Counting on Murton Coming Back, T. Arai Staying HotThe 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!