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A Guide to the Road Trip of Death

Every year, the Hanshin Tigers are put out of their main stadium, iconic Hanshin Koshien Stadium outside Osaka, so that high school teams from across the country can put the ballpark to the use for which it was originally intended.

The story goes that when the Tigers hit the road, their pennant hopes die, hence the name, “the Road Trip of Death.”

This raises three questions:

  1. What is it?
  2. How bad is it?
  3. Why is it?

What is it?

Currently, the road trip of death typically starts on the first weekend of August, but the time between the Tigers’ final home game at Koshien and their return has varied over the years. In 1954 and 1955, it started in early July. In 1955, the Tigers were away from Koshien from July 11 to Oct. 9. Usually it’s about three weeks.

During that time, the Tigers will typically play one series of home games at another ballpark, and four series on the road.

Continue reading A Guide to the Road Trip of Death

NPB news: July 22, 2023

Japan returned from its all-star break, but its two long winning streaks continued as if nothing had happened, while a player, who pitched 18 games last year, may be on his way back to Japan, and one manager had an unusually happy birthday.

Saturday’s games

Buffaloes 5, Fighters 4: At Kobe Green Stadium, Torai Fushimi had three hits against his old team, doubling in two in Nippon Ham’s four-run second inning. But Orix came back with three runs off Hiromi Ito in the bottom of the inning, on Leandro Cedeno’s sixth home run, and a two-run homer from Tomoya Noguchi, his first.

Leandro Cedeno hit his sixth home run, and Tomoya Noguchi brought Orix from behind with a two-run homer. Kotaro Kurebayashi singled in the tying run in the seventh. Yuki Udagawa and Yoshihisa Hirano (2-1) each worked 1-2-3 innings, and Kenya Wakatsuki hit an opposite-field sayonara homer off Naoki Miyanishi (1-3).

The Fighters lost their 11th straight decision, their longest skid since 2005. The franchise’s record is 14, set in 1984, which started in July and ended in August, a month before I arrived in Japan, ostensibly for good.

Swallows 6, Tigers 3: At Jingu Stadium, Yakult took a 5-0 lead over Hanshin thanks to six innings of superb defense, bunting and base running, solid pitching from Yasuhiro Ogawa (4-7), who allowed three runs in the seventh, and a two-run Munetaka Murakami. Kazuto Taguchi notched his 22nd save. Murakami’s homer was his fifth in six games.

The Tigers loss left them separated from the second-place Carp by winning-percentage points.

Swallows-Tigers highlights

Carp 5, Dragons 3: At New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Masato Morishita (6-2) allowed three runs over eight innings, doubled to lead off the seventh inning with the game tied 2-2 and scored the go-ahead run on a Takayoshi Noma single. Matt Davidson capped the three-run inning it with a two-run single.

Chunichi’s Takaya Ishikawa continued his smoking hot July with his 10th homer. The Carp won six straight for the second time this season, and moved 10 games over .500 for the first time in four years. Takuya Yasaki earned his 18th save. It was Hiroshima’s 17th come-from-behind win of the season.

Giants 4, Deniers 2: At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA’s Kenta Ishida surrendered solo homers to Takumi Oshiro and Naoki Yoshikawa, but also got down sacrifices in his team’s run-scoring innings.

Yuto Akihiro hit a two-run eighth-inning homer. Giants lefty Kota Nakagawa allowed three hits in a scoreless ninth to save his first game in 802 days, which we know because Japan sports media can’t resist big numbers. Nakagawa suffered from lower back trouble last season, was released and re-signed on a non-roster developmental contract.

DeNA lost four in a row for the fifth time this year, while the Giants snapped a five-game losing streak on Tatsunori Hara’s 65th birthday, which is not a regular thing. The Giants hadn’t won on his birthday, Daily Sports reported, since he turned 51.

DeNA-Giants highlights

Lions 2, Eagles 1: At Seibu Dome, Tatsuya Imai (5-2) struck out nine while allowing an unearned run on three hits and two walks over seven innings as the Lions won their seventh straight. Sosuke Genda broke a 1-1 tie with a fifth-inning RBI triple. Katsunori Hirai and Tatsushi Masuda each worked a 1-2-3 inning with Masuda getting his 16th save.

Marines 5, Hawks 2: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Gregory Polanco drove in three runs for Lotte off

Tomohisa Ozeki (4-5), who pitched into the sixth inning but allowed a season-high five runs.

Lotte’s Yuji Nishino (7-2) allowed a run over six innings as the Hawks’ lost 10 straight for the first time since the 1985 dropped 10 straight decisions. The franchise record is 15, set by the 1969 Nankai Hawks. It was the ninth straight game in which the Hawks were held to two runs or less, the franchise’s worst scoring stretch since Japanese pro baseball expanded and split into two leagues in 1950.

The Hawks loaded the bases in the fourth and fifth innings, and both times hit into double plays. Naoya Masuda got his 24th save.

Lions looking at Kriske

The Seibu Lions are reportedly interested in Brooks Kriske, who pitched in 18 games for DeNA last season, striking out 26 batters in 21 innings, while walking 13 batters. Kriske pitched four games this season for the Kansas City Royals with 27 games under his belt in Triple-A.

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