When Matt Murton recorded the longest hitting streak in Hanshin Tigers history on Monday, no one was more pleased than Shinjiro Hiyama, the man whose record he broke.
"Of course, I congratulated him," Hiyama told The Daily Yomiuri on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome, shortly before Murton extended his streak to 30.
"He's in great form, so its not a real surprise that he can hit in so many games. On top of that, he's so relaxed. In my case, the last three or four games I was really struggling and that I got one hit in each of them was just luck. But with Murton it's a little different."
Murton said his record-setting hit, an opposite-field single in his final at-bat of a 6-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants, had been lucky, but he also gave credit to his teammates for creating an ideal situation.
"It makes it a lot easier if you're on a winning team," he said. "The focus is on the team winning so I don't have to worry about it [the streak]. If you're on a winning team, all the individual stuff is easier.
"As a hitter, I can't worry about it even if I think about it, because my responsibility is to win. But if the team isn't winning, the whole thing is about me trying to get a hit, everything's on you."
That sums up the situation Hiyama dealt with when he hit in 28 straight games in 2001 from July 3 to Aug. 12. That summer, while the Tigers were sliding toward their fourth straight last-place finish, he got hot.
"The heightened attention and pressure started when I got to about 23 hits," said Hiyama, the club's principal right-fielder from 1995 to 2005.
"Every day when I stepped on the field, I was surrounded by reporters asking how I felt and if I thought I could get a hit that day. We were a weak team, and there really wasn't anything else for the press to write about.
"But when you look at Murton, you can see it's different. He is so relaxed, playing each game the same as any other."
Murton, who set Japan's single-season hit record of 214 last year, his first in Japan, said the streak snuck up on him.
"I didn't even know it was Hiyama's streak until Sunday," he said. "I think maybe it's also easier being a foreigner. People don't always tell me all of the things that are going on."
Dragons, Fighters into playoffs
The Central League-leading Chunichi Dragons and the Pacific League's second-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters both clinched a spot in the postseason on Tuesday.
The Dragons' 3-1 victory over the second-place Swallows in Nagoya increased Chunichi's lead over Tokyo Yakult to 2-1/2 games.
The Fighters locked up at least a third-place spot in the PL as Yu Darvish struck out 15 batters in a 3-0 shutout of the Saitama Seibu Lions.
Darvish reached double digits in strikeouts for a career-high 14th time this season, while the 15-strikeout game was his third this season, something no pitcher in Japan had ever accomplished.
Prior to 2011, he had never struck out 15 in one game.
Darvish's 18th victory moved him into a tie for the Japan wins lead with Masahiro Tanaka of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and D.J. Houlton of the league champion Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
In other baseball news:
--The Giants deactivated right-hander Shun Tono on Wednesday after he walked four batters in five innings in Tuesday's 4-3 come-from-behind win over Hanshin.