Tigers catching is strange at the moment. Having seemingly established Haraguchi as starting catcher the wind changed and suddenly Sakamoto was starting the games. This didn't matter so much when the team was performing well but when they ran into difficulties the decision was rapidly exposed. Haraguchi did finish off the BayStars series pitching to Messenger and this was another comfortable win. Even then he was replaced by the new 'golden boy' Sakamoto. Tigers won that game 9-3.
One would have hoped that a winning streak was building but Tigers were brought crashing down back to earth against the Swallows. Sakamoto started and was dismal with not only Swallows seizing a five run lead from which they never looked back but also four successful steals as our clueless catcher struggled. Tigers did pull runs back courtesy of Fukudome and Takayama but they were always behind in the chase and ran out 5-3 losers. Given the poor performance behind the plate one would have thought that wiser heads would have prevailed and Sakamoto would have been benched. Not so - at least he didn't give away any stolen bases but Swallows once again seized the lead and never looked back. Haraguchi played first a position he doesn't like and his batting suffered. One of the more unfathomable aspects of Kanemoto's management is his benching or demotivating of RBI batters. Tigers are a low scoring side and need all the runs they can get. Given the lightweights they have outside, Fukudome, Gomez, Takayama and Haraguchi it seems folly to bench any of those unless absolutely necessary. The eventual game ran out as a 5-2 Swallows victory. In the final game Tigers took the lead and then lost it in the fifth when Swallows plundered three runs and ran out 3-1 winners. Worryingly the pitch counts for Tigers were very high in the last two games. Iwasada 90 pitches in 5 innings and Aoyagi 98 in 6 innings which also points to catching inexperience.
So what can we say about all of this. Tigers were pressing for third place after the BayStars series but are now back in fifth (though marginally). Things can change but there needs to be consistency in performance. One can understand the choice of Haraguchi from the development squad paying off but then lightning rarely strikes twice and the fooling around with Sakamoto when the side needs stability is less easy to understand. Tigers still have a shot at a playoff place but need to be clear about the goal and how to achieve it. Sakamoto may indeed be ready for the top team in a couple of years but assuming that he is going to be another success like Haraguchi is a bit too much.