Mini-Series Recap – July 14 & 15, 2015

Manager Wada's magic number 86 has come up. The team's runs for/against differential sits at -86 on the season.

Manager Wada’s magic number 86 has come up. The team’s runs for/against differential sits at -86 on the season.

Two losses and a win, two losses and a win. What comes next in this pattern? If two losses, then there would be no time for a win – the team had just two games remaining before the all-star break. That being the case, they started two of their core pitchers on short rest at home against the Hiroshima Carp. Could they pull their way over the .500 mark before the weekend of rest?

The guys were all smiles on Tuesday. Nohmi pitched well for 7, Uemoto and Toritani got RBIs, and Imanari... was happy, too.

The guys were all smiles on Tuesday. Nohmi pitched well for 7, Uemoto and Toritani got RBIs, and Imanari… was happy, too.

Game 1: They certainly started this one right: Kosuke Fukudome, Mauro Gomez and Matt Murton collected two-out hits, the last one resulting in the first run of the game. The rebounding redhead struck again in the third inning with a run-scoring sacrifice fly, and the Tigers broke open a 2-0 lead. Starter Atsushi Nohmi had the game under control as well, pitching solidly in his 7 innings (6 hits, 1 unearned run) of work. The Tigers took full control with runs in the 5th (Hiroki Uemoto 2-run double, Takashi Toritani RBI single), and despite a run surrendered by Shinobu Fukuhara (someone give this old man some rest!) the outcome was never in question. Back to .500! Final Score: Tigers 5, Carp 2.

Randy Messenger steps up to the plate as the sun sets at Koshien on Wednesday night.

Game 2: This one looked bad from the onset, though having Randy Messenger on the mound means you will always have a chance to win. He pitched a strong game, going six innings and giving up a single run on 4 hits. For their part, the Tigers brought up perhaps their least intimidating lineup of the season. Shunsuke in center (mind you, who else will step up there?) batting second, and Katsuhiko Saka starting at third base. Yes, Ryota Imanari has been struggling mightily. But why not Ryota Arai? Oh right, the whole righty-vs-lefty “advantage” Wada loves to “exploit.” So let’s bring in a .154 lefty with no pop instead of our righty who actually can hit a ball with some authority! The results were predictable. No offense to the offense, but they were offensive. Lots of base runners, mind you – two guys got plunked (yep, the two I chose to diss for being in the starting lineup) and six took first on balls. But despite several chances with runners in scoring position, the team could not muster a single run. In the bottom of the sixth, the 7th, 8th and 9th batters were due up. Would they pull Messenger for a pinch hitter? “No chance,” I said to my buddy, trying to sound like I knew baseball better than anyone else, “Even if there’s a guy in scoring position and they bring in a pinch hitter and score a run, they would have to depend on the bullpen to hold down the fort for 3 innings afterwards, and we all know that never happens. And if the first two guys get out, I can guarantee they’ll let Randy hit and then pitch at least the 7th, maybe even the 8th.” I’m not Wada though, and I don’t call the shots. Two outs into the inning, they pulled the big righty in favor of the hitless Yuto Morikoshi. He flied out to center and we were left to ask our bullpen to keep it close. They couldn’t. Recently recalled Kosuke Katoh walked a guy who got bunted over to second, and Yuya Andoh proceeded to give up a single on his third pitch. Now 2-0. The Carp added one more in the ninth off birthday boy Seung-hwan Oh for good measure, and the game ended without a sound from the Tigers’ fans. Final Score: Carp 3, Tigers 0.

Someone looks a little too happy about beating his old teammates.

Someone looks a little too happy about beating his old teammates.

Series Notes: Gomez now has an 11-game hitting streak, while Murton’s 9-game run ended in Wednesday’s loss… Oh has thrown just one scoreless frame in his last 4 outings, and has not thrown a clean inning since June 27. Perhaps it’s time for my proposal to be given a look!… Messenger is now winless since taking the first game after league play resumed on June 20, despite giving up 2, 1, 4 and 1 earned runs in his starts. This lack of run support is killing the starters, who have to be feeling pressure to completely shut out the opposition… The Tigers are tied for second at present, just a half game behind the DeNA Baystars, who swept the Giants to take over first. Our guys start the second half with six straight at home against these two teams, and the rest of the season could depend largely on how they fare coming out of the gates. I will be in attendance next Friday and hope to see a win for a change! (I’m 1-3 so far this season.) No standings graphic here, but check here for updated CL and PL rankings.

Mini-Series Recap – June 23-24, 2015

The Tigers played their second of two 2-game sets to open up the post-interleague schedule. This time, they traveled to the “Hokuriku” region to play a couple of true road games: the first in Nagano, the second in Toyama. With just 0.5 games separating them from the Giants for the league lead, but also with a mere 3 game lead on the last place team, they needed to continue their strong play before coming home for a three-game series on the weekend. It was a wild mini-series, so fasten your seatbelt and join me as we go over the action.

Gomez got all of this pitch, and everyone knew the instant it left his bat that we were 20 seconds from celebrating with Imanari. Komanechi!

Gomez got all of this pitch, and everyone knew the instant it left his bat that we were 20 seconds from celebrating with Imanari. Komanechi!

Game 1: Though rain threatened to drown this one out, this one was played in full. Including a 33-minute rain delay, the game went all the way into the dark hours of the night, as each team took leads, lost leads, tied the game, and repeated the process all over again. The Tigers drew first blood on a Ryota Imanari solo shot (his first of the year) in the second. The rains chased players from the field and when the game resumed, it was the Carp who responded to the soggy conditions much better than the Tigers. In fact, they chased starter Minoru Iwata after just four innings of work, taking a 3-1 lead into the fifth. That was when the Tigers roared back against ex-MLB pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. Kohei Shibata took a two-out pitch to right-center, cashing in Imanari and Takashi Toritani, tying the game at 3. The score remained knotted through Ryoma Matsuda‘s two innings of relief, but then took a turn for the worst when Yuya Andoh came in and fell apart in the seventh. Two hits were followed by a wild pitch, and the winning run crossed the plate for the fish. However, the game was not over yet. With runners on first and third, Mauro Gomez took the first pitch he saw to deeeeeep left, reversing the teams’ fortunes and putting the Tigers up 2 with just six outs to go. With Shinobu Fukuhara and Seung-hwan Oh due up to pitch those innings, this one was over, right? Think again. Once again, the ex-Arai came back to bite the Tigers, hitting a solo shot to left and narrowing the lead to one. Still, our closer only had to shut down their 8th, 9th and 1st hitters to end the game. No problem, right? Think again, again! A walk, a hit batsman, and a hit later, the game was tied. Runners were on second and third with no outs. All the Carp needed was a hit, a deep fly or a squeeze play, and they had three chances to do it. But a sharp grounder, a shallow fly and a strikeout later, this one was headed to extras. Nothing was decided in three frames, despite chances on both sides, and youngster Hiroaki Saiuchi pitched 2 2/3 innings of shutout ball to help the Tigers preserve the tie. With the Giants’ loss, this put them in a tie for first, but it also meant that for the first time in Central League history, no team had a winning record after sixty-plus games. Final Score: Tigers 6, Carp 6.


Nohmi “helped his own cause” by driving in two runs in the fourth, giving his team a huge lead.

Game 2: If both the Tigers and Giants lost here, every CL team would be UNDER .500 for the first time in history. But this one was never in question. Kosuke Fukudome knocked in Toritani in the first, and then the offense padded their lead nicely in the 4th with an Imanari double (2 RBI) followed by an Atsushi Nohmi single (2 more), making the score 5-0. Matt Murton also smashed one to left in the fifth (see it here), his second home run in 4 games, and despite a couple runs along the way by the Carp, the Tigers cruised to victory in fashion. Gomez added an insurance run late, and yesterday’s goats (Fukuhara and Oh) pitched strongly in the last two frames. The Tigers were once again over .500, and awaited the Giants result to see where they would sit in the standings. Final Score: Tigers 7, Carp 2.

The team finds itself in sole possession of first (by a game) after the Giants were toppled for the second straight night. The Baystars have won 2 straight after dropping 12 in a row. These are the most recent standings in the Central:

15-6-24 Standings

The Tigers host the DeNA Baystars for three at Koshien this weekend and will finish the month of June with their first of three straight at Jingu Stadium to face the Swallows. Let’s hope they can keep this little hot streak going to end the month strong. Go TIGERS!

Miniseries Recap – April 25-26, 2015

No need to sound the alarm just yet, Tigers fans! Toritani to the rescue! His 3 RBIs on Sunday represented his first in over a week.

No need to sound the alarm just yet, Tigers fans! Toritani to the rescue! His 3 RBIs on Sunday represented his first in over a week.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…” — A Tale of Two Cities

How better to describe the last two games but to say that two different teams showed up each day. For each team.

The Tigers spent their weekend in Hiroshima, facing the last place Carp in a two-game series. The first game could not have gone worse for the Tigers, while the second game could not have gone much better.

The Tigers got pounced on early and often as the Carp walked all over the pinstripes on Saturday.

The Tigers got pounced on early and often as the Carp walked all over the pinstripes on Saturday.

Game 1: The Tigers started young ace Shintaro Fujinami against the Carp’s veteran hurler Hiroki Kuroda. Right from the beginning, Fujinami’s control was off, as was his pitch choice, as the Carp jumped on him for three hits and a run. He nearly plunked Kuroda with a couple of brushback pitches in the second, which caused both benches to clear and the Tigers to lose their composure. A fielding error by Mauro Gomez (who had been fighting a fever) brought home a run, and two more errors (a bobbled pop-up by Tsuyoshi Nishioka and a throwing error by Ryutaro Umeno) brought more runs across the plate for the home team. Then after Fujinami left the game, the relievers (Hiroya Shimamoto and Kazuyuki Kaneda) gave up bases-clearing triples in the sixth, and the Carp bats, which had been silent much of the season, came to life. The Tigers’ lone bright spot was spot starter Hayata Itoh, who recorded three hits including a 2-run home run in the top of the sixth. Final Score: Carp 11, Tigers 3.

A huge sixth inning on Sunday started with a Murton (right) RBI and was capped off with Gomez's RBI double.

A huge sixth inning on Sunday started with a Murton RBI and was capped off with Gomez’s RBI double.

Game 2: Once again, Atsushi Nohmi was led by veteran catcher Akihito Fujii, and the two combined for an excellent performance. Nohmi scattered six hits (all singles) and threw a complete game shut-out. The Tigers piled up ten hits and ten walks, and put up six runs in the sixth inning on RBI hits by Matt Murton, Takashi Toritani and Gomez, plus a bases-loaded walk drawn by Nishioka. The Carp only once had a runner in scoring position, and never put more than one man on base in a single inning. The Tigers, on the other hand, had at least two baserunners in six of the nine innings. Could this be a sign that the Tigers’ bats are coming to life? Final Score: Tigers 6, Carp 0.

Series Notes: Nishioka drew four walks in today’s game… Murton has now hit safely in three straight games, including three hits today for his first modasho of the season. Kosuke Fukudome also recorded three hits on the day… This was the first game all season that the Tigers won by more than three runs. In other words, closer Seung-hwan Oh stayed on the bench for a win for the first time this season out of ten wins… Toritani hit a foul ball in the fifth inning that set off a fire alarm at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. The game was halted for several minutes… Former Tiger Takahiro Arai reached base safely four times (2 hits, 2 walks) on Saturday and twice more (both hits) on Sunday. He finished the series 4-for-7 (.571)… Murton is hitting .417 (5-for-12) in the three games since moving down to the six slot. It will be interesting to see if they keep him there or move him back up to his customary spot (fifth) in the order… Rookie Taiga Egoshi made his return to the team (and the starting lineup) on Sunday, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts… The Tigers host first place Yakult Swallows early this week at Koshien, and then play a short two-game series at Tokyo Dome against the Giants on the weekend. This is a much-needed chance to gain some ground in the standings. GO TIGERS!

Series Recap – April 10-12, 2015

Things just didn't go the Tigers' way on Saturday night. Messenger (right) catches the ball with his throwing hand as Uemoto and Nishioka look on.

Things just didn’t go the Tigers’ way on Saturday. Messenger (right) catches the ball with his throwing hand as Uemoto and Nishioka look on.

As the Tigers’ miserable start on home soil left fans drowning their sorrows, the heavens decided to give the team a break on Friday. Continuous rain all Friday caused the night game to be canceled (and rescheduled for September 11), and gave the Tigers another day to regroup and hopefully put an end to their 5-game losing streak.


Unfortunately the Carp rained on the Tigers’ parade on Saturday, getting the better of starter Randy Messenger, chasing him by scoring 4 straight runs before any outs were recorded in the sixth. Again the Tigers bats failed to produce much early or consistently, scoring on Kosuke Fukudome’s solo shot in the second and his RBI single in the sixth. Major league returnee Hiroki Kuroda pitched effectively enough to earn the win for the Carp, who extended their season-best streak to three. Final Score: Carp 7, Tigers 2.

For Sunday’s game, Wada decided to juggle his hitting order in a big way. Tsuyoshi Nishioka led off, Yamato was back up to second, Takashi Toritani hit third and Akihito Fujii made his first start at catcher, batting eighth. Birthday boy Shintaro Fujinami (21) took the mound against newcomer Kris Johnson, and for the first time since April 3, the Tigers found themselves leading as Fujinami hit a sacrifice fly and Nishioka brought another run home in the bottom half of the second. Unfortunately the offense sputtered after that, and Fujinami gave up a number of hits before leaving the game in the seventh, down 3-2. But wait! In the bottom of the 8th inning, pinch hitter Ryota Arai drew a walk, which was followed by a dramatic Toritani home run, putting the Tigers up by a run with just three outs to go. Closer Seung-hwan Oh gave up a lead-off hit, was given a courtesy out on a sacrifice bunt, then mowed down the next two Carp hitters. The losing streak was over at last! The game also featured many fine defensive plays, including outstanding outfield catches by Fukudome and Yamato. Final Score: Tigers 4, Carp 3.

The Tigers still have their work cut out for them, having only won one game this year by more than a single point. They have not looked convincingly strong at all this season, and the fans will not be satisfied with just this one win. They are still in the lower half of the standings and need to put together a strong winning streak against the Dragons next week in Nagoya.

15-4-12 Standings

Series Notes: By picking up the win on Sunday, reliever Ryoma Matsuda now has half of the team’s six wins. Chalk it up to being the right pitcher at the right time. Still, when is the last time a reliever has led the team in wins this deep into the season? Should continue for awhile, as no one else has more than a win so far. Messenger, Fujinami and Akira Iwamoto have the other W’s… The Tigers tied a club record on Saturday by losing their first four games of the season at Koshien. Saturday’s loss tied the 1999 squad for futility, a club that ended up in last place. Let’s hope these Tigers avoid doing the same… Minoru Iwata missed his turn in the rotation and will likely start the first or second game of the next series. With four left-handed starting pitchers currently, the Tigers are at a disadvantage against the bulk of the league, as right-handed hitters typically hit better against southpaws… With Toritani’s bomb in the eighth, the team now has 6 on the season so far. At this point last year they had double digits already. Look for Mauro Gomez and Matt Murton to bring their big bats into the next series.

Tigers Advance! Game Highlights

Walkoff tie? Never heard of such a thing? You have now! Because the Hiroshima Carp failed to score in the top of the 12th inning, the bottom of the inning was not played and the score remained 0-0 as the game entered the record books. Why, you might ask? For those unaware of Japanese baseball rules, games still tied after 12 innings end that way. The lone exception is the deciding game of a playoff series. For that, rules are different. More on that should such a situation ever come to be. In the meantime, a little more explanation as to why a tie was good enough for the Tigers to take the series. It is a best-of-three, and this was just Game 2, but because the Tigers won Game 1, it meant they had a win and “at least” a tie, meaning all the Carp could theoretically do is tie the series, 1-1-1. In the event of a tie after three games, the team that finished the regular season advances to the next round by default. Therefore, after the top of the 12th inning, when the Tigers had guaranteed themselves at least a series tie, the game was called. For the record, starter Atsushi Nohmi pitched masterfully, going 8 innings and allowing just 5 hits, essentially duplicating yesterday’s starter’s line. Great job!

The Tigers will advance to play six games at Tokyo Dome against their longtime rival, the Yomiuri Giants. To advance to the Japan Series, the Tigers need to win four of six games. (This statement does not factor in tie games, which would further complicate things.)

For now, we congratulate the team and wish them all the best in Tokyo! Game 1 is Wednesday, and one has to think they will put Shintaro Fujinami on the mound. Perhaps Game 2 will feature Randy Messenger on short rest, and after that, well, let’s see where manager Yutaka Wada’s strategy will go from there. GO TIGERS!

Game 1 Recap – Tigers WIN!


Winning pitcher Randy Messenger said it all: “Any time I pitch a 1-0 game, it seems like he (Fukudome) is the one hitting the home run.” The big righty more than did his part too, shutting out the Carp hitters for eight innings, allowing just five base runners and retiring 21 of the last 23 batters he faced. Having thrown “just” 105 pitches (quite low for him, as he has gone as high as 147 this season), the fans were left wondering who would try to close out the game in the ninth. In the end, Wada decided against trying to get a complete game out of his starter, and brought in closer Seung-hwan Oh. The first-year Korean struck out the side on 12 pitches and the crowd went nuts. Game 1 of the best-of-3 goes to the Tigers.

For his part, Fukudome drew a walk and collected a pair of hits, including a sixth inning solo home run off Carp starter Kenta Maeda. “From the moment I hit it, I thought it might find its way out of the park,” he said nonchalantly in the post-game hero interview. It left the park in the deepest part of the field, clearing the center field wall with room to spare. It was the game’s lone run, and although most 1-run leads are nerve-racking, this one seemed comfortable, given the way the big man was pitching. “He’s definitely a dependable pitcher,” quipped Fukudome, paying respect to the man standing to his left on the hero’s podium.

Though the Tigers managed just one run, they had plenty of chances before and after Fukudome’s blast. They put at least a runner on base in each of the first seven innings, and had men in scoring position three times. Maeda pitched just well enough to keep the score down, though he did miss on his 100th pitch – a 3-1 low outside fastball that stayed in the strike zone.

Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday at 2pm, but should the forecasted rain/typhoon cause a delay, they will play Monday at 2pm, and if necessary, Tuesday evening. The rules for the First Stage of the Climax Series stipulate that the series must conclude by then. The Final Stage is set to start in Tokyo on Wednesday, with the winner facing the Giants. Should there only be time for two games to be played, well, the series is already over. By virtue of having finished the regular season in second place, the Tigers automatically win the tiebreaker if the third game cannot be played on time. This win was all the more crucial with Typhoon 19 bearing down on mainland Japan, threatening to cancel one or two games.

Up next: Atsushi Nohmi for the Tigers, and probably Daichi Ohsera for the Carp. GO TIGERS!


Series Preview: Tigers vs. Carp

Scheduled Games & Probable Starters:

Saturday, October 11, 2pm: Randy Messenger (13-10) vs. Kenta Maeda (11-9)

Sunday, October 12, 2pm: Atsushi Nohmi (9-13) vs. Daichi Ohsera (10-8) (?)

Monday, October 13, 2pm: Shintaro Fujinami (10-7) vs. Bryan Bullington (9-8) (?)

Record This Season:

@ Koshien Stadium: Tigers 7, Carp 2

@ Mazda Stadium: Tigers 4, Carp 6

@ Other: Tigers 3, Carp 2

Total: Tigers 14, Carp 10

Team Stats:

ERA: Tigers: 3.88 (5th); Carp: 3.79 (4th)

AVG: Tigers: .264 (3rd); Carp: .272 (2nd)

Runs Scored: Tigers: 599 (3rd); Carp: 649 (2nd)

Runs Against: Tigers: 614 (4th); Carp: 610 (3rd)

Home Runs: Tigers: 94 (5th); Carp: 153 (1st)

Stolen Bases: Tigers: 55 (Last); Carp: 96 (2nd)

Top Players:

AVG: Tigers: Matt Murton (.338); Carp: Ryosuke Kikuchi (.325)

HR: Tigers: Mauro Gomez (26); Carp: Brad Eldred (37)

SB: Tigers: Hiroki Uemoto (20); Carp: Yoshihiro Maru (26)

Wins: Tigers: Randy Messenger (13); Carp: Kenta Maeda (11)

Holds: Tigers: Shinobu Fukuhara (38); Carp: Ren Nakata (18)

Saves: Tigers: Seung-hwan Oh (39); Carp: Kam Mickolio (25)

What to Watch for:

  • The Tigers (0-3) come in to the Climax Series with no previous series wins since the new format began in 2007. The Carp (1-0), on the other hand, won their lone appearance last season against the Tigers, also at Koshien Stadium.
  • The Tigers finished September/October with a 14-13 record, while the Carp ended on a 12-16 note.
  • Messenger is 2-2 against the Carp this season with a 3.12 ERA, but has allowed them no earned runs in two starts at Koshien this season. Maeda is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA against the Tigers. However, he is pitching on 4 days’ rest for the first time this season, and did not look too dominant against a relaxed Giants lineup in his last start.
  • Carp closer Mickolio is injured and will not play in this series. The rest of the Carp relief squad has been shaky of late, giving the Tigers an edge in the latter innings of close games.
  • Game 1 of this series is extra important this year. Should Super Typhoon 19 cause rainouts, and if the series is unable to be completed by October 14, the team holding the series lead at that point will advance to the Final Series. If the series is tied 1-1 at that point, the second place team (Tigers) advances by default.

My prediction: Tigers in 2

Article Translation – Manager (Dis)Satisfaction

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

As the Climax Series (CS) approaches, we took the time to conduct an online survey of 17,577 male baseball fans aged 20-54 who say they attend at least one game every season. From that pool, we took results of 200 fans from each team. The average age of fans were: 42.2 years for Giants fans, 40.6 years for Carp fans and 41.5 years for Tigers fans.


Regarding satisfaction with game-calling by the home team’s managers, 59% of Giants fans, 35.5% of Carp fans and a mere 7% of Tigers fans answered “satisfied” or “very satisfied.”

Giants manager Hara got nearly a 60% approval rate, with many comments like “Despite continual injuries and choking cleanup hitters, Hara’s management skills enabled us to win the league” and “It was because of his occasional iron-fisted and devilish managing tactics that we won.”

On the other hand, others expressed dissatisfaction with “too much fiddling with the lineup, especially the cleanup slot. Those poor players” and “His moves are too aggressive. He needs to take a calmer approach.” Even so, in 11 seasons as manager, his track record of producing 7 league titles is impressive.

Nearly 80% of Hiroshima fans said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the team’s record, but that number fell to 35.5% when talks turned to manager Nomura’s performance. Overall, opinions were clearly divided as 32.5% also said they were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with his performance.

Fans expressing approval said “Despite a meagre lineup, we fared well against the Giants and Tigers. He’s not just playing for today, but putting up with the current situation with the team’s future clearly in sight.” Disapprovers complained that “He played slumping players in crucial situations, failed to make moves when they needed to be made, and too often it was hard to make sense of his moves.” Also, “A LOT of local fans think that the team could have won it all were it not for Nomura managing the team.”

Literally “the war criminal is Wada.” Fans blaming the manager for the team’s poor record was hardly unusual this season at Koshien.

The most pitiful of all was the Tigers. Just 7% said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with Wada’s running of the team, while a whopping 64.5% said they were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.”

More specifically, “His choice of catcher throughout the season was inconsistent,” “Players who did well the day before were often left out of the lineup the next day. Unthinkable,” “The instant the organization said they were sticking with Wada next season (at the end of August) the team started choking. The players probably lost motivation when they heard about it,” and “I can’t imagine cheering for this team next year if they happen to win in the playoffs and Wada is offered a new contract.”

Can he even look fans in the eye anymore?

Koshien Will Host CS Games!

With tonight’s 4-1 Giants victory over the Hiroshima Carp, the red-and-white fall into third place, a half-game behind our Hanshin Tigers. The result is that Koshien Stadium will host two, possibly three baseball games this long weekend. Game 1 is Saturday at 6pm, and will likely see Messenger facing off against Kenta Maeda. Game 2 will be Sunday, also at 6pm, and Nohmi is scheduled to start. If Game 3 is necessary, Fujinami will take to the mound to close off the series.

October 6

Should the Tigers advance, they will head into to Tokyo to face the Giants in a best-of-7 with 6 games remaining and the Giants up 1-0. Yep, those are the rules for playoffs in Japanese baseball! First place gets you perks: six straight home games and a one-game boost. Still, we must cheer that against all odds, the Tigers will pull off a miracle and win it all. GO TIGERS!

By the way, tickets will be available here: