Thursday was a night that Takahiro Arai and Yudai Kawai will likely remember for quite some time, albeit for completely different reasons.
Hanshin's Arai drove in six runs on a 3-for-4 performance at the plate that included a three-run home run, almost singlehandedly halting Dragons starter Kawai's quest to become the Central League's second 12-game winner as the Tigers pounded Chunichi 9-2.
"Sure, it was nice to get those hits, but the most important thing is that we got the win," said Arai, whose homer was his 11th of the season.
Tigers right-hander Yasutomo Kubo was the beneficiary of Arai's offensive outburst at Nagoya Dome, working eight innings of two-run ball to improve to 6-4 on his 29th birthday. Kubo gave up nine hits--all singles--with the only runs scoring on a bases-loaded two-run single up the middle by Tony Blanco in the eighth.
Reliever Ryo Watanabe worked the ninth for Hanshin, giving up a pair of singles but no runs.
Dragons lefty Kawai brought a perfect 11-0 record into Thursday's game against the struggling Tigers. He retired the first man he faced, Hanshin leadoff-hitter Keiichi Hirano on a soft liner to short, but things went downhill quickly after that.
Yamato Maeda singled and moved to second on a balk by Kawai and the next batter, Takashi Toritani, drew a walk. After that, Kawai was tagged for four consecutive RBI doubles.
Veteran Tomoaki Kanemoto started the double bonanza when he ripped a Kawai slider to left to drive home the game's first run. Arai followed up with a two-run double into the corner in left field off a forkball, which was followed by Craig Brazell's run-scoring two-bagger off the wall in center. Kodai Sakurai then capped off the first-inning carnage with his own RBI double into the gap in left-center. Seven batters faced, five runs scored, and obviously not the start Kawai was hoping for.
And, unfortunately for Kawai, it didn't get much better in the second frame. With two men on board--one courtesy of an error by normally sure-handed Dragons shortstop Hirokazu Ibata--Arai stepped into a Kawai fastball and clobbered it into the stands for in left for a three-run home run. Through an inning and a half, the Tigers were up 8-0 and Arai had driven in five of those runs.
Arai tacked on the ninth run with a sacrifice fly to right off Kawai in the top of the sixth.
Sakurai also had a productive night for Hanshin with a double, two singles and a walk.
Kawai's line on the night: 120 pitches over six innings, nine runs allowed (six earned) on 13 hits and two walks. He struck out four, including fellow-pitcher Kubo three times.