Having been shut out seven times in interleague play--including failing to score over a Central League-record 50 consecutive innings--the Hiroshima Carp might be working on their "Will work for runs," signs.
The CL's fourth-place team has been scrounging for runs since going up against Pacific League pitching, which has dominated the interleague with 21 shutouts. Hiroshima has been blanked five times but broke out Thursday for five runs to snap a 10-game skid, its longest since 1999 and the most-ever by a CL team in interleague play.
The Carp scored twice in the seventh inning of a 6-3 loss to the Orix Buffaloes on June 3 to snap the longest scoreless string for a CL team, but have been outscored 31-66 in interleague.
To add to their woes, first-year import Chad Tracy--who tried to play through injuries in both legs--was deactivated on Tuesday after hitting .151 the past three weeks. Cleanup man Kenta Kurihara is hitting .322 with a homer and five RBIs vs the PL, but the table-setters haven't been getting on consistently. And even when they do reach base, the Carp aren't able to score them on regular basis.
The shrinkage in run production--Hiroshima's homer total is a Japan-low 13--has the players rubbing their collective heads.
"We're trying to bring energy and go out every game and play hard every day, but the results just aren't coming," Kurihara told The Daily Yomiuri on Thursday before the Carp topped the Saitama Seibu Lions 5-1 at Seibu Dome.
"We really have to refocus after every game and come back the next day and do our best. That's all we can do," said the 12th-year slugger who has just one longball this season.
"We all feel frustrated, but right now we're just having more negative things to us happen than positives," said a somber Kurihara.
The Carp haven't lost to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters ace Yu Darvish and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks lockdown lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi, but Tohoku Rakuten's Masahiro Tanaka blanked them for seven innings, and Seibu No. 1 starter Hideaki Wakui went the distance to shut them out once.
Kurihara said he can't point to a specific reason why the PL's hurlers have been able to toy with the Carp, and the rest of the CL, for that matter.
"The PL wins interleague every year. I have no idea why," he said. "But I've noticed PL players are very aggressive at the plate. I get the idea they seem to be more familiar with how to approach the pitchers, especially on the first pitch.
"We don't face them as much so it's just hard to get a feel for them. I don't think they're that much different from the CL pitchers, but when you face someone you haven't ever faced, you stand there wondering what kind of pitch is going to come.
"That's part of it, and you want to be aggressive from the first pitch, but you just can't do it."
But the Carp--who are gifted with team speed--aren't even finding ways to manufacture runs.
"In our recent games--about five or six straight--we've given up at least one run in the first or second inning," said skipper Kenjiro Nomura.
"Our starters have given up the first run and it puts more and more pressure on us. If we can get our offense in order and have our pitchers in rhythm, we'll start winning more games."