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August 12th Messenger v Sugiuchi - Wada's luck holds

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August 12th Messenger v Sugiuchi - Wada's luck holds

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Yes somehow Tigers managed to beat Giants despite their manager and his incompetent decisions. There is a God! Seriously though the decision making was strange - why was it necessary to replace Ryota (two hits and a walk in three at bats) with Fukudome (no hits but a rather weak ground out)? How was it that Imanari batting sixth was required to bunt twice? He's batting sixth and if he can't be trusted to hit with runners on he shouldn't even be in the side. Finally replacing your brilliant catcher with a has been who has trouble with late innings runs. Luckily this time he only managed to give up one run but the stunning incompetence in the handling of the lineup came near to robbing Tigers of a well worked victory. Scores

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

Starting Lineups

1. Uemoto (Second)
2. Shunsuke (Centre)
3. Toritani (Short)
4. Gomez (First)
5. Murton (Left)
6. Imanari (Third)
7. Ryota Arai (Right)
8. Umeno (Catcher)
9. Messenger (Pitcher)

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

Sugiuchi started poorly by giving up a lead off single to Uemoto. Wada being stupid had Shunsuke bunt him to second and the innings rapidly petered out with Toritani flying out and Gomez striking out. Messenger didn't start well and walked Chono. The Giants also laid down a stupid bunt but then Messenger walked Sakamoto - runners on second and third. Abe cracked the ball through the infield into right and Chono made home 1-0 Giants, runners on first and third. Messenger rose to the occasion very nicely and with Umeno's wise calling struck out the next two batters. With two out in Tigers second Ryota doubled left but then Umeno struck out looking. Once again Messenger walked the first batter he faced in the innings with Ibata earning the walk to lead off the Giants second. Kobayashi struck out but a wild pitch took the runner to second. Messenger was obviously tired. Still he was able to focus enough to get the next two batters and the innings was scoreless. Sugiuchi was also tired and this showed in Tigers third. With two out he left one hanging for Shunsuke who put it into the left stand for a solo home run 1-1 scores tied. Toritani tried to go left as well but only managed to fly out in foul ground. Sakamoto singled with one out in Giants third but stayed on first as Messenger grew in confidence.

Tigers got runners on in the top of the fourth as Sugiuchi began to labour. Imanari walked and then Ryota singled to Murata who could only stop the pitch - runners on first and second. With two out it was up to Umeno who still has work to do on his batting. He grounded out to short to end the innings. Murata led Giants fourth off with a single to right but then Ibata hit into a double play. Next was Kobayashi who grounded out to third. One thing that was noticeable about Messenger's last start was his hitting. This started to manifest itself in Tigers fifth. One would not have expected him to lead the innings off with a double but this is exactly what he did hitting nicely to right centre. Uemoto walked and Wada in his usual style had to waste an out with Shunsuke (who remember hit a home run in his last at bat) bunting the runners to second and third. Toritani hit a sacrifice fly to right bringing in Messenger 2-1 Tigers, runner on third and then Gomez flew out. Tigers had the lead but it was rather a missed opportunity. The Giants fifth was Messengers best innings. First of all he got Sugiuchi to ground out and then struck out Chono and Hashimoto. Tigers sixth saw Sugiuchi running on fumes with nothing left in tank and yet once again Wada contrived to almost blow the chance. Murton led off with a single to left. Once again Wada called for the bunt and Imanari bunted poorly. Kobayashi scooped the ball up and seeing an opportunity threw to second. His throw was poor and Sakamoto was unable to take with the ball rolling into the outfield. Murton slid in and jumped up being able to take third with Imanari safe on first. Giants were in trouble. Next was Ryota who worked a walk to load the bases with no outs. Umeno hit his first pitch back towards Sugiuchi who was able to partially field and take the sting off the ball. It was picked up by Sakamoto who fired it to the catcher for the force out of Murton. Next was Messenger who got a nice tired pitch and hit it smartly over Sakamoto's glove for a single to left. Two runs made home 4-1 Tigers, runners on first and third. This was the end of Sugiuchi who was replaced by Tahara. Tahar's contribution was effective getting Uemoto to hit into a double play and ending the innings. Tigers had a three run lead - would it be enough? Messenger without his pre-innings warm up started poorly with Sakamoto singling right. Uemoto gloved it but couldn't hold - runner on first. Then Abe hit right - runners on first and second. Takahashi hit his first pitch left bringing in Sakamoto 4-2 Tigers, runners on first and second and no outs. Messenger then walked Murata on a full count to load the bases. This brought Nakanishi out to the mound. If you haven't seen Tigers pitching coach you wonder how he can hold that position. He has difficulty walking because of his bulk and can barely manage a trot. It was around this time that Fukudome took over at right. Messenger though lifted his game again and struck out Ibata. Here Umeno was superb - with Messenger throwing some wild stuff Umeno blocked everything and called superbly. Next was Cepeda (pinch hitter) who struck out looking. Then Lopez (pinch hitter and replacement first with Abe taking over as catcher) who also struck out to end the innings. Somehow Tigers had survived a serious situation.

Kubo took over for Tigers seventh and with one out Toritani singled and beat Sakamoto to first. He tried to steal second but was thrown out as Gomez struck out. Andoh pitched Giants seventh. His last outing was a rather dismal performance with Tsuruoka and it was interesting to see how he would perform with Umeno this time in a much higher pressure situation. He was superb retiring the three batters in order and ending with a strike out of Sakamoto that had the Giants short completely at sea. Which makes the Wada's decision in the Tigers eighth even stranger. Aoki pitched the innings and gave up a lead off single to third to Murton. Once again we had the idiot bunt by Imanari which really was pointless if Wada wanted to add runs. Fukudome hit weakly back to Aoki who locked Murton on second and then threw to first for the out. Then he had Umeno pinch hit for by Sekimoto who walked; runners on first and second. Wada sent Takahiro Arai in as pinch hitter and Hara changed his pitcher with Tsuchida taking over. He got Arai to fly out to right and end the innings. Fukuhara pitched Giants eighth and we saw a fall off in quality. Still it went right until Murata came to the plate. He blasted the ball into the left stand for a solo home run 4-3 Tigers. Once again Tsuruoka had struck. Ibata also went for his first pitch and this time flew out. Tigers ninth was pitched by Egarashi who retired the batters in order. Of course Giants ninth was pitched by Oh - would he survive Tsuruoka? Thankfully, he did. The Giants were all willing to swing; at 4-3 a home run would take the game into extra innings. They all struck out swinging to end the game. Tigers victory.

It had been tight and Messenger had had to work hard for his victory. Wada had showed some sense by relieving Messenger after the sixth but his handling of the game overall was dangerously inept. Despite the victory the batting had been well contained except for Messenger and Ryota whom Wada saw fit to replace. If he brought Fukudome on for his defensive qualities why did he then replace Umeno with a pinch hitter? He seems to have things back to front. Oh now has 29 saves and of course still leads the Central League. Messenger picked up his 10th victory and Tigers moved to 0.5 games behind the Giants. They can seize the lead which will be quite an achievement especially in Shi no rodo.
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