At long last, Tigers fans can breathe a sigh of relief and stop the grumbling for a day. Six straight losses — consecutive sweeps at the hands of the Dragons and Giants — put everyone in a dour mood, but tonight’s 8-2 victory against the Hiroshima Carp has many breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Surprisingly, starter Shintaro Fujinami went the distance, throwing a whopping 137 pitches. Loading the bases with the first three batters, it looked like another long night was in store for the men in white and black pinstripes. However, a weak grounder back to pitcher resulted in a double play. Then Fujinami did the unthinkable and reloaded the bases by walking the next batter. Fortunately, the next hitter flied out to left, and the threat ended without a Carp crossing the plate. Video highlights of the first inning here.
And the Tiger bats? Having scored just 7 runs in their previous 6 games, they looked to come out blazing and give their pitcher a lead. However, the first trip through the batting order took three innings, as they managed just one Murton (2-for-3) hit (which was followed by a double play). The Carp took a 1-0 lead in the third, and the way the Tiger bats were stuck in neutral, it looked like another long night.
Then something happened: Uemoto (1-for-5) flied out to open the fourth, and Imanari (0-for-1) hurt himself midway through his at bat. Saka (1-for-2) pinch-hit and immediately smacked a single to right. The inning ended eight batters later with another Uemoto out. Hit, walk, hit, hit-by-pitch, walk, hit, sacrifice fly, hit. Where was this offence the past six weeks?
The rest of the game was rather quiet, with the Tigers adding two more in the sixth and the Carp managing another run in the eighth.
Quite honestly, I did not see any reason to keep Fujinami in beyond the sixth. He is a young man and has already pitched a career high 141 innings coming into the game. He now sits at 150, and surely the Tigers hope to use him at least three more times down the stretch. Why not give his arm a break with the game out of hand? Wada had only this to say: “His pitch count got kind of high, but he was able to throw well late in the game.” To which I say, “Yes, but he didn’t HAVE to.”
Fujinami captured Hero of the Night with his first career complete game at Koshien Stadium (as a pro, that is).
Whatever. Right now, all that matters is that the Tigers are no longer on a losing streak. The gap between them at the Carp now sits at 2.5 games. Should the Tigers sweep this series, second place would definitely be in their reach. Never give up! Let’s GO TIGERS!!!
Game Notes: Imanari was injured when he fouled a pitch off. It bounced once and caromed off his left ribcage, but he clutched his right side as he walked off the field… Toritani went hitless again tonight, and is now 3-for-27 in his last 7 games. Is it time to give him some rest and let the games streak come to an end?… Tsuyoshi Nishioka did not start tonight and has just one plate appearance in two games since being called up from the farm team. Why not give him more playing time and field practice on the farm if you’re not going to use him beyond a pinch hit? Tomorrow’s matchup sees rookie Yuta Iwasada on the mound against Ohsera from the Carp.