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August 14th Fujinami v Seddon - The strange case of the pinch hitter

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August 14th Fujinami v Seddon - The strange case of the pinch hitter

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There are several reasons for Wada's disastrous change of catchers in this game all of them bad. Let us suppose he injected a pinch hitter to try and change the game flow. In that case Imanari is not the one to do it and in a tight game you need your best catcher behind the plate. He could have course have wanted to play his other two catchers on the grounds of fairness and giving them time behind the plate. All very well with a big margin but not with a tight margin in a game Tigers had a chance of winning. I have written before about Tsuruoka's problems with relief pitchers and late innings and whilst not as bad as Hidaka they were on full display in the eighth in probably one of the worst displays of catching Tigers have seen for a long time. It could also be that Wada wanted to rest Umeno but then Umeno has and can call full games and is by far the better catcher. The probability is that Wada is just being stupid and thinking about factors which don't matter in the scheme of things - like 'experienced catchers for the relief'; not actually what it takes to win the game. Whatever the reason the game was lost in the eighth and Tsuruoka has to bear a significant portion of the blame for the mess. Scores

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

Starting Lineups

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

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

The inclusion of Sekimoto in the starting lineup at third was a bit unusual especially as it deprived Wada of a player who could actually pinch hit. Tigers wouldn't start well - the first innings was quiet and Seddon retired the batters in order. Fujinami continued this trend and gave up a lead off double to Chono. Hashimoto laid down the Pavlovian bunt to take Chono to third and then Sakamoto doubled to left centre. Chono has speed and with the double what was the bunt for? Even with a single Chono could have made home. Anyway 1-0 Giants runner on second. Abe grounded out to second taking Sakamoto to third but Takahashi hit his first pitch into the glove of Murton for the final out. Tigers second started very well with the ball positively exploding from the bat of Gomez for a lead off solo home run 1-1 scores tied. Murton flew out to right but then Seddon got a bit flustered and walked Sekimoto and then Ryota - runners on first and second. Next was Umeno but he was lured into a double play and the innings ended. Fujinami pitched with more confidence in Giants second and no one reached base. Tigers couldn't do anything in their third either. Two strike outs and a fly out saw to that. Giants likewise failed to get a runner on in their third and Fujinami gained a measure of revenge for the first striking out Chono to end the innings.

With Toritani out Gomez singled to centre in Tigers fourth. This time Murton hit into a double play ending the innings. Fujinami started to falter in Giants fourth though. He started by walking Sakamoto. Abe popped up to short but this time Takahashi singled right to put runners on first and third. Fujinami's next pitch plopped Murata to load the bases. Giants were in a good attacking position. Ibata hit a deep single to centre and Sakamoto tagged up and took home 2-1 Giants with runners on first and third. Next was Sanematsu who struck out swinging. All in all Fujinami had done well to exit the innings with only one run damage and thanks to Umeno the game was still tight. With two out in Tigers fifth Umeno singled but the next batter was Fujinami and the conclusion was never really in doubt - Fujinami flew out to second to end the innings. In Giants fifth Fujinami walked Hashimoto with two out but then Sakamoto grounded out to end the innings. Tigers sixth saw two outs go down but then Toritani hit a sweet double left over Takahashi. This brought a change of pitcher and Hara sent Tahara to the mound. The change worked well and Gomez grounded out to short to end the chance. The game was still tight and there was everything to play for. Fujinami ensured that it stayed tight striking out Abe, Takahashi and Murata all swiging in Giants sixth. Working well with Umeno it was one of the most dominant innings he has ever produced.

Tigers seventh came and they were still struggling to get base runners. Tahara controlled the innings well and no one got on base. Fujinami returned for Giants seventh and walked Ibata to lead off the innings. He was bunted to second by Sanematsu. Next was Cepeda (pinch hitter) who tried to hit deep to centre. Shunsuke took the catch but couldn't prevent Ibata tagging up and taking third. However, this didn't worry Fujinami who got Chono all bundled up and took the catch himself to end the game. Kubo took over for Tigers eighth and here Wada screwed up (there is no other term for it). Instead of keeping Umeno in to lead off the innings he sent Imanari to the plate as pinch hitter. Imanari struck out and looked totally clueless. The second pinch hitter Itoh was more justified even though Fujinami did want another innings Wada was justified in relieving him after seven very good innings and 107 pitches. Itoh though grounded out to short and then Uemoto flew out to right. As Wada had stupidly replaced his catcher with an ineffective pinch hitter he needed a new catcher. Shimizu would have been a better choice but in the interests of seniority he chose his most experienced catcher Tsuruoka and the worst one on the bench. Kaneda was the pitcher and from the start the deterioration in the calling was obvious. Kaneda gave up a lead off hit to Hashimoto. Sakamoto was next and he hit to Toritani who was a bit slow and Sakamoto was able to make base safely - runners on first and second. Tsuruoka's calls were inept and so was his catching. and Wada panicked and replaced Kaneda with Tsutsui. The latter was throwing a lot of grubbers and three times Tsuruoka failed to take and let the ball escape. Two would have no consequence but the third would prove significant. Abe walked up to the plate and in a display of supreme idiocy Hara had his No. 4 batter bunt! It really was stupid and one just cannot comprehend why - maybe there was a competition between him and Wada to see who could make the most stupid decision but possibly Hara was just making a gratuitous and fatuous decision to show who was boss. After two failed bunts Abe reverted to hitting which is what a clean up should do and hit well but Ryota was able to take the catch. He couldn't prevent Hashimoto tagging up and taking third though. Sakamoto then stole second - Tsuruoka not even getting a throw away. He really was abysmal. Then Tsutsui let go his third grubber. This bounced off Tsuruoka to right and Hashimoto charged for home. Tsutusi was quick off the mound and Tsuruoka did retrieve the ball and throw to Tsutsui but the Hashimoto was just able to slide in and tag home before the tag 3-1 Giants - runner on third. Then Tsutsui walked Takahashi and Wada decided he needed a different pitcher. He chose the abysmal Tateyama who coupled with Tsuruoka would put the game beyond Tigers reach. One struggles to understand why Tateyama is in the first team at all let alone being a Tiger. He faced Murata who hit nicely to left to bring in another run 4-1 Giants, runners on first and second. Tateyama walked Ibata to load the bases. Ishii (pinch hitter) was next but he struck out and then finally Lopez (pinch hitter) grounded out to short. The innings had been a disaster for Tigers but if Umeno had been catcher it would never have happened. Tigers ninth was pitched by Mathieson. He started by striking out Fukudome (pinch hitter) and then got Toritani to fly out to left. Hope was briefly kindled in Tigers fans breasts when Gomez singled (pinch run for by Saka) and then Saka made second on a wild pitch but Murton grounded out to second to end the game. Giants victory.

An important series which but for Wada's mistakes could have gone to the Tigers. They slipped back against the Giants and Carp gained half a game on them. Wada needs to stop this stupidity of changing his catcher after the seventh and needs to employ his batters more effectively. His misplaced reliance on ex-MLB has beens and 'experienced' NPB has beens is becoming tiring and getting in the way of Tigers winning. He does need to go.
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