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March 29th Messenger v Sugiuchi - Tighter

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Featuring Christopher Amano-Langtree (a.k.a. Christopher)

This blog will attempt to report on as many Hanshin Tigers games as possible. Games will be, if possible, reported the day after and on rare occasions the same day.

March 29th Messenger v Sugiuchi - Tighter

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After the Opening Day blowout Tigers needed to restore some credibility and they did so very effectively. They were helped by a Giants side which took some wrong tactical decisions and messed up their chances significantly. Messenger was also better than Nohmi and whilst not at his best and paired with a subpar Fujii had enough of his best stuff to hold the Giants. Incidentally, Fujii now has his own fight song. The change to the batting lineup also helped - moving Fukudome up to sixth seemed to firm up the batting lineup no end and Tigers generally took their chances.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tigers 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 5 12 0
Giants 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 3 16 0

Starting Lineups

1. Toritani (Short)
2. Yamato (Centre)
3. Nishioka (Second)
4. Gomez (First)
5. Murton (Left)
6. Fukudome (Right)
7. Ryota Arai (Third)
8. Fujii (Catcher)
9. Messenger (Pitcher)

1. Sakamoto (Short)
2. Kataoka (Second)
3. Chono (Right)
4. Murata (Third)
5. Abe (Catcher)
6. Lopez (First)
7. Anderson (Left)
8. Hashimoto (Centre)
9. Sugiuchi (Pitcher)

Sugiuchi like Messenger was not at his best and it showed in Tigers first. Having struck out Toritani he gave up consecutive hits to Yamato and Nishioka which put runners on the corners, Yamato using his speed very nicely. Next was Gomez who just needed to hit the ball deep for the Tigers to open the scoring. He did hit deep but perhaps snatched at the ball as Anderson who took the catch put in a very fine throw to Abe. Yamato though had set off nicely and dislodged the ball from Abe's glove as he slid in to home - safe! 1-0 Tigers, runner on second. Murton walked but Fukudome struck out swinging. Messenger couldn't hold the lead. He got Sakamoto to strike out but then Kataoka singled right. Chono walked - runners on first and second. Murata was next and beating the field hit into centre. Kataoka was able to round the bases for home tying the score 1-1 with runners on first and second. Abe flew out to left and then Lopez struck out swinging but the Giants response had been immediate. Tigers second started innocuously but with one out Fujii hit along the third baseline - once again a Tigers batter beat the lumbering Murata. This was a double but Fujii didn't progress any further as Messenger struck out looking and Toritani popped up to short to end the innings. Giants second saw Hashimoto single to short with one out and beat the throw (which was good). Next was Sugiuchi whom Hara decided was going to bunt. Sugiuchi popped the ball up just in front of him and Fujii made a fine diving catch to dismiss the Giants pitcher. All it needed to finish off the innings was a good throw to Gomez to catch Hashimoto off the sack. However, Fujii doesn't have a good arm at all and the throw was poor allowing Hashimoto to scramble back to safety. With this evidence of Fujii's weakness Hashimoto decided it would be good to steal second and he set off. Fujii's throw was abysmal - far too high and it was an easy steal. Sakamoto was next but Messenger struck him out to end the innings. So far this action had taken nearly an hour and in fact this was a monumental game going on for 4 hours 21 minutes. Sugiuchi was in trouble from the start of Tigers third. Yamato led the innings off with a single to centre and then Nishioka followed with a single to left. This wasn't quite as well positioned as that of the first innings and Yamato could only reach second this time. Next was Gomez who once again tried to hit deep but mistimed his swing and popped the ball high into foul ground near first. Lopez got under it and jumped to take the catch loosing his footing as he did so and falling into the ringside seats. He was OK though but both Nishioka and Yamato had tagged up and taken third and second. Murton took full advantage of this situation driving competently into left field to bring home Yamato 2-1 Tigers. Nishioka also tried for home but the throw from Anderson was good and he was tagged out by Abe as he slid in. Both Nishioka and Wada appealled this but the umpires were adamant. The TV coverage here was abysmal - the call by the umpires had looked good but there was only one replay which was from the same angle as the live action. The chanel showing the game had other angles but the incompetence and sheer lack of awareness of the editiing team meant we didn't see them. Once again an illustration of the amateurishness of Japanese TV when compared to American TV. Tigers had the lead though with Murton on first. Fukudome hit deep to left but only accomplished a fly out to end the innings. Kataoka tried to kickstart the Giants response leading off with a single in the bottom of the third. Chono hit left where it was fielded by Ryota who threw to second to start the double play. His throw was excellent but Nishioka's was poor and Gomez did well to take the ball high above his head. He was pulled off base though and Chono was safe. Giants were in double play mode so when Murata hit to Nishioka at second it was an easy task to for the latter to throw to Toritani at second. This time Toritani's throw to first was spot on and Murata was out to end the innings.

Sugiuchi didn't seem to be entirely himself and started Tigers fourth by dead balling Ryota on the leg. Fujii struck out and then Messenger bunted Ryota to second - something to do I suppose as it reduced the chance of a run significantly. Toritani hit to Kataoka at second for the final out of the innings. Tigers had done well in holding the Giants off but they were to be severely tested in Giants fourth. The Messenger Fujii combination was if anything predictable and Abe led the innings off singling to left. Then Lopez singled to centre putting runners on first and second. Next up Anderson who hit to short where Toritani dived but couldn't snag the ball and the bases were loaded with no outs. To say this was a superb chance is an understatement. It brought Nakanishi pitching coach (himself the main author of the Tigers pitching issues) out to the mound for a word with Messenger. After this little chat Hashimoto hit straight to Gomez who fired the ball back to Fujii for the force out. Bases still loaded and the next batter Takahashi (pinch hitter). A deep hit would tie the game but Messenger was equal to the challange and got the Giants fans favourite to strike out swinging. It was all down to Sakamoto who struck out looking to a superb outside straight from Messenger. It really was an amazing ball and somehow the Giants had failed to exploit a superb chance. As Sugiuchi had been pinch hit for Kasahara took over for Tigers fifth. He got Yamato who had had an average of 1.0 up until that at bat to fly out but Nishioka singled right. He stayed on first and neither Gomez nor Murton were able to do anything. Giants tried again in their fifth. Once again a lead off single, this time to Kataoka. Chono grounded out but did take Kataoka to second and then Murata hit into centre. Kataoka went for home but a fine throw from Yamato reached Fujii in time and with a neat tag from the Tigers catcher Kataoka was out. Murata in the meantime had reached second but Abe struck out and ended the innings. Tigers sixth was quiet and saw the batters fall in order. Messenger returned for Giants sixth and here we saw a typical piece of Wada idiocy. Messenger had already thrown 99 pitches and clearly hadn't been at his best. So far Tigers had ridden their luck but it would have been sensible to go with the relief instead of over pitching Messenger. Instead Lopez banged a lead off double over the head of Fukudome. Next was Anderson who hit deep to centre. The ball looked like it would end up in the glove of Yamato but it kept its trajectory and was just too high for the Tigers centre. Another double but Lopez only reached third. No run yet. Hashimoto worked the count full as Messenger struggled with his location and Fujii's calls. Finally Hashimoto walked to load the bases, again with no outs. Once again Hara brought on a pinch hitter, this time Ishii. He hit the ball deep to right and even though Fukudome put in a fine throw the result was never in doubt and Lopez was home 2-2 scores tied, runners on second and third. Sakamoto also tried to hit deep but wasn't far enough. The ball was well taken by Murton who also put in a nice throw and Fujii was able to tag out Anderson for the final out. Fujii's defence around the home plate was very good.

Yamaguchi took over for Tigers seventh and with two out allowed a two out single to Yamato. This time Nishioka didn't hit and the innings was over with his flyout to left. The penny had dropped for Wada and he didn't attempt to pitch Messenger in the Giants seventh. Instead he sent Andoh to the plate which was not the best choice he could have made. Andoh started with a ground out to second though and a fly out to left but wasn't exactly spectacular. This showed with Murata who hammered the ball to left over the head of Murton for a double. Fujii and Andoh then decided to deliberately walk Abe - a decision which is best described as inept in the extreme. It really didn't make logical sense to walk a batter who hasn't got going yet for one who has started well. Lopez, for it was he, banged the ball far and high once again over Murton's head for a timely double 3-2 Giants, runner on second. This was the end of Andoh and he was replaced by the pitcher who should have started the innings anyway, Katoh. Katoh handled the final out well striking out Anderson to end the innings. Giants though were ahead. Mathieson took over for Tigers eighth and faced Gomez who he got to swing at a high pitch to strike out. Next was Murton who got a high pitch for his first ball and was tangled up swinging for the first strike. Mathieson got a bit arrogant here and sent another high pitch into the zone. Murton though was ready and as this ball was lower blasted it into the stands and out of one of the entrances for a solo home run 3-3 scores tied. Fukudome singled to second and beat Kataoka to first but then Ryota struck out and Fujii grounded out and Tigers were level. Katoh continued for Giants eighth and with one out gave up a single to Matsumoto (replacement left). This brought a pitching change and Fukuhara took over. Now it is always risky to pair Fukuhara and Fujii as they don't get on very well. Still Giants would bungle the chance - with one out you don't normally ask one of your top batters to bunt. However, this is one of the strange traits of Hara and he had Sakamoto bunt Matsumoto to second. It would have been far better given the relationship between Fukuhara and Fujii to go for the steal and chance Fujii's weak arm. Fukuhara's pitching to Kataoka was strange to say the least and four pitches were sprayed around the zone walking the batter - runners on second and third. Then Chono got hold of his first pitch and hit to short where Toritani stopped but couldn't get the throw away. However, this was a game saving stop - bases loaded with Murata next. Tigers were still in danger. This time Fukuhara lured Murata into swinging at a high pitch and he flew out to third. Tigers had escaped. Having experienced some strange Tigers pitching decisions we were gifted with a strange Giants pitching decision. Hara left Mathieson in. This was a great chance for Tigers and they took it. Imanari (replacement third) singled left and was pinch run for by Uemoto. Then Toritani went to bunt - which was just as stupid as Sakamoto's bunt but luckily Mathieson couldn't decide where to throw and both runners were safe. Yamato walked and then Nishioka hit a grounder to first. Lopez fielded stepped on the base and fired the ball to Abe at home. Abe also stepped on the plate but didn't tag the runner who slid in safely. A costly mistake as the score was now 4-3 Tigers with runners on second and third. Next was Gomez who hit left bringing in a run 5-3 Tigers, runners on first and third. Tigers now had a margin. It was the end of Mathieson and Katsuki took over. He induced a liner to third from Murton which also caught Yamato off base for the final out. Giants ninth and the first outing for Tigers new signing Oh. He started well by getting Abe to fly out. Then Lopez hit to centre. A wild pitch took Lopez to second and then Yano's ground out took the runner to third. Finally though Hashimoto flew out to centre to end the innings. Tigers victory.

This had been a hard fought game with both teams having chances. Tigers had won really by virtue of making fewer mistakes with Abe's howler in the ninth being the most amazing. Both managers had been incompetent but Wada's decisions hadn't come back to haunt him. The win went to Fukuhara and Oh picked up his first save of his Japanese career in his first game.
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