vs. Dragons – October 10 – An Almost Storybook Ending

Instead of risking a retirement game in the rain on October 6, the club elected to postpone the last game of the season until the 10th. The result could be that the anticipated starting rotation for the Climax Series against the BayStars could have to be shifted. But either way, ending the season on a strong note against the Chunichi Dragons was a must. The game was about as perfect as you could ask from the home boys.

Game 143 – Tuesday 10/10. Our Ace is BACK!

Starting Pitchers: Randy Messenger (11-5, 2.46 ERA) vs. Jordan Norberto (6-3, 2.30 ERA)

Top 1: All it took was seven pitches for Randy to show the team and the entire Central League that he is back from his injury and means business. Three up, three down.

Bottom 1: Kai Ueda hit a one-out single to center, advanced to second on a grounder, and scored on Kosuke Fukudome‘s single to shallow right. Hanshin 1, Chunichi 0

Top 4: Messenger allowed a single in the 2nd, but mowed down seven straight on strikes (tying a club record) and ended his night after four. His line: 4 IP, 57 TP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 8 K.

Top 5: Tsuyoshi Ishizaki took over and found himself in a bind after walking one and allowing a hit to another. With runners on the corners and two outs, he was bailed out when Fukudome made an outstanding diving catch in shallow left.

Bottom 5: That same Fukudome became the third man on base (after a Shun Takayama double and an Ueda walk). Yusuke Ohyama blasted a triple to the right center gap, bringing all three men home.Even bigger than that, though, was the next batter. Takashi Toritani got his 1000th career walk! Hanshin 4, Chunichi 0

Bottom 6: Ryota Arai, who announced his retirement earlier in the day, came in as a pinch hitter and grounded out to short.

Bottom 7: Fukudome and Ohyama hit back-to-back jacks to extend the lead. Hanshin 6, Chunichi 0

Top 8: Yuya Andoh, who was also playing in his final game as a pro, took the mound. The intention was to let him throw a full inning, but he gave up a solo home run to the first guy, and was saved by a nice play at third by Ryota, recording his one and only out.

And that was it. Ryota got one more at bat, but flied out to left. Hiroto Saiki came in and got 5 outs to finish the ball game and the season. Second straight year that the last out was made by a rookie high school draft pick.

Final Score: Hanshin 6, Chunichi 1. WP: Ishizaki (1-1). Team Record: 78-61-4

Season Series:  16 – 9 

Hey, cheer up Ryota! You got more time to admire yourself in the mirror now!

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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.