Kanemoto's term as manager gets more and more bizarre as it goes on. Okazaki had to go onto the disabled list because he broke his hand and needed surgery. He won't really be missed. With Tigers management considering three catchers essential another one needed to be brought up. Tigers have Tsuruoka, Komiyama or Shimizu available but instead a rookie, Sakamoto was chosen. He was inserted for his first start against the Giants - one wonders about the decision. Tigers most implacable rivals and you go with a catcher who has no experience? If there's anything Tigers fans care about more than the pennant it's beating the Giants and he predictably wasn't up to it. The misuse of Haraguchi also continues to mystify. It's almost as if he's too good and is being benched to avoid embarrassing the other players. He scored Tigers two runs in the first two games of the Giants series and then played first where he got on base 2 out of 4. Kanemoto's pig headed misuse of his players isn't helping the side and with the injury list growing (Enokida, Iwazaki and Nishioka) he's running out of options.
The Giants series started with Messenger pitching to Haraguchi which worked well and one wonders why the former had to be paired with Okazaki anyway. Messenger gave up one run over 8 innings work (an innings too much) but left the game with the scores tied - a Haraguchi double supplying the Tigers run. The rest of the Tigers batting wasn't much to comment about with the highlight being a Gomez double. However, in this game Kanemoto had Gomez batting six which has to be the stupidest position for a long time. As I said his decision making is bizarre. Things all fell apart in the ninth - well slightly anyway. Giants got a runner on and were able to bring him round giving them a 2-1 advantage which Tigers could not overturn. A tight game but one would have expected better from the Tigers at Koshien.
The aforementioned Sakamoto (even the name is suspect recalling Giants loathed shortstop) took the mound, calling to Nohmi. Nohmi is a difficult pitcher anyway and this pairing was not made in heaven. Two runs in the second and then an even more disastrous third where the Giants took 4 runs saw Nohmi pulled and Sakamoto with him. Haraguchi took over. It didn't help that Gomez was in strike out mode which led to him being replaced after three at bats. To be fair if he was Japanese he would have been left in. Haraguchi at least was still fighting drilling a home run into centre but no one else could get going and Tigers lost this one 6-1. Giants continued to get runners on but Haraguchi and the relief kept them from scoring and adding to the embarrassment.
In the final game of the series Gomez was benched in part as punishment for three strike outs the previous game. Haraguchi took first base. Umeno called and one questions using him as a starting catcher given that he's completely gone to pieces and his batting is non-existent. Given that Tigers need all the bats they can get he should stay on the bench. He is under performing in an under performing side. The pitcher was Aoyagi who held Giants to one run over five innings. Tigers equalized and so until the sixth the score was 1-1. Aoyagi fell apart dramatically in the sixth and the Giants plundered 4 runs from him. That was the end of Aoyagi. Giants were content to sit on the lead and with Tigers batting why not. This is not a motivated team. Another run was added in the ninth and even though a pinch hit solo home run briefly raised the home fans hopes in the bottom the result was never in doubt Tigers losing this one 6-2 and being swept.
We now move to Hiroshima for more embarrassment and humbling experiences with a series against the league leading Carp. Men against boys one might say. Fujinami was not on form and Hiroshima had three runs on the board before Tigers had even woken up. They pulled one back in the fourth courtesy of a Takayama single and later added another run but Carp also added a further run to leave the final score 4-2. The difference between the two sides was stark. Tigers only had one hit less than Carp but could only manage two runs.
Tigers were crushed in the second game. They scored no runs and Carp got 7. Iwazaki lasted only 2 innings and was hammered mercilessly. Umeno was replaced as catcher by Sakamoto who should have made his debut in a game like this.
Tigers are now firmly located on the bottom of the Central League and if I were Tigers management I would be thinking of a diplomatic illness for Kanemoto. His clueless handling of the pitching and batting and lineup is really embarrassing. Winning gets to be a habit and motivates players to do better. Losing also gets to be a habit and Tigers are not lacking in talent to win. The ideal clean up for Tigers is Fukudome No. 3; Gomez No. 4 and Haraguchi No. 5 and this should be fixed. Of course it means that Haraguchi should be the starting catcher for almost all games but then this is not a bad thing. Tigers need a solid core of run getters and at the moment this is not happening. The players who drive in runs are split, shifted around and not allowed to settle. The bullpen needs to be beefed up as well and Kyuji dispatched to the second team where he belongs. He's trading on past glories and Tigers need younger talent in the top team.