As the Tigers’ miserable start on home soil left fans drowning their sorrows, the heavens decided to give the team a break on Friday. Continuous rain all Friday caused the night game to be canceled (and rescheduled for September 11), and gave the Tigers another day to regroup and hopefully put an end to their 5-game losing streak.
Unfortunately the Carp rained on the Tigers’ parade on Saturday, getting the better of starter Randy Messenger, chasing him by scoring 4 straight runs before any outs were recorded in the sixth. Again the Tigers bats failed to produce much early or consistently, scoring on Kosuke Fukudome’s solo shot in the second and his RBI single in the sixth. Major league returnee Hiroki Kuroda pitched effectively enough to earn the win for the Carp, who extended their season-best streak to three. Final Score: Carp 7, Tigers 2.
For Sunday’s game, Wada decided to juggle his hitting order in a big way. Tsuyoshi Nishioka led off, Yamato was back up to second, Takashi Toritani hit third and Akihito Fujii made his first start at catcher, batting eighth. Birthday boy Shintaro Fujinami (21) took the mound against newcomer Kris Johnson, and for the first time since April 3, the Tigers found themselves leading as Fujinami hit a sacrifice fly and Nishioka brought another run home in the bottom half of the second. Unfortunately the offense sputtered after that, and Fujinami gave up a number of hits before leaving the game in the seventh, down 3-2. But wait! In the bottom of the 8th inning, pinch hitter Ryota Arai drew a walk, which was followed by a dramatic Toritani home run, putting the Tigers up by a run with just three outs to go. Closer Seung-hwan Oh gave up a lead-off hit, was given a courtesy out on a sacrifice bunt, then mowed down the next two Carp hitters. The losing streak was over at last! The game also featured many fine defensive plays, including outstanding outfield catches by Fukudome and Yamato. Final Score: Tigers 4, Carp 3.
The Tigers still have their work cut out for them, having only won one game this year by more than a single point. They have not looked convincingly strong at all this season, and the fans will not be satisfied with just this one win. They are still in the lower half of the standings and need to put together a strong winning streak against the Dragons next week in Nagoya.
Series Notes: By picking up the win on Sunday, reliever Ryoma Matsuda now has half of the team’s six wins. Chalk it up to being the right pitcher at the right time. Still, when is the last time a reliever has led the team in wins this deep into the season? Should continue for awhile, as no one else has more than a win so far. Messenger, Fujinami and Akira Iwamoto have the other W’s… The Tigers tied a club record on Saturday by losing their first four games of the season at Koshien. Saturday’s loss tied the 1999 squad for futility, a club that ended up in last place. Let’s hope these Tigers avoid doing the same… Minoru Iwata missed his turn in the rotation and will likely start the first or second game of the next series. With four left-handed starting pitchers currently, the Tigers are at a disadvantage against the bulk of the league, as right-handed hitters typically hit better against southpaws… With Toritani’s bomb in the eighth, the team now has 6 on the season so far. At this point last year they had double digits already. Look for Mauro Gomez and Matt Murton to bring their big bats into the next series.