Wada’s mad. The Tigers’ lacklustre play on offence and defence resulted in a 6-1 blowout at the hands of Hiroshima. Manager Yutaka Wada, 51, was fuming as he could not figure out what caused pitcher Randy Messenger’s lack of hustle covering third and home. They had just lost their series against the Carp, and lost back-to-back games for the first time in July. The first place Giants’ lead extended to 2.5 games. Time to cut out preventable mistakes and regroup at home this week!
Talking about “what ifs” or “should have-could have” in baseball is a no-no, but there are still times when you say, “if they hadn’t scored that one run.” Bottom of the second, bases loaded. Starter Randy Messenger, 32, failed to back up the relay throws, resulting in a deluge of runs. When you don’t make the simple basic plays, you can’t expect to win games.
After the game as the team headed to their bus, the media scrum approached the players. The big righty* simply said “No thank you” and proceeded on to the bus without an answer to the many questions being asked. His translator added, “No questions today, please” and, unable to hide his annoyance, Mess boarded the bus.
He brought this upon himself, though. He lost control of the game early. After allowing three straight singles starting with Ka’aihue, he plunked the next batter, allowing the tying run to cross the plate. That’s when things unraveled. Carp slugger Kikuchi hit a ball into shallow right, which Fukudome stopped and attempted to throw out the second baserunner at home. As the ball got past catcher Tsuruoka, Messenger was seen standing near third base, looking lost. The white ball bouncing around in foul territory was a symbol of the aloofness of the ninth fielder.
Whether the runner from second would have been thrown out is questionable, but the runner from first should not have scored. It should not have been a bases-clearing single. The result was a big bold 4 on the scoreboard.
Wada called it the game’s turning point. “It was the lack of back-up. That one run could have been prevented. It (the difference between being down 2 runs and 3) is huge.” It was a bone-headed play that took the wind out of the team’s sails.
The whole reason they brought Messenger in on four days’ rest was to put a dent in the Giants’ division lead. The team needs Messenger to give a full-out effort in order to come from behind and win the division. In fact, they are staking their hopes on him. If the man tied for the team lead with 8 wins has a mental breakdown, it will result in the team’s demise.
It seems the bad vibe even rubbed off on others. Reliever Saiuchi’s error in the sixth with two outs and a runner on first brought in the sixth run of the game, sealing the Tigers’ fate. In a continuation of Saturday’s parade of errors, the team’s sloppiness resulted in their first losing streak of the month. The Giants defeated Chunichi to extend their lead to 2.5 games, and by winning this series 2-1, the Carp narrowed the gap between them and the Tigers to 0.5 games.
“When we play like that, we are bound to lose,” lamented a downcast Wada, who prides himself on putting a good defensive team on the field. “We’ll just have to dig deep and play hard when we get back to Koshien.” If they don’t get a grip on things again, this could go from bad to worse.
* The term used in Japanese in the article was 背信 (haishin) which translates as “backstabber” or “betrayer”. As a supporter and fan of Messenger, I could not justify the word choice and refused to translate the article verbatim in this case.