@ Giants – Sept 30-Oct 1 – Locked Up Second, Ousted Rabbits

The Yomiuri Giants have gotten the better of us most of the year, especially on our home turf. Though our spot in the playoffs was secure, second was still up for grabs, and the Giants were looking to complete their comeback attempt at sneaking into third. Though the BayStars shut us out in two straight at Koshien and then split a 3-game series with us on their turf, they are still the more desirable first round matchup. So these games in Tokyo were more than just garbage time games. They were a chance to determine part of our postseason fate. And determine it, we did!

Game 140 – Saturday 9/30. Clinching 2nd, Ending September Right

Starting Pitchers: Yuta Iwasada (4-10, 5.13 ERA) vs. Seishu Hatake (6-3, 2.73 ERA)

Top 1: Shunsuke led off with a double, and while Hiroki Uemoto was attempting a bunt, he got plunked in the head. That was the end of Hatake’s night (after just 4 pitches). Kosuke Fukudome grounded out to second, scoring the game’s first run. Hanshin 1, Yomiuri 0

Top 2: Ryutaro Umeno hit one up the middle for a single, got bunted into scoring position, and came home on a Shunsuke single to right center. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 0

Bottom 2: Not that he was dominant tonight by any means, but Iwasada’s one costly mistake was to Murata, who hit a laser into the left field stands. Hanshin 2, Yomiuri 1

Bottom 5: With two outs and runners on first and second, Iwasada coaxed an infield fly out of fat Abe for the third out. It put him in line for the win, and that was the end of his night: 5 IP, 96 TP, 5 H, 3 BB, 1 R, 6 K

Top 7: Shunsuke was right back at it, drilling a high and outside Scott Mathieson fastball into the bottom row of the right field stands. Hanshin 3, Yomiuri 1

Top 8: With Mathieson still on the bump, Yusuke Ohyama hit his second double of the night, followed by a Yamato single, putting runners on the corners for Umeno. He hit one off Mathieson’s leg (didn’t break it, though) and all runners were safe, including Ohyama at home. Then Masahiro Nakatani stepped up as pinch hitter and hit a broken bat single just over short, scoring another insurance run.

And that was all she wrote. Once again, the Hanshin bullpen was ultra-efficient, allowing no hits in four innings of work. Second place is ours!

Final Score: Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 1. WP: Iwasada (5-10). Team Record: 75-61-4

Game 141 – Sunday 10/1. Beating Taguchi at Last, Ending Gs’ Postseason Hopes

Starting Pitchers: Minoru Iwata (2-2, 4.31 ERA) vs. Kazuto Taguchi (13-3, 2.92 ERA)

The fact remains: Hanshin hasn’t beaten Taguchi since April 2015. The last time we faced him, we put up 5 runs in the game’s first 2 innings, only to blow the lead and settle for a tie. So today’s game held special meeting, if only just to tag him with a loss at long last.

Top 3: 野球はツーアウトから。Baseball starts after two outs. And it did here. Shunsuke and Uemoto singled to put runners on the corners. Yoshio Itoi flared a Texas Leaguer into shallow left to open the scoring, Nakatani walked, and Ohyama hit one hard right back at the pitcher. It glanced off his leg and into right center, scoring two. Hanshin 3, Yomiuri 0

Bottom 4: For the second straight game, Murata hit a rope to left, breaking the shutout. After that, Iwata let a couple more guys on base, and on a squeeze play by Kobayashi, the Giants drew to within one. Hanshin 3, Yomiuri 2

Top 5: Taguchi was gone already, and yesterday’s ejectee, Hatake, was in. After all, he only threw 4 pitches on Saturday before his ejection. He was to face the man he hit in the head, Uemoto. Have a look at the first two pitches he threw. Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 2

Bottom 5: Iwata retired the first hitter, allowed a hit to McGehee, and then induced a ground play to Sakamoto. His day ended with the following line: 5 IP, 90 TP, 5 H, 2 BB, 2 R, 2 K

The score remained the same until…

Bottom 9: Rafael Dolis came in and retired the first hitter. But when the second guy reached base on a single, he struggled. RBI double, fly out, RBI single. The walk off man was at the plate… but a ground out to pitcher sealed the win. Minutes later, when the BayStars finished off their game against the Carp (winning 13-7), the Giants were officially eliminated from the playoffs. It would be their first time not reaching the Climax Series. Ever. And we couldn’t be happier.

Final Score: Hanshin 5, Yomiuri 4. WP: Iwata (3-2). SV: Dolis (36) Team Record: 76-61-4

Season Series:  10 (2) 13 

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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.