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Japan Series - Game 4 - Iwata v Nakata

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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.

Japan Series - Game 4 - Iwata v Nakata

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Due to an upcoming holiday this will be the final full game blog. This game was lost due to a rather idiotic decision to use Fujii as starting catcher. If there is one thing the fat one has demonstrated in this series it is his total ineptness and what amazes is the fact that he started Game 4 after the abysmal performance in Game 3 when he replaced Tsuruoka. To say he and Iwata didn't get on would be an understatement. They really didn't communicate with Fujii demonstrating he has no idea how to call to a pitcher of Iwata's style. Innings five was a perfect illustration of this Fujii was calling for pitches and was being totally ignored by his pitcher. He wanted the pitch centre and low and Iwata would go inside. He wanted it outside and Iwata would go to the centre. The thing was Iwata was much more aware of the batters and their capabilities than Fujii who out of his depth was eventually reduced to asking Iwata what he wanted to throw. Tigers were extremely lucky that Nakata was so abysmal as well but Hawks have the ability to snatch the game at the depth and once again Wada blundered big time having Fujii as catcher with Andoh as pitcher. It was a combination that had failed the game before and it failed again. When Oh was brought on he gave up the game winning runs. Iwata teamed with either Tsuruoka or Umeno would have won this game. Teamed with Fujii he had to fight hard to hold the game. Scores

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Tigers 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 0
Hawks 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3x 5 7 0

Starting Lineups

1. Nishioka (DH)
2. Uemoto (Second)
3. Toritani (Short)
4. Gomez (First)
5. Murton (Left)
6. Fukudome (Right)
7. Sekimoto (Third)
8. Fujii (Catcher)
9. Yamato (Centre)

Starting pitcher was Iwata

1. Yanagita (Centre)
2. Akashi (Second)
3. Uchikawa (Left)
4. Lee (First)
5. Matsuda (Third)
6. Nakamura (Right)
7. Yoshimura (DH)
8. Imamiya (Short)
9. Hosokawa (Catcher)

Starting pitcher was Nakata

Wada wanted to give Sekimoto a Japan Series start and so made Nishioka DH and put Sekimoto at third. This wasn't a bad move. What has been interesting about this series is that the DH has been ineffective on both sides. Nakata started the game well. Both Nishioka and Uemoto went easily and then Nakata fell apart. Whether it was nerves or some other issue he just couldn't find the zone. First he walked Toritani on a full count. This, in itself, was nothing to get worried about but for some reason it affected him deeply and Nakata walked Gomez in four. Then he walked Murton in four to load the bases. Fukudome was next and really Tigers needed a great start from him but he struck out and a huge chance went begging. Hawks would show how it was done. I was actually looking forward to seeing Iwata pitch but seeing that Fujii was the catcher my heart sank. The first really confirmed this impression. Yanagita led off with a drive to left which he neatly turned into a double. He was bunted to third by Akashi. Iwata picked up the bunt which was infield and threw to Sekimoto to get Yanagita who slid in safely. He has been excellent in all aspects of the game this series. Akashi meanwhile was able to make first safely. Iwata got the jitters and walked Uchikawa to load the bases. Lee struck out but Matsuda with something to prove hit left off a particularly inept call by Fujii to bring in two runners 2-0 Hawks, runners on first and second. Nakamura singled to centre and Uchikawa set off round the bases. Yamato produced a gem of a throw which reached Fujii in time for the catcher to tag Uchikawa going for the home plate - another out with runners on first and third. At least Fujii got something right. Yoshimura was totally fooled by Iwata and struck out looking to end the innings. Once again the Hawks had struck early. Nakata was much better in Tigers second. He was facing the lower order and retired all three batters in order. Hawks second started with two batters going down before Fujiitis reasserted itself and Yanagita walked. Akashi singled off a particularly inept pitch which was perfectly where Fujii had wanted it and Hawks had runners on first and third. This time Uchikawa hit deep to right but Fukudome was under it and took the catch to end the innings. Nakata got Nishioka to ground out to second to start the Tigers third but then the walking disease returned. He walked Uemoto, then Toritani and then Gomez to load the bases. This was incredible and with one out surely Tigers would score. Murton was next and battled Nakata to a full count with the prospect of an oshidashi always in view. Eventually Murton lost patience and hit deep to right centre. Yanagita took the catch and threw in but Uemoto tagged up and made home 2-1 Hawks, runners on first and third; Toritani had also tagged up and he took third. Next Fukudome who was determined not to repeat his mistake of the first innings. His first pitch was driven hard through the infield into left centre. This brought Toritani home 2-2 scores tied but Fukudome tried to stretch the single into a double. Once again Yanagita was equal to the challenge and his throw to second enabled Fukudome to be tagged out for the final out. It was a bad mistake by Fukudome who should have stopped on first. This would have enabled Sekimoto to have a go at a very shaky Nakata but Tigers had managed to draw level. Lee led off Hawks third grounding out but then Iwata walked Matsuda in four. Nakamura grounded out to first taking Matsuda to second but Iwata was now more in control and induced a ground out to short from Yoshimura to end the innings. By now he was regularly ignoring Fujii's calls.

Tigers fourth was pitched by Higashihama - Akiyama wisely removing Nakata before he could do anymore damage. He started badly walking Sekimoto on a full count and you wondered if all Hawks pitchers had the Nakata walking disease. Fujii bunted Sekimoto to second but Yamato grounded out to short. Then Nishioka flew out to left in foul ground - a very fine catch by Uchikawa who had to take the ball off the edge of the seating area. Hawks fourth was quiet and Iwata ended the innings striking out Yanagita. Tigers fifth was also quiet and no one reached base. The Hawks fifth saw Fujii desperately trying to get Iwata to follow his lead and Iwata ignoring him. Akashi was bundled up with a series of inside pitches - at one point three balls in a row before getting the batter to ground out to second. This rowing continued into Uchikawa's at bat and the latter took advantage of it to launch a single to centre. In an act of gross stupidity Honda (replacement second, Akashi having taken over first) bunted Uchikawa to second. This time Fujii had to ask Iwata who by now was motoring what he was going to pitch and Iwata told him 'outside shuto'. It was a perfect swinging strikeout to end the innings. With one out in Tigers sixth Fukudome worked a walk. Sekimoto hit his first pitch to left - one gets the impression that he is fading and lacks the power he used to have. Fukudome this time stopped on second having learned his lesson. Next was Fujii who struck out looking and then Yamato who struck out swinging. Tigers hadn't done well here. Hawks sixth was quiet - no one reached base and it was an easy innings for Iwata.

Mori took over the pitching for Tigers seventh and retired the batters in order. Iwata who was by now tiring returned for an unnecessary seventh. He had done well but Wada would have been better off to change his catcher and his pitcher at this point. The innings started off badly with Hosokawa doubling left. Yanagita grounded out to second and Hosokawa made third. Then Aksahi grounded out to Iwata who made sure that Hosokawa stayed on base before throwing to first for the out. Both Fujii and Iwata were in agreement about the need to walk Uchikawa to get at Honda and the replacement four failed striking out to end the innings. Tigers eighth was pitched by Igarashi who had no issues and no one reached base. Hawks eighth was similar. Iwata didn't have another innings left in him (on 128 pitches that was not surprising). He had done really well especially given how bad Fujii had been. Fukuhara who pitched the innings retired the batters in order. Tigers ninth was quiet as well and one wondered why Fujii was still on the field. The catching needed to go up several levels as things moved into another danger zone - Hawks ability to prosper in the sudden death innings. Hawks ninth saw Andoh who managed to retire the batters in order without any problems.

The game went into extra innings and Hawks sent Sarfate to the mound. Nishioka led the innings off with a single to centre. He was bunted to second by Uemoto and then here the tactical judgement which had been so bad so far in this game sunk to a new low. Toritani singled to centre and Nishioka stopped on third with Toritani on first. Really Nishioka should have gone for home at this point and it really was poor work. If he was too slow or was carrying an injury he should have been pinch run for. Whatever, Tigers should have tried to get the runner home. Instead they let the Hawks off the hook here. Gomez the next batter compounded the error by hitting into a double play to end the innings. By failing to take the chance Tigers lost the chance entirely. Hawks tenth and the tactical stupidity continued. Andoh returned - more through mental laziness among the coaching team one thinks than through stunning acumen. He started by issuing a lead off walk to Akashi. Uchikawa flew out in foul ground and Hawks went with their usual totally stupid bunt with one out strategy. Honda bunted and it fell to Fujii to pick up and throw. However, he hesitated and by the time he had managed to decide where to throw Honda (who is fast) was safe on first with Akashi on first. This was to be a costly mistake. Wada decided to switch pitchers and brought on Oh who should have pitched the ninth. He left his useless catcher behind the plate. Matsuda snatched at his pitch and popped up to second. Nakamura was next and got a high inside fly which was hit hard and high to right for a sayonara 3 run home run 5-2 Hawks and Hawks victory.

Hawks now lead the series 3-1 and just need one game to win. Tigers ever since the second game have been really out of it but they should have won this game given the performance they got from Iwata. He had to fight both Hawks and his catcher who was truly abysmal. The only thing to do with Fujii is to terminate his contract immediately and move on. Tigers also need to remove their inadequate coaching team who have dismally failed to deliver the trophies so far. Tigers still have a chance to win the next three games and can do so but they need to play with more hunger. Iwata defying his catcher shows what can be done but Hawks have shown the hunger and desire to win. In all aspects of the game they have played with more fire and it shows in the current series. Tigers will probably turn to Messenger for the final game in Yahoo Dome and one hopes he can pull something out of the hat.
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