NISHINOMIYA, HYOGO PREF. – Tomoaki “Ironman” Kanemoto brought the curtain down on an illustrious 21-year career as the Hanshin Tigers blanked the Yokohama BayStars 3-0 in the final game of the regular season in the Central League on Tuesday.
Randy Messenger (10-11) relieved Atsushi Nomi after the first and went eight scoreless innings, striking out four and walking none. He helped his own cause with a two-run double in the second and Ryota Arai added a RBI single in the sixth.
Daisuke Miura (9-9) allowed three runs over eight innings for the BayStars, who finished in last place for the fifth year in a row.
The 44-year-old Kanemoto, who set a world record of 1,492 consecutive games played without missing an inning, went 1-for-4 and got the loudest cheers from a crowd of 47,106 Hanshin faithful in a postgame ceremony at Koshien Stadium.
“I want to say thank you to the god of baseball,” said an emotional Kanemoto. “I want to thank all the fans for helping me fulfill my dream. The power here at Koshien helps bring out something larger than me. I wanted to win the Japan Series here at Koshien and I feel some regret about that, but I’ll entrust the rest to the younger players.”
The Hiroshima native surpassed the Japanese baseball record of 700 full-inning consecutive games in 2004, and went one better when he overtook former Baltimore Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr., setting a new world record for consecutive games without missing an inning on March 21, 2006, with 904. He produced his monumental feat between July 21, 1999, and April 18, 2010.
Kanemoto’s “ironman” moniker also comes from the fact that during that stretch he hit with his right arm after having broken his left wrist, and homered in his next at-bat after being beaned in the back of the head with a pitch in one game.
He has hit more home runs in his career (476) than any other left-handed hitter who throws right-handed. Kanemoto was drafted in the fourth round by the Hiroshima Carp in 1991, and played 11 years there before joining Hanshin from 2003, when he helped the Tigers win the CL pennant.
A member of the 2,000-hit club, Kanemoto, who announced he will retire last month, is seventh on the all-time list in Japan with 2,539 hits and eighth with 1,521 RBIs.
Fighters 9, Marines 8
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, PL pennant winner Hokkaido Nippon Ham overcame two deficits to finish its regular season with a victory over fifth-place Chiba Lotte in the PL’s final game of the year.
The Fighters rebounded from a 6-4 deficit with a three-run fifth and pulled ahead after the Marines went up 8-7 in the sixth on Kensuke Kondo’s sac fly and a Yang Dai-kang RBI single in the eighth. Lotte outhit its opponent 16-13, but outgoing manager Norifumi Nishimura finished on a losing note.