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CL Writing: Utsumi Lit Up as Tigers Down Arch-Rivals

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CL Writing: Utsumi Lit Up as Tigers Down Arch-Rivals
At this point in the season, every game is doubly crucial for the Hanshin Tigers as they fight for the last playoff spot in the Central League. They have made up a lot of ground in the past week thanks to the continual faltering of the Yakult Swallows, who seem to have used up all their magic in the first half of the season.

Need I mention how important Hanshin's games are against the Yomiuri Giants? The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry of Japan always gets more intense at this point in the season, and the race to the playoffs only means that much more as August turns to September.

Yomiuri couldn't fight off their hated rivals today as Tetsuya Utsumi was knocked around by the Hanshin offense, which has been showing signs of life. The lefty has had his share of troubles this year, particularly against the Tigers, as he was 1-3 against them this season going into this game.

Atsushi Nohmi took the mound for the Tigers as he was looking to build on not only a good season in general, but also a good record against the Giants.

The two rivals were level-pegging for the first third of the game, as neither team could get anything going in the early going. Yomiuri had a small chance in the 3rd thanks to a single by Ramirez and Tani also reached thanks to a throwing error by Nohmi, leading to two on with 1 out. However, Nohmi bore down and retired Wakiya on strikes, then got Furuki to ground to short.

It would be the Giants who struck first in the 4th inning. Abe doubled his way on to begin the inning and Ramirez also singled for a first-and-third situation with nobody out. Hanshin would trade a run for 2 outs as Kamei had an RBI double play. Not what the kyojin had in mind, but it gave them a 1-0 lead.

After giving up only one hit in the first four innings, Utsumi unraveled in the 5th against the bottom of the Tigers lineup. Arai singled to begin the inning, and after a strikeout, Sakurai singled his way on as well to set up Keisuke Kanoh. Utsumi made the biggest mistake of the game as he served up a fat one to Kanoh and the backup catcher didn't miss. The three-run homer into the Hanshin faithful in right gave the Tigers a 3-1 lead they would not relinquish.

Utsumi would give up another run in the next inning, partly of his own doing. The leadoff man, Yamato Maeda reached thanks to a throwing error by Utsumi, and he would come around to score on a double by the rebounding Takashi Toritani.

The four runs (three earned) that Utsumi gave up on 5 hits in six-plus innings were enough for the Tigers as Nohmi kept the powerful Giants lineup at bay. Over 7 strong innings, Nohmi gave up as many hits and only the one run while striking out 5.

Hanshin got one more off veteran Kiyoshi Toyoda in the 7th to end the scoring, as the bullpen plan worked to perfection. Scott Atchinson worked the 8th and Fujikawa struck out two in a perfect 9th to secure the 5-1 win.

The projected starters for tomorrow are ace Seth Greisinger (11-5, 3.25) for the Giants against Kenta Abe (0-0, 2.40) for the Tigers.

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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