With the Chunichi Dragons dropping a decision to Yokohama, the Hanshin Tigers now find themselves back within four games of the Central League frontrunners with plenty of time to make that up because they annihilated the Yakult Swallows 9-1 Tuesday at Koshien Stadium. Naohisa Sugiyama, who was all but useless the first half of the schedule, is now finding firmer footing, as he went all the way on five hits and struckout five while walking none on a very nice 113 pitches for his third win.
Ryo Kawashima started for the Swallows and still isn't ready for prime time, as he was melvined for six runs on eight hits in five innings and is now 0-2.
Sugiyama's greatest challenge in the match was in the second, as leftfielder Alex Ramirez singled to right and rightfielder Mitsuru Manaka singled to center. They were advanced on a sacrifice. But with the infield up, catcher Tomohito Yoneno, who has seen his average sink like a stone recently, grounded to short and shortstop Noriyuki Shiroishi struckout and the opportunity went by the wayside for the Swallows. Sugiyama then found a groove and retired 18 of the next 20 hitters, 12 of those on ground balls.
Hanshin then took this thing over, as catcher Akihiro Yano walked in the third and second baseman Atsushi Fujimoto tripled to the gap in rightcenter to plate Yano. Sugiyama doubled down the rightfield line for an RBI and a 2-0 lead.
The Tigers had two on and one out in the fifth and didn't convert there. They did better in the sixth. Third baseman Kentaro Sekimoto clobbered a first pitch cutter on the outer half and parked it in the leftfield stands. First baseman Andy Sheets walked. Leftfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto singled to center. Rightfielder Osamu Hamanaka singled to center to cash Sheets in. Shortstop Takashi Toritani walked to pack the sacks. Yano doubled to left to drive in two more and stretch it to 6-0 and knock Kawashima out of the ballgame in favor of Masaru Sato. One out later, manager Akinobu Okada ordered up the squeeze. The Swallows somehow ferreted it out and Sato threw what was basically a pitchout. Sugiyama made a game lunge for the ball but didn't have a chance and Toritani was a dead man. Sugiyama subsequently struckout to end the inning.
Hanshin then jumped on reliever Sato in the seventh when Sekimoto singled to right with one out and Sheets walked. Kanemoto grounded to first baseman Adam Riggs, who misplayed it, and Sekimoto negotiated his way to the promised land. One out later, Toritani walked. Yano singled to right ao show both Sheets and Kanemoto in to make it 9-0.
Riggs atoned for the miscue by taking Sugiyama to the downs in left with one out in the ninth to avoid the humiliation of being blanked, but the next two went away meekly and the home folks had something to celebrate.
Hanshin is now a season high 18 over .500. Sugiyama was clocked at 92mph.
For Yakult, Riggs was 1-4 and is at .298. Ramirez was 1-4 and is at .276.
For Hanshin, Sheets was 0-3 with two walks and is at .309.
A bases loaded homer by third baseman Hiroki Kokubo in the eighth inning enabled the Yomiuri Giants to surmount a 4-3 deficit and snag a 7-5 victory at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium against the Carp Tuesday. Jeremy Powell started for Yomiuri and had one of his worst starts of the year,. 5.1 innings, four runs, eight hits, and he skived off without a decision. Instead, reliever Masanori Hayashi evened his record at 4-4 with a scoreless one third of an inning.
Rookie Shinjiro Kojima started for Hiroshima and did a pretty nice job. He spun five innings of one run, two hit ball and struckout six before the bullpen committed arson and turned a possible win into ashes.
The fish had a man on third with two outs in the first and abandoned him to the elements. But in the second, centerfielder Shigeru Morikasa doubled to rightcenter and first baseman Takamitsu Io walked. Catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara singled to center to chase Morikasa in. Kojima sacrificed the runners over. Shortstop Eishin Soyogi singled to right for an RBI and a 2-0 lead. A groundout and a strikeout hindered further home invasions.
Kojima one hit the Giants over the initial third of the evening. However, in the fourth, leftfielder Yoshinobu Takahashi terminated a 111 plate appearance homerless streak by drilling a shot into the rightfield seats to make it 2-1. Kojima then retired the next six hitters to finish his assignment.
Hiroshima enhanced its position in the sixth when leftfielder Tomonori Maeda doubled into the rightfield corner and moved to third on a groundout. Io singled to right to redeem Maeda. Ishihara singled to left. Koichi Ogata was sent up to pinch hit for the pitcher and singled to left to slingshot Io in and put it at 4-1.
Ken Takahashi took the hill for the seventh for the Carp and first baseman Seung-yeop Lee reached on Io's error. Two outs later, shortstop Tomohiro Nioka got an 88mph fastball that was up in the zone and socked it into the centerfield bleachers to draw within 4-3.
Tomohiro Umetsu was at the center of the diamond in the eighth for the Carp and centerfielder Takahiro Suzuki singled to center with two gone. Katsuhiro Nagakawa was summoned from the bullpen and Takahashi walked. Lee also worked a base on balls to fill the bags. Kokubo went up looking for a heater and got a first pitch 90mph offering that was down and over the middle of the plate and pasted it over the leftfield wall for his second granny of the year and his 11th lifetime to take a 7-4 advantage.
Hisanori Takahashi was inserted to close for Yomiuri and Soyogi thumped one into the leftfield seats to contract the disparity to 7-5. Takahashi, though, retired three of the next four hitters to ice it.
This was Hayashi's 24th birthday, so he had a very good day.
Takahashi was plunked in the shoulder in the first and it bothered him the rest of the game, but not to the point where he felt it necessary to come out.
Veteran second baseman Toshihisa Nishi made his first start for the Giants since July 29th and went 0-3 to decline to .179.
For you major league scouts out there who might be wondering how to deal with Lee when he goes to the big leagues next season, he couldn't do anything with Kojima's slow curve balls, striking out both times he faced the youngster.
For Yomiuri, Lee was 0-3 with a walk and two strikeouts and is at .318. Powell was 0-2 and is at .104.
A three run homer in the third by centerfielder Yuki Yoshimura highlighted a five run bonanza by the Yokohama Bay Stars as they piled up a 7-0 lead and then held on to throw a monkey wrench into the Chunichi Dragons plans to make more progress toward clinching the pennant with a 8-5 triumph at Yokohama Stadium. Kenichi Nakata started for the Nagoya nine and was rocked for seven runs and seven hits in three innings and was off the roster by night's end due to a demotion after accepting his fourth defeat.
Naoki Mitsuhashi started for Yokohama and was pulled in the fifth after being dunned for four runs and seven hits, so the win went to reliever Takeharu Kato, who improved to 8-5.
Yokohama second baseman Kazuya Fujita singled to center with one out in the first and rightfielder Tatsuhiko Kinjo went gorilla on a Nakata delivery and lost it in the rightfield stands for a 2-0 lead.
Chunichi had two on and two out in the third and wasted it. Yokohama then put this one in the bank. Shortstop Takuro Ishii and Fujita each legged out infield hits. Kinjo walked to load the bases. Third baseman Shuichi Murata doubled to left and two came home. Yoshimura got a hanging forkball and monstered it over the centerfield wall to make it 7-0.
But in the fourth, Chunichi rightfielder Kosuke Fukudome and first baseman Tyrone Woods each doubled to left for a run. Third baseman Masahiko Morino went yard to right to trim it to 7-3. Two outs later, catcher Motonobu Tanishige singled to right and Ryota Arai, pinch hitting for Nakata, singled to left. Second baseman Masahiro Araki walked and the tying run was now on. Fortunately for Mitsuhashi, shortstop Hirokazu Ibata grounded to short.
That was especially lucky considering that Fukudome stepped in to inaugurate the fifth and creamed one into the rightfield stands. Manager Kazuhiko Ushijima had seen enough and dialed local for lefty Shigetoshi Yamakita. Woods singled to center and Morino singled to left. Yamakita then put some welly in it and struckout the side.
Yokohama had two on and two out in the bottom of the inning and catcher Ryoji Aikawa struckout to undermine the revolt.
But the Stars got back on the big board in the seventh when Murata roasted a pitch from Denny Tomori beyond the centerfield wall to pump it up to 8-4.
However, Tanishige tripled to right against Kato in the eighth and, one out later, Araki singled to center to put it at 8-5. Following another out, Fukudome and Woods each walked to jam the basepaths. Morino, though, grounded to second and Takeo Kawamura fashioned a scoreless ninth on a hit and it was see you later.
Chunichi's magic number to clinch is still 14.
Luis Martinez, who, if I had to bet, is on his last legs in Japan, was recalled to replace Nakata.
There was a curious play in the sixth. Hiroshi Narahara, more noted for a powerfully good glove but a weak stick, unloaded a shot to right. A fan reached out over the fence and gloved the ball and then dropped it onto the field. It was called a ground rule double but Narahara very well could have lost a homer. That fan thus became the anti-Jeffrey Mayer.
For Chunichi, Woods was 2-2 with three walks and is at .297. Centerfielder Alex Ochoa was 0-5 with two GIDP and is at .278.
those of you in Japan who use Hankyu's subway trains, you will soon begin
seeing advertisements related to the Tigers in the carriages. The ballclub's
parent company, Hanshin Electric Railways, and Hankyu, which used to own
what is now the Orix Buffaloes, have merged.
Catcher Ryo Asai was going to be sent to the Hawaiian Winter League, but that has now changed. Instead, minor league backstop Taiichi Okazaki will be heading to paradise.
Hiroshima Righthander Hiroki Kuroda did some light long tossing Tuesday at what he called 50-60% of full strength but believes he is improving. He is currenlty out with an elbow inflammation.
Miscellaneous Yankees DH Hideki Matsui homered in four at bats Tuesday to help his team get within one game of locking up the American League East with a 6-3 victory over Toronto.
Seattle Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima, though, broke Matsui's rookie record of 16 homers with his 17th in a game against Texas Tuesday. He finished with a 2-6 evening to lift his average to .296. He needs two more roundtrippers to break former receiver Dan Wilson's record for a team backstop.
M's centerfielder Ichiro Suzuki was 3-7 with two RBIs and two stolen bases, including a timely base knock off of Akinori Otsuka in the ninth in which the former Kintetsu Buffalo blew a two run advantage. Seattle ultimately prevailed 9-7 in ten innings.
Chicago White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi wacked his 16th homer against Detroit in a 7-0 victory as part of a 1-3 with a walk and an RBI showing.
Cardinals outfielder So Taguchi was 1-4 with a walk and an RBI in a 12-2 wipeout of Milwaukee.
Colorado second baseman Kazuo Matsui was 2-6 with an RBI and two stolen bases against San Francisco in a 12-4 win.