All Hanshin starter Shinobu Fukuhara had to do to know that this was not a good day was look at who was warming up in the Hiroshima pen before the game. It was Hiroki Kuroda, who was 5-6 only because his team has trouble scoring runs. And Fukuhara was lucky not to get saddled with a defeat, as Tigers catcher Akihiro Yano homered with two gone in the ninth off of Katsuhiro Nagakawa to tie it up 2-2 to deny Kuroda his sixth win. However, neither side could dent the other's relief corps after that and it ended as a 2-2 standoff after 12 at Fukui. Hanshin still gained half a game, though, since Chunichi lost.
Fukuhara pitched well enough to win, six innings, two runs, one earned, on seven hits, but Kuroda outdid him, going seven and limiting the Tigers to a run on six hits and reducing his ERA to 2.40.
Hanshin had the bases loaded in the first, but they just cannot seem to obtain any production out of their third baseman in that situation, as birthday boy Atsushi Kataoka grounded to third. They would generate just two more knocks through six.
Hiroshima had a man on second with one out and two on with two outs in the first and stranded them. They also got a man to third with one out in the third and abandoned him.
The offensive incompetence ended briefly in the fifth, when backup catcher Yoshikazu Kura reached on an infield hit and went to second when first baseman Andy Sheets mishandled Kuroda's sac bunt. The runners moved up on a sacrifce. Shortstop Eishin Soyogi singled to center to chase Kura in. Leftfielder Tomonori Maeda singled to center and Kuroda crossed for a 2-0 lead.
But the Carp then had two on and one out in the sixth and saw that disappear on a strikeout and a groundout.
Hanshin would notch its first run in the seventh, as second baseman Atsushi Fujimoto got a 2-1 hanging slider and socked it into the rightfield seats to shrink the deficit to 2-1. Shinjiro Hiyama, pinch hitting for Fukuhara, singled to left. Shortstop Takashi Toritani smoked a rocket to the wall in center. Hiyama put it in gear as the relay got underway oin the double, the throw to the plate beating him to preserve the Hiroshima advantage.
Hiroshima loaded the bases with two away in the eighth against reliever Hirotaka Egusa, but second baseman Akihiro Higashide grounded out to kill that off.
Yano subsequently came up with two out in the ninth and smacked a deep drive to centerfield. The ball kept carrying before it landed over the wall and this was a whole new ballgame at 2-2.
Well, not really. Hiroshima would blow a two on, one out opportunity in the ninth against Jeff Williams and it went into extra innings.
Ken Takahashi and Ryuji Yokoyama governed the Tigers on an infield hit over the final three innings. Meanwhile, just for old times sake, the Carp let another scoring chance go by the wayside, this one in the tenth with two on and two outs against Kyuji Fujikawa, Soyogi striking out to cashier it.
A two out double to right in the 12th by pinch hitter Takamitsu Iio put a man in scoring positon for Hiroshima before Higashide's flyout turned the lights out.
Fujikawa extended his shutout string to 42.2 innings, passing Yutaka Enatsu for third longest in team history and the ninth longest in NPB annals.
Kuroda is eating the Tigers lunch this season, as he is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA against them in three starts. That was the reverse of 2005, when Hanshin hit him with a 1-2, 4.68.
Fujimoto owns Kuroda, going 7-18 against him over the last two years with the homer. Fujikawa's lone 2005 dinger was also against Hiroshima, that one being off of Kan Otake.
Toritani left this one wearing the golden sombrero, whififng four times as part of a 2-6 effort.
To Hiroshima manager Marty Brown, his first year in Japan just seems like Groundhog Day, his team showing an unceasing inability to come up with productive outs and to send runners home.
He did, though, get veteran outfielder Koichi Ogata back after the veteran had suffered a ring finger fracture earlier in the schedule. Ogata walked in a pinch hit at bat.
But he also lost backup receiver Kazuyoshi Kimura, who sustained a broken right thumb after Kuroda fouled a ball of of it.
For Hanshin, John Bale threw a perfect eighth and now has an ERA of 0.55.
For Hanshin, Sheets was 0-4 with a walk and three strikeouts and is at .315. Shane Spencer struckout in a pinch hit appearance and is at .253.
With a lineup full of scrubs, the Yomiuri Giants left 12 runners aboard against Yokohama starter Takumi Nasuno, who made things more difficult for himself with six walks, and were stigmatized with their seventh straight defeat 2-1 at Yokohama Stadium. That also made it 12 straight road losses for the kyojin and a team worst tying 16 for the month. Furthermore, Yomiuri starter Tetsuya Utsumi contributed to his own misfortune in what was otherwise a very credible outing by making a wild pickoff throw and then hanging a changeup in the third inning, when the Stars snatched both of their runs, to fall to 5-7. He hasn't won since May 24th.
Nasuno stuck it out for seven shutout innings of six hit ball despite facing at least one runner in scoring position in four of those frames in a tilt that Yokohama skipper Kazuhiko Ushijima confessed "made my stomach hurt."
Yomiuri had two on and one out with first baseman Seung-yeop Lee at the dish in the first, but he struckout for the first of three times in the contest and third baseman Joe Dillon flied out to right.
Yokohama did something similar in the bottom stanza, as Utsumi walked a pair with one out and a strikeout and a flyout made it as past tense as the Macarena.
Nasuno permitted just one baserunner over the following two innings and was compensated for it, as centerfielder Masaaki Koike singled to center with one out in the third and rightfielder Tatsuhiko Kinjo singled to right. Utsumi went after Koike at second and the ball ended up in centerfield and Koike hustled over to third. Utsumi then ran a changeup up to third baseman Shuichi Murata, who singled into left (Utsumi was lucky that didn't become a three run homer) to cash Koike in. Second baseman Seiichi Uchikawa singled to right to pack the sacks. Leftfielder Katsuaki Furuki singled to left and Kinjo tagged up and scurried in for a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, Yomiuri had two on and nobody out and the bags juiced with two gone and squandered it.
Two innings later, Nasuno walked two batters with two outs and that was binned on a groundout.
The closest that the Giants would come to pushing a run across for the initial eight innings was in the seventh, when shortstop Tomohiro Nioka singled to center with two outs and Lee walked. Dillon singled to left. Nioka made the turn around third and sprinted for home. Furuki's throw, however, got to catcher Ryoji Aikawa in time and Nioka was a goner.
Nioka got real gone in the ninth when he pounded a 96mph fastball from closer Mark Kroon over the leftcenterfield wall with two outs, but Kroon struck Lee out to put it in the books.
Yomiuri has lost seven straight twice this seaosn, the first time ever that has happened to the team. The consecutive road setbacks is also a new club worst. This was Nasuno's first career triumph against the Giants.
Nioka now has 11 three hits or more games in 2006 and is at .338.
Giants reliever Kentaro Nishimura struckout three and was clocked at 94mph during his two scoreless innings of one hit pitching.
Yomiuri helmsman Tatsunori Hara went out to argue on a fly ball he thought that Koike had trapped in the eighth, but to no avail.
Murata has 63 RBIs, really the lone bright spot for a lineup that has been suprisingly unproductive.
For Yomiuri, Lee was 1-4 and is at .333. Dillon was 1-3 with a walk and is at .236.
Yakult lefthander Shugo Fujii lent the Chunichi Dragons just two opportunities for a home invasion and the Nagoya crew made only one of them work, and for rather minimal damage at that, while Yakult was somewhat more efficient against Dragons starter Kenta Asakura and carved out a 3-1 victory at Meiji Jingu Stadium. Fujii struckout ten as part of his seven inning, one run on five hits night to improve to 6-5.
Asakura wasn't bad, three runs, two earned, on six hits in six innings, but he was dunned by his third kuroiboshi nevertheless because he was swamped by two out knocks.
Both men had perfect games going for the first three innings, Fujii fanning six of nine. But in the fourth, Chunichi shortstop Hirokazu Ibata reached on an infield hit with one out and catcher Motonobu Tanishige singled to right, Ibata speeding into third. First baseman Tyrone Woods doubled to left to hail Ibata in. Leftfielder Alex Ochoa walked to load the bases. However, the next two men struckout and it remained 1-0.
Yakult charged right back in their ups, as third baseman Akinori Iwamura tripled to right with two down and crossed on leftfielder Alex Ramirez' singled to right to level it at 1-1. They would eventually fill the bases, but pinch hitter Katsuyuki Dobashi struckout.
Swallows catcher Tomohito Yoneno then began the bottom of the fifth with an infield hit and, one out later, went to second on a groundout. First baseman Adam Riggs singled to center and Yoneno rumbled in for a 2-1 advantage.
Following a failure to convert by Chunichi on a three on, two out situation in the top of the inning, Yakult tacked on another in the sixth when Ramirez tripled to rightcenter. But the relay went bad when centerfielder Hidenori Kuramoto threw the ball away and Ramirez logged in at home to make it 3-1.
Chunichi was supressed on a hit over the final three innings and this baby was a memory, Shohei Tateyama acquiring his first career save in the ninth.
For Yakult, Riggs was 1-4 with two strikeouts and is at .286. Ramirez was 2-4 and is at .298. Second baseman Greg LaRocca was 0-2 with an HBP and is at .316.
For Chunichi, Woods was 3-4 and is at .290. Ochoa was 0-2 with two walks and is at .297.
Oxspring threw four perfect innings in the Western League on the 24th and
will make a start at the top level against Yomiuri this weekend. Tuesday,
he threw about 50 pitches in the bullpen as a tuneup.
Yakult It was the Latin American experience full stop Tuesday, as a famous Columbian singer, whose name I can't make out, stopped by for a visit with the Venezuelan Swallows leftfielder Alex Ramirez. The two men then repaired to a Brazilian restaurant. The singer is in Japan right now promoting his newest release.
Yokohama The Bay Stars will reportedly be going after Nissan Motors righthander Kentaro Takasaki for the November draft. Takasaki has been clocked as high as 92mph.
Yomiuri The chairman of the Central League has once again ankled a Giants protest over the call in a June 11th game nullifying a Seung-yeop Lee two run homer, reiterating that the umpire's ruling is final. Similar protests about what they say were inaccurate calls by umpires issued by Hanshin and Yakult were also roundfiled. Yomiuri vows to take this matter up at un upcoming league meeting. "Debatable matters shouldn't be rejected out of hand," claimed one Giants bigwig.
Look, the fact is that NPB has tolerated second rate officiating for decades. Since the Giants have extensive influence within baseball, they have perhaps been the chief problem in this regard and there have often been accusations that umpires tend to make calls favorable to the kyojin in the same way that some college basketball teams coimplain about the rulings in Duke University baketball matches.
Injured catcher Shinnosuke Abe was able to take batting practice with no problem Tuesday. He will hit again Wednesday and could ba back in the lineup as soon as Thursday.
Outfielder Yoshinobu Takahashi took some fly balls in the outfield and hit at what he termed "70% of full strength" for 30 minutes in the batting cage. They hope he will return on the 30th,. but that sounds rather premature to me. He has been out with a shoulder injury.
Miscellaneous Here's to hoping for a complete recovery for ESPN contributor Peter Gammons, 61, who suffered a cerebral aneurysm Tuesday. He is currently in intensive care after brain surgery. I'm not a fan of Gammons myself, but nobody deserves that. And all my best to his wife, who must be sick with worry.
Seattle catcher Kenji Johjima homered twice for a total of five RBIs and walked in five times up in an 11-7 victory over Arizona Tuesday. Johjima didn't play Sunday because he was being rested, but he also went yard twice Saturday. He said afterward that he couldn't remember if he had every homered twice in back to back games. A check of his homers in the Data Warehouse doens't show Johjima doing that, though he did have one three homer game during the last two years. It is the first time in MLB history that a Japanese has had consecutive multihomer games. He is still hurting form a vicious foul tip off of his knee he incurred recently, but he now has ten homers and a .293 average.
Mariners rightfielder Ichiro Suzuki was 1-4 with a walk and a stolen base and is at .357.
The Chicago White Sox claimed their 50th win with a 4-2 decision over Pittsburgh. Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi was 3-5 and made a nifty sliding catch down the rightfield line ona little fly ball behind first base. The former Daiei Hawk is now hitting .297.
Colorado minor league infielder Kazuo Matsui was given the okay to step up his rehab from a back problem Tuesday.
Milwaukee righty Tomokazu Ohka threw 75 pitches during a five inning simulated game Tuesday down in the minors. He will be making some rehab starts in the next few weeksas he comes back from a shoulder malady.
Cardinals outfielder So Taguchi was 0-4 against Cleveland Tuesday in a 3-1 loss. St. Louis has now lost eight in a row for the first time in 18 years.
Call it the Mauer Effect. With Ichiro
tearing it up right now and appearing headed for another all star starting
slot, the Japanese press has turned its attention to Minnesota catcher
Joe Mauer because he is keeping Ichiro out of first place in the American
League batting race by hitting at a near .390 clip. In fact, Sports
Nippon frowned on this state of affairs with a headline that used the
word for "shove aside" to describe how Mauer is fending the Mariners all
star off by rudely collecting nine hits in his last two