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Takahashi shows guts

by Jim Allen (Nov 5, 2009)

Shinji Takahashi gave Fighters fans a welcome case of deja vu No. 2 on Wednesday.

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham cleanup hitter drove in three runs and scored three as the Pacific League champs stomped the Yomiuri Giants 8-4 at Tokyo Dome and evened the Japan Series at two games apiece.

For years, Fighters supporters had been accustomed to seeing a man in the No. 2 shirt driving in runs from the heart of the team's order. Until 2006, that man was Michihiro Ogasawara.

On Tuesday, Ogasawara drove in three for the Giants, while Takahashi stumbled. He failed to get down a key bunt late in the game and compounded that by hitting into a crushing double play in the eighth inning.

"I didn't feel like sleeping last night, although at some point I nodded off," said Takahashi, who opted for room service instead of eating out.

"I've been looking at too many pitches. I thought about it last night and knew I wanted to go for the first strike I saw. I figured if I went for it something might happen. If I failed, that can't be helped."

The aggressive approach paid off Wednesday as Takahashi showed No. 2 is still a Fighters' force.

With one out and the bases loaded in the third, he smashed a first-pitch fastball up the middle to put his team up 2-0. Takahashi homered in the fifth, and singled and scored in the eighth.

"Being able to bounce back is key in this business," he said. "If I've become better, the reason has been learning that lesson."

Taken in the seventh round of the 1996 draft out of high school, Takahashi became Nippon Ham's No. 1 catcher in 2003. He set a team record for homers by a catcher the following season with 26, but injuries have since dogged his career.

In 2007, when Ogasawara abandoned the Sapporo Dome for Tokyo, Takahashi inherited Guts' number and was named to his second PL All-Star squad. This season, he inherited Ogasawara's old position at first base.

Asked if it would be easier to sleep after helping to even the Series and ensure a return to Sapporo, Takahashi said it wasn't that simple.

"You don't turn things around in one day," he said. "This is a short series and things can change in an instant. One mistake can kill you."

Manager Masataka Nashida has no worries about Takahashi's form.

"He's the same as usual," Nashida said. "As I expect him to be. I might not ask him to bunt anymore, though."


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