Wrap-up – Road of Death & Welcome Home

The Tigers completed their annual 3-week long road trip on Thursday in Tokyo. As I was away from Japan for most of it, I will simply post all the scores here without commenting on the action. For the record, they went 6-9 on their road trips, winning just one of their 5 series, and 5-1 at Kyocera Dome, their “home away from home.” Their return to Koshien was not a pleasant one, as they took only one of three from the lowly Swallows. Here are all the scores:

August 3week recap

So after three weeks of mediocre ball, the Tigers sit in third place, within striking distance of the Carp, and a few games back of the Giants. Here are the standings:

August 31 Standings

The week ahead sees the Tigers enjoying three games at Koshien Stadium against the Baystars followed by three on the road against the Dragons. DeNA is on a roll, but hopefully playing at home can prod the Tigers to cool them off. Chunichi, on the other hand, is slumping terribly. This gives the Tigers a great opportunity to move up in the standings. GO TIGERS!

Article Translation – How the Tigers Can Win

For a JPEG of the original article, written by former Tiger pitcher and pitching coach Keiichi Yabu, click here.

Make Nohmi a Set-up Man!

s_nohmiThere are less than 50 games left in the season. (Translator’s Note: The count now sits at just over 20.) As of August 9, the team sits in the favourably behind the Giants by a mere 0.5 games. If they want to win it all, the team must avoid the same disastrous September they put out last season. One of the big reasons for last year’s slump was the inability to hold down leads as the relievers replaced starters. It seems to me the batting order is even stronger than last year, so it is that much more important to have a solid corps of relievers.

I propose the team use ace pitcher Atsushi Nohmi as their set-up man in the 7th and 8th innings. One of Nohmi’s strengths is his ability to strike guys out. Let’s go back to 2012, when I was the pitching coach for the Tigers. I wanted Nohmi to win the league strikeout title, so I put him in as a reliever in the final game of the season. He did an outstanding job, and clearly has what it takes to be a solid reliever.

This year in particular, Nohmi is struggling to throw the ball well. (As of August 8) Nohmi is winless in his last 8 appearances, sports a 5-10 record with a 4.50 ERA. He’s shown signs of being able to put together a good game, but has also tended to give up runs early and has been knocked around badly later in games as well. With that in mind, I think he would be better used in the seventh and eighth as a reliever.

Presently (Shinobu) Fukuhara is playing the role of set-up man, but I don’t think he’s got his best stuff going for him right now. This is where Nohmi comes in to complement Fukuhara and Andoh and shut down the opposition in the 7th and 8th. Fortunately the team has a solid closer in Seung-hwan Oh, so it is best if the team can build their lead through the first six innings, then shut down the opposing team’s hitters beyond the 7th. Granted, at the moment the team has a solid 19-10 record in games decided by one run. As they battle for the league title, there will likely be more close games like this, and they don’t want to blow any leads late in games. They need to go overboard to ensure they are rock solid in the final three innings of such games. Having that strong a relief corps would likely be quite intimidating for other teams as well.

On the other hand, the team currently has a 4-31 record in games that they trail after six innings. That makes it even more important that they hold leads when they have them. If they are losing late in games, rest Nohmi and Fukuhara. If they are winning, they’ll have their best relievers in their best shape.

You might be thinking that if they follow my suggestion, the starting pitchers look a little lean. I think you can confidently put Messenger, Iwata, Fujinami and Iwasada in place as the core. With the other two slots, put in the youngsters, try to get them through five innings and you can use guys like Enokida in the sixth. So far against the Giants this season (as of August 9th), the Tigers have a 9-6 record, but there are nine games remaining. Of those, six take place at Tokyo Dome. These are must-win games, so the team has to hold fort in the last three innings.

I’ve spent the whole article talking about the pitching staff, but another issue is what to do about the 6th and 7th hitters. Though the first five hitters are doing their job, their 441 runs (2nd in the league) leave something to be desired. If the 6th and 7th hitters can get a few more hits, the lineup becomes that much more dangerous.

In any case, there are less than 50 games remaining in the regular season. Hopefully the team can win against the Carp, who are always strong in the summer months, but even more key is not losing against the weaker teams. To do these things, come from behind and win the division title from the Giants, I strongly believe the first step is to give the relief corps a solid anchor in Nohmi.

Translation – Gomez: RBI King

Gomez: Ready, Set, GO!

The original article can be found here 元の記事はこちらです

GomezRBI2When the entire lineup explodes with production, you can be assured the cleanup hitter has not been silenced, either. Indeed, Gomez took part in the load of RBIs collected last night. He made a big inning even bigger with a swing of his bat. “The Tigers’ RBI King” took one more step towards becoming the league RBI King in the process.

“I had a great opportunity, and I just wanted to make sure I made good contact. They brought in a reliever right before I got up there, but I got my timing down and was able to put the ball in play.”

It was the fourth inning and the Tigers took a commanding 5-0 lead. With one out and runners on first and third, the Swallows brought in reliever Abe. Gomez took his second pitch, a slider, and drove it between shortstop and third. That was the team’s 6th run, and the onslaught that continued resulted in a 5-spot for the inning.

GomezRBI1That brought Gomez’s RBI total on the year to 90. The gap between him and Hiroshima’s Eldred, the RBI leader, to 1. The Carp slugger has fallen into a huge slump, and the tides have clearly turned in Gomez’s favor. It’s just a matter of time before we celebrate the birth of “Gomez: RBI King.” The Tigers’ import slugger is also on the verge of making team history. The current team record for RBIs by an import in his first year is 92, held by Breeden (1976). Gomez is sure to pass that number by season’s end.

Eldred went hitless in three at bats, including two strikeouts, as the Giants’ Sawamura shut out the Carp. Playing at Koshien for the first time in a month, Gomez freely attacked the ball, focusing on hitting to the right side. He always does so when he regains his focus after a few bad games. During bad times, he tends to swing at balls thrown outside the strike zone. If Gomez can kick that bad habit, he’ll be fine.

He took a free pass each of his first two times up, and added another single to center in the sixth. As he gets back into a groove on home turf, look for he and the team to keep the good times rolling.

Game 1: Who’s the MAN?

Before we get to business, a little quiz. Which Tiger import is 4 for his last 6 at bats with two doubles and 6 RBIs?

a) Matt Murton

b) Mauro Gomez

c) Randy Messenger

If you guessed a) or b) I would say you chose very logically. But the answer is none other than number 54, Randy Messenger. He who, prior to his recent outbreak, was hitting 2-for-44 on the season. The interesting thing is, he has looked quite comfortable and has hit the ball very sharply.

Tonight’s game was a real nail-biter, but the Tigers came out on top, 4-3. Messenger pitched 6 innings of 2-run ball, but also walked 4 guys and had to strike out the side in the 6th with the bases loaded to preserve the lead for his team. Needless to say, he was named Hero of the Night. Here is the interview:


Interviewer: He threw, he hit, he ran! He did it all tonight, Randy Messenger! How do you feel?

Messenger: I feel great! The team did a great job tonight. I was able to get out of that big jam in the sixth inning. Thankfully I did, it gave us the win today.

Interviewer: First, about your hitting. How did you feel about that double you hit?

Messenger: I felt great. Any time you can help yourself at the plate and drive in runs is a plus as a pitcher. You know, our job is to pitch. So like I said, it’s just a plus to drive in runs.

Interviewer: And after that, on Toritani‘s [sacrifice] fly you made it home! What was that like? 

Messenger: Yeah, I just wanted to make sure I got across home plate. For Tori, especially and the team. It’s just a great feeling any time you can get on base and help your team score runs, it’s great.

Interviewer: And then in the sixth, you drove in two runs. Great hitting!

Messenger: Yeah, it was lucky, I guess. You know, I was thinking change up, he left a change up up, and I was able to drive it into the outfield, like I said, I just got lucky today.

Interviewer: That hit is being shown on replay now. Let’s talk about your pitching. Right after that in the bottom of the sixth, there were no outs and the bases were loaded, and you struck out three guys in a row. Did you put a little extra into your pitches?

Messenger: Yeah, that’s when you’ve got to bear down. I don’t feel like I had good control today, but in that inning, I slowed myself down, relaxed, and made sure I made my pitches.

Interviewer: Well, Mr. Messenger, game one of the Giants series is over. And personally, you reached double digits in the win column again. Surely later in the season you’ll have the assignment of shutting down the Giants again. How are you going to approach those games?

Messenger: Yeah, any time I get the ball, I just want to go as deep as I can into the game, give the team an opportunity to win. Like I said, it’s a team game. Thanks to the guys getting on base. I was able to drive them in, they played good defence behind me. Imanari made a good play for a double play. I just want to keep pitching, do my job, and give us a championship.

Interviewer: Very encouraging words at the end. He pitched, he hit, and he ran! Ladies and gentlemen, Randy Messenger!

Because of a family vacation, this will be my last blog update until the end of the month. For frequent game reports, check out Tiger Tails blog. See you at the end of the month, readers! GO TIGERS!

Translation – Tigers/Giants Series Preview

TigersAttack the Giants!Giants

Counting on Murton Coming Back, T. Arai Staying Hot

The original article can be found here 元の記事はこちらです

No time to get down on yourselves! The Tigers went without outfielder Matt Murton (32) for the second straight day as their weakened roster lost to Hiroshima. But next on the agenda (starting on the 12th) is a 3-game series at Tokyo Dome against the division-leading Giants. Murton’s return to the starting lineup is huge, but so is the continued strong play of Takahiro Arai (37). This is a huge opportunity to flip the 1.5-game deficit into a lead!

The typhoon shut down train service. Umbrellas were blown inside out. Still the fans showed up. Though the Tigers were unable to help the 30,000+ fans forget that they got drenched on their way in, the time has come for their attention to shift to the most important series of the season: three games against the Yomiuri Giants. Manager Wada’s words were weighty:

“I’m giving the players tomorrow (the 11th) off. A lot of things came undone during today’s game, and I want the guys to take good care of themselves so we can enter the Dome in good shape.”

Iwasada, making his first career appearance and start, looked rigid. The mid-relievers crumbled under pressure. Uemoto’s defensive error cost the team as well. Everything fell apart. “A lot of things” caused the team to lose 7-3 to the Carp, but a lot of good things came out of the game that could help the team against the Giants. The lower body strains that kept Murton out of the starting lineup for two games seem to have healed.

Being extra cautious, Wada said, “He had yesterday and today off, and he’ll be able to rest tomorrow (11th) as well. We’ll see how he feels the day after tomorrow (12th) and decide from there.” Meanwhile, Murton explained that he “could start if called upon to do so, but I’ll follow the manager’s decision. We need to think of the team’s future and not try to do too much too fast.” He emphasised that he spent the two days making sure he was in tiptop shape for “when it counts most.” Nothing would feel better for the Tigers right now than to have their number 5 hitter — and current league-leading hitter (with a .347 average) — back in the lineup.

In fact, today Murton was warming up in the fifth inning to pinch hit, and ended up pinch hitting for Tsuruoka with runners on 1st and 2nd and one out in the eighth, and the team down four runs. He got jammed by a looping curve ball, grounding out to short but running all out to prevent a double play. He can run — this seems to imply that his lower body injury has healed.

The Tigers need a healthy Murton to steal beat down the Giants. Though the Tigers weren’t able to steal first from the Giants today, the series starting on the 12th awaits them. A three-game sweep would turn the 1.5-game deficit into a 1.5-game lead.

The team got another encouraging sign out of the loss on Sunday. Pinch hitting in the fifth, Arai smacked a two-RBI single to keep his hot hitting streak alive. Since the Giants are planning on sending Sugiuchi (Wednesday) and Seddon (Thursday) — two lefties — to the mound, it’s possible they will plug Arai into the starting lineup at third base. “It’s not like Arai is injured or anything,” said the skipper. If Murton comes back to play left field, Imanari could shift over to right, Fukudome could play centre, and the possibilities for the batting lineup are mouth-watering.

The team was unable to score a victory in their 100th game of the year, but that game was just a checkpoint. There’s a tall mountain to climb to win the division for the first time in nine seasons. Wada’s mantra all season has been, “There’s no championship unless we can beat the Giants.” All eyes are looking eastward. Let’s topple the Giants!

Tigers’ Weekly Wrap-up – August 4-10, 2014

Another week, another .500 record. After wasting a chance to gain ground by losing 2 of 3 to the Swallows last week, the Tigers repeated the feat again this week. They then took the first two against the Carp in convincing fashion, but fell way short in the series finale.

You would have thought this was football if you checked the final score of Game 1. Collecting 23 hits, including four home runs (ending a 7-game team drought), the Tigers blew out the Swallows 20-11. If you have the time to watch a real hit parade, check out this video:

Typical Tigers, a game after hitting everything in sight, they struggled in the second game, losing 7-6 (three of those runs in the top of the 9th). Iwata, who had just won Central League Player of the Month, gave up 11 hits (including a bomb to Balentien), and the Tigers’ come-from-behind effort fell just short.

The series quickly unraveled as three young pitchers (starter Saiuchi and relievers Enokida and Takamiya) combined to allow 13 runs in a blowout loss. All three pitchers were sent down to the minors after the game. The lone bright spot for the Tigers was slugger Matt Murton, who made each plate appearance count (3 hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly). Swallows 13, Tigers 4.

The road trip was interrupted by a 3-game series “at home” in Kyocera Dome. Thankfully, the games went on despite a weekend of rain in the Kansai region. The Tigers came out playing strong, as Fujinami combined with two relievers to shut down the Carp. Poor defense by second baseman Uemoto accounted for two of the three runs Fujinami allowed, and the Tigers rolled, 7-5. The game was only close because the relievers continued to have a rough week. Fukuhara gave up two in the eighth, but Oh clamped down with a 4-out save.

The second game saw Atsushi Nohmi redeeming himself, throwing seven innings of one-run ball. Again, the bullpen coughed up a truckload of runs, and the Tigers squeaked by, 5-4.

As the Tigers seem to like doing, they brought in a rookie starter for the third (crucial) game. Yuta Iwasada had never pitched for the big-league team, and his nerves got the best of him as he gave up 4 runs in 4 innings. The Tigers never managed to catch up, although their attempt was snuffed out by the relief crew once again. What looked like an exciting finish got ugly in the eighth, and the Tigers eventually succumbed 7-3.

Here is the week that was.

August 4 Week


As has been the case much of the year, the Tigers got their fans excited and ready for a run at first. Then Sunday happened. Still, we moved a game closer to the Giants. One can only wonder how the week had turned out if the relievers had not given up 19 runs in 20 innings of work. (It’s worth noting, though, that the losing pitchers were all starters.) Here are the standings as of the end of play on August 10th:

August 10 Standings

Here are this week’s stat lines for our foreigners:

Gomez 6 23 5 8 2 0 1 6 4 6 0 0 .348 .464 .565 1.030
Murton 5 14 4 9 2 0 1 6 4 2 0 0 .643 .684 1.000 1.684
What do the hitters’ stats mean? Check here for details!
Messenger 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 5.0 11 8 7 1 1 5 12.60 2.40
Oh 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 2.1 1 0 0 0 0 3 0.00 0.43
What do the pitchers’ stats mean? Check here for details!

This week on the calendar, we have a 3-game set against the Giants, followed by another against the Baystars. Both series give us a great chance to take first place!  GO TIGERS!

Fujinami – Good Enough for the Bigs?

fujiohheroesAfter Friday night’s victory over the Hiroshima Carp, co-heroes Shintaro Fujinami and Seung-Hwan Oh were interviewed by the media. When asked about the team’s young ace, Oh speculated that Fujinami is the type of pitcher who could move on to the major leagues some day. The game commentators also reminded viewers that Fujinami is basically right where Yu Darvish was when he was twenty. (Incidentally, their physiques are similar: Fujinami is 197 cm/85 kg; Darvish is 196 cm/102 kg — but has had 7 extra years to put on muscle/bulk.) Here are their stat lines: Darvish’s include his first two seasons, while Fujinami’s are current to his last outing.

Fujinami 42 42 18 10 0 0 0 1 0 255.2 224 106 87 14 93 250 3.06 1.24
Darvish 39 38 17 10 0 0 1 5 3 244.0 225 92 85 19 113 167 3.14 1.39

darvish2006Of course, Darvish would go on to dominate from his third year forward, never posting an ERA over 1.88 for his next five seasons in Japan. My understanding is that the Tigers have the right to keep Fujinami for several more years. So the question is, will Fujinami make it to Major League Baseball? If so, when? Readers, place your votes/bets!

Video – Murton Entertains in the Rain

Sunday, August 3. Potentially the last game at Koshien for the Tigers until the 29th. One problem: the rain just won’t slow down enough for the game to start. So what happens? Well, check the videos below to see! (The first was taken by a fan, quality is not awesome but it feels more like you’re there. The second is an official video release from NPB.)

The game never took place, but at least the fans got a little entertainment from everyone’s favourite redhead! Good stuff, Murton! オオキニ!

Translation – Murton the Beast


An Ogre at Jingu!

Murton’s Unbelievable .636 Average Aided by 3 Hit (2 RBI) Night

The original article can be read here. 元の記事はこちらです

MurtonJinguCould it be the “Umaibo Effect” once again? Matt Murton went 3-for-3 in putting on yet another Moda (hard hitting) Show. The mark he has left on enemy turf has left the crowd silent and has him playing in a league of his own.

“I just want to win. I’m glad I performed well but it’s too bad we lost.”

Murton gave the Tigers the lead in the first inning. With runners on first and second and two outs, he hammered the first pitch he saw from Swallows’ starter Muranaka. He made good contact on a forkball high in the strike zone, and the ball landed in shallow center field. Imanari scored easily from first, and took a quick 1-0 lead.

“I just wanted to be aggressive up there. His forkball floated a little and I simply couldn’t pass on it. I was glad to be able to score us a run.”

In the fourth, he hit a double to right center. In the sixth he hit one to left, and for the 14th time this season, he collected a modasho. But that wasn’t all. In the seventh, he walked, and in the ninth he hit a sacrifice fly to center. Even when he wasn’t getting base hits, he was doing the small things right. He extended his lead for the batting title and is now hitting .346 on the year, while second place Luna is at .336.

For some reason, Murton’s best hitting has not come at home, the sacred grounds of high school baseball, but on the road at university baseball’s holy grounds. So far this season at Jingu, Murton is hitting .636 (21 for 33) with 4 home runs and 17 runs batted in. Not the kind of inspired hitting you would expect from someone who never experienced the excitement the national university baseball tournament at Jingu.

“I don’t know how to explain it. I’m just trying to hit aggressively when they throw me good stuff. Everything seems to be going my way here.”

MurtonUmaiboThis past series at Jingu was the icing on the cake. In the three game series, Murton went 7 for 9 (.778) with a home run and 5 RBIs. Before the first two games, while fielding balls in left before the game, a fan gave him an “Umaibo.” To show his appreciation, he ate it right in front of the fans.

“It’s good stuff,” said Murton. The team might have lost, but Murton is playing like a man determined to win.

Translation – Gomez’s Challenge

Outdo us!

Gomez spurred on by Kakefu and Bass

The original article can be read here. 元の記事はこちらです

KakefuBassGo ahead, outdo us! Legendary batsman Randy Bass (60) and Development Coordinator (DC) Masayuki Kakefu (59) of the 1985 championship team pointed to the cleanup hitter, infielder Mauro Gomez as being the key to victory as the Tigers open their three week road trip at Jingu Stadium against the Yakuto Swallows on August 4th. To win the division for the first time in nine years, the team must break through the “Midsummer Wall” that stands in their way.

The next three weeks will make or break the Tigers’ season. Even if the term “road [trip] of death” is an outdated term, the weight behind these three weeks remains the same. Indeed, if they can get through this time alright, a fruitful fall awaits them. So who is the key to their success? The two Tiger legends agree that the team’s fate rests on one man’s shoulders: number 5, Gomez.

“[Gomez] is off to a great start. This will be his first time [being on this long road trip] but for his first year, he’s playing incredibly well. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit 35 home runs, knock in a hundred, and bat .300.”

The greatest import player in team history really set the bar high for Gomez. He was visiting Tokyo Dome for the annual “Suntory Dream Match.” While he might not be in the same shape he once was, Tiger blood still courses through his veins. As a senator in his home state of Oklahoma, he follows the Tigers closely online, and is aware that Gomez is hitting .287 with 17 home runs and 76 RBIs in 93 games.

Mr. Tiger himself, DC Kakefu, responded with words of his own. “The daily routine is different [on the road] than it is at Koshien. It’s three weeks long and every game is a grind,” he said. “But the biggest difference between this year and last is that we’ve got a strong pillar in Gomez this year. It’s a completely different team now that we’ve got this cleanup hitter,” he concluded with great expectation.

The Tigers play seven consecutive road series totalling 21 games starting August 5th. It’s a crucial point in the season. Last year the Tigers went 14-9, but ended it with three straight losses to the Giants that sent them spiralling out of contention.

Ideally, they want to replicate the magic of the 1985 championship season. Much like this season, the 1985 team went on the road in second place, two games behind Hiroshima. After gutting out a 7-7 record on the road, the Tigers came home, swept Hiroshima three straight and took the division lead. From there, they made their way to the championship with little difficulty. They did not even return to Osaka Dome or Kansai even once, enduring a much tougher trip than the Tigers do now. Perhaps it was that harsh schedule that catalysed the team to win the title. They were powered largely by Bass, who hit .400, launched 6 home runs and knocked in 15 runs, and Kakefu who also hit .400, six home runs and had 14 RBIs.

GomezStationShotSays Bass, “You have to go at least .500 on that road trip. If you don’t win at least half your games, you’re done. And especially against the Giants, you have to take at least two of three. [Those numbers] came in my third year,” he said humbly, but indicating they would need something similar out of Gomez. He also challenged Gomez to break his 1985 record of 134 runs batted in. “I would be thrilled if Gomez broke my record. Records are made to be broken, so I hope he can do it.”

Gomez, who first heard these words from the media while with his family at Shin Kobe Station, nodded silently. “I’m glad he feels that way about me, but all I can do is my best.” The gap between the Tigers and Giants sits at 2.5 games. If number 5 can contribute even more than the Tigers legend did, the road to victory should be a smooth one.