fourth RBIs on the night with a double off the left field wall, and he would come around to score on another Yamato slapper the opposite way. Hanshin 11, Yokohama 0

Bottom 6: At long last, they cracked Nohmi, but only with a bit of help from our defense. A well-placed line drive scampered under Nakatani’s glove in left, putting Kuramoto on third with no outs. He would come home on a grounder. Hanshin 11, Yokohama 1

Bottom 7: Just the third hit that Nohmi gave up on the night (this one to Kajitani) ended up in the right field stands, but it only put a small dent in the score.

And that was it. Nohmi went the distance: 9 IP, 93 TP, 4 H, 1 BB, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 K. Great pitching and needless to say, great hitting, too!

Final Score: Hanshin 11, Yokohama 2. WP: Nohmi (6-6). Team Record: 74-60-4

Game 139 – Friday 9/29. Beaten by HRs 99,998 and 100,001 in NPB History

Starting Pitchers: Luis Mendoza (0-1) vs. Kenta Ishida (5-6)

Bottom 4: It took awhile, but the BayStars bats got to Mendoza. A walk to Tsutsugoh was followed by a single, and then a 3-run home run to their catcher, Tobashira. At inning’s end, Mendoza was pulled (4 IP, 60 TP, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 R, 3 K) for the free swinging Ryota Arai, who struck out in the top of the fifth. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 3

Bottom 6: Reliever Suguru Iwazaki was spared the infamy of giving up NPB’s 100,000th home run, since Chris Marrero of the Orix Buffaloes hit that home run in a PL game. But Tsutsugoh got all of Iwazaki’s changeup, and the deficit increased by 60%. But there was more. ‘Zaki loaded the bases without recording an out, and then somehow got out of the inning allowing just one extra run. Hanshin 0, Yokohama 6

Top 7: Hello, Takayama. Where’s your power been all this time? Pinch hitting for Iwazaki, he did this. Hanshin 1, Yokohama 6

Top 8: Itoi and Fukudome got themselves into scoring position with no outs, and Nakatani grounded out to bring Itoi home. That was all the scoring, unfortunately.

Final Score: Yokohama 6, Hanshin 2. LP: Mendoza (0-2). Team Record: 74-61-4

Season Series:  14 (1) 10 

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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.