Golden Week was fantastic- seeing my Dad after over a year and half, traveling to Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and Hiroshima, and even getting my Dad out for a night of karaoke. However the pinnacle of the week, if not life itself, was finally getting a chance to visit the hallowed turf of Koshien, to see the Hanshin Tigers in action!
The game was all I could possibly have wished for, and more! A magnificent 6-5 victory over the Swallows, courtesy of Arai’s ninth innings’ manrui sayonara home run! It ebbed and flowed, with poor pitching and great batting combining to wonderful effect in what has been hailed in the Japanese press as one of the games of the season so far! The lead changed hands no less than six times, and the game wasn’t decided until the very last hit!! How lucky we were, when the Tigers lost 4-1 to the Swallows the previous day.
Things started well, with Akahoshi and Arai getting hits to pull the Tigers 1-0 ahead in the first. After a scoreless second, the Swallows went 2-1 up at the top of the third, before Hanshin came back it to bat. Hits from Yano and Arai got runners on first and third, before poor pitching allowed Kanemoto a free walk to load the bases. Katsuragi and Toritani both made hits to put the Tigers back into the lead, at 3-2. This lead didn’t last though, as at the top of the fourth Yakult scored two to go 4-3 up. After a wasted foul ball in the bottom of the third, and a scoreless forth and fifth, Hanshin pulled back into the lead in the bottom of the sixth, when a three base hit put Sekimoto and Akahoshi home for 5-4.
Beer and Japanese curry fuelled us up in the stands, as the constant orchestrated chanting urged the lads on down on the pitch. Despite the somewhat artificial nature of Japanese chanting, the atmosphere really was electric, and the cheering and jumping around when Hanshin scored runs was just as feverish as when a goal is scored in football. I made lots of newfound Hanshin friends, particularly a bunch of lads sitting behind us. In the seventh we had the traditional releasing of condom-shaped balloons in a flurry of excitement, known for some reason as the “Lucky Seven”.
The game wasn’t done yet though, as the Swallows pulled level in the eighth 5-5 to set up a nervy finish. With one inning remaining, star closing pitcher Fujikawa stepped up to the plate, and pitched a great innings to deny the Swallows a scoring chance. This gave Hanshin the chance to win it at the bottom of the last innings. Arai stepped up- 2 balls, 2 strikes and then a magnificent hit that flew gracefully through the air, by which point we were all on our feet cheering it on into the stands for a magnicent “sayonara” home run victory. Next followed a stirring rendition of “Rokko Oroshi” as Kanemoto was interviewed on the pitch, and the fans cheered his every word. Magnificent! What a truly fantastic night it was.
0-0-2-2-0-0-0-1-0, 5 (Swallows)
1-0-2-0-0-2-0-0-1, 6 (Tigers)
May 1st – Hashin lost 2-0 to Yakult.
May 3rd – Hanshin beat Chunichi 9-1.
May 4 – Hanshin lose to Chunichi 3-2.
May 5th – Hanshin beat Chunichi 10-4
May 6th – Hanshin beat the Giants in Tokyo, 8-4.
May 7th – Hanshin beat the Giants in Tokyo, 3-2 (great Kanemoto home run)
May 8th – The Giants pull off a good comeback to beat Hanshin 4-3
May 9th-11th, the BayStars at Koshien
May 13th-15th, away to Hiroshima.
PS- If you can’t see the Japanese text please let me know; the important thing is that you can see it, even if you can’t understand it!.
And once more, let’s have a look at that wonderful moment Arai won us the game…