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March 28th Nohmi v Sugano - A wee bit pesimistic

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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.

March 28th Nohmi v Sugano - A wee bit pesimistic

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The label 'A wee bit pesimistic' was applied to this site by NPB Tracker an impression that is justified given the abysmal performance during the Open Sen. Nomura went as far as to say that whilst Wada had been a good player and coach he was a bad manager - an opinion which this blog will not disagree with. Still everything changes on opening day - doesn't it? To be honest Tigers looked rusty and under-prepared. It was nice to see Shimizu as starting catcher instead of the lamentable Fujii but he had a poor night and the pitching looked frankly rusty and not match fit. Gomez did well in his first game and looked sound at first which was a relief, apart from that we had a rookie catcher Umono replace Shimizu which was also a relief. Still we do need Komiyama brought into the top team and given support not undermined as he was last season. Imanari played third but didn't impress at all with the bat. He is still a golden boy though and interestingly still registered as a catcher. However, anyone who has seen his performance behind the plate knows that this is just a fantsay (he makes Fujii look like a genius). Yamato was the pick of the team - active fast and aggressive with the bat. He just needs the explosive acceleration of Akahoshi to make him the complete player. The opening pitch was thrown by Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Japan indicating the importance of the game. Onto the scores (not pretty reading for Tigers fans)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tigers 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 9 1
Giants 0 0 3 1 6 2 0 0 X 12 14 1

Starting Lineups

1. Toritani (Short)
2. Yamato (Centre)
3. Nishioka (Second)
4. Gomez (First)
5. Murton (Left)
6. Imanari (Third)
7. Fukudome (Right)
8. Shimizu (Catcher)
9. Nohmi (Pitcher)

1. Sakamoto (Short)
2. Kataoka (Second)
3. Chono (Right)
4. Murata (Third)
5. Abe (Catcher)
6. Lopez (First)
7. Anderson (Left)
8. Hashimoto (Centre)
9. Sugano (Pitcher)

Tigers fans were hoping for a nice start to the season at Tokyo Dome and whilst there was a voluble contingent this time Giants fans were in the majority. The game started well for Sugano who did give up a single to right to Yamato. Nishioka batting third which is in itself surprising given that his run production wasn't that good last season struck out swinging. Gomez in his first at bat in Japan grounded out to second with Yamato being unable to clear first. Nohmi started well but with two outs lost it and walked Chono and then Murata. Nohmi was not looking good and really struggling with his placement. Still he was able to lift his game and strike out Abe swinging to end the innings. Tigers second saw the batters fall in order. Fukudome was another player (like Imanari) who didn't really seem to be comfortable with the bat and he was the last out. Giants first hit came in the bottom with Anderson singling left with one out. As the next two batters were the bottom of the order he didn't get anywhere. If the game had started quietly it exploded into life in Tigers third. It started with Shimizu (the lead off) hitting to Lopez who made an error allowing the Tigers catcher to take first. Nohmi bunted Shimizu to second - the first bunt of the season for Tigers (there will be more) and Toritani's ground out took Shimizu to third. It rather looked as if Giants would get out of the innings without damage but then Yamato took a hand driving along the line for a timely double 1-0 Tigers, runner on second. This unsettled Sugano who walked Nishioka next was Gomez - what would he do? He did exactly what was expected of him driving along the line to left past the portly Murata for a timely double. In fact it was so timely that both runners made home 3-0 Tigers, runner on second. The Tigers fans in the stadium turned the volume up a notch or two. More was to come - Murton worked the count full and then drove the ball into the gap between right and centre for another timely double 4-0 Tigers, runner on second. Imanari went for the big one but mistimed and flew out to end the innings. Still a very good innings for Tigers indeed and a nice lead. Nohmi needed to hold this lead but with the way he was pitching this was always going to be a tall order. Still in the Giants third he retired the first two batter but then Chono hit to centre. Next Murata singled to centre and Abe singled to short with Toritani doing well to stop the ball and save the run. However, the bases were loaded with one out to go. Lopez took a huge swing at his second pitch - a change up blasting the ball all the way to the wall where it bounced too high for Yamato to take. This was a bases clearing double 4-3 Tigers, runner on second and a sign of just how powerful the Giants were. Anderson tried to hit deep but flew out to Murton to end the innings. Tigers still held the lead but it wasn't so comfortable.

It would have been nice if something happened in Tigers fourth but with the bottom of the order at the plate this was never likely and the three batters fell in order. Nohmi managed to take out the first two batters in Giants fourth but once again ran into trouble with the third. This was Sakamoto who hit hard and deep for a solo home run to centre 4-4 scores tied. Nohmi in a further sign of trouble walked Kataoka but then Murata flew out to right in foul ground - some nice fielding by Fukudome. Toritani led Tigers fifth off with a single to right and then we had the first stupid bunt of the season. Yamato bunted him to second. Nishioka's ground out took Toritani to third and then Gomez grounded out to short. The game was poised nicely on 4-4 but actually had already slipped away from Tigers. Nohmi had blown a four run lead and Wada had missed a chance with a stupid bunt and now it was the Giants who would take advantage. Nohmi unlike the previous innings started with a runner on - walking Murata. Abe and Lopez were out but then Nohmi dead balled Anderson - runners on first and second. Here Nohmi fell apart and ended up a quivering heap of jelly. Hashimoto hit nicely to right centre - deep and far bringing both runners in 6-4 Giants, runner on second. Sugano singled to left putting runners on first and third. Then Sakamoto hit to centre to plate another runner 7-4, runners on first and third. Next was Kataoka who hit his first pitch nicely to right - so nicely that the ball cleared the wall for a three run home run 10-4 Giants. The game had turned around in a big way. This finally brought a pitching change with Tsuru taking over. Chono tried to hit over Tsuru but wasn't high enough and the pitcher took the catch to end the innings. Sugano was now a lot more confident and Tigers sixth was quiet. Fukudome, the third batter did hit right and try to stretch the hit into a double but was tagged out as a good throw came in from Chono. Tsuru returned for the Giants sixth and got the first two batters but then Lopez whacked a loose pitch (and it was loose) deep into the stand for a solo home run 11-4 Giants. Then Anderson hit deep and right off another poor pitch for another solo home run 12-4 Giants. Finally Hashimoto grounded out to second ending the innings.

With two out in Tigers seventh Toritani hit left. Yamato singled to centre putting runners on first and second but Nishioka could only line out to second to end the innings. Kaneda took over the pitching for Giants seventh - his debut pitching to Umeno, another debut player. It was good to see a young catcher being used instead of Fujii. With one out Sakamoto singled but was extinguished by a Kataoka double play. Kasahara took over the pitching duties and Gomez led Tigers eighth off doubling along the left baseline again and once again exposing Murata's lack of agility on the latters inside. He stayed on second as the next three batters did nothing and the innings was scoreless. Futagami pitched Giants eighth and with two out walked Abe (who was pinch run for by Matsumoto and would be replaced at catcher by Kobayashi). Lopez hit his first pitch to left to set up runners on first and second but Futagami kept his nerve and got Anderson to fly out to centre to end the innings. Tigers ninth left them with a mountain to climb and they weren't equal to the challenge.
Takagi was Giants pitcher and he retired the batters in order to end the game. Giants victory.

Apart from the third Tigers hadn't really looked in the game. There batting was inept and they hadn't been able to hold the lead. Giants had looked strong and even though this was only the first game of the season they had had the confidence to bounce back and seize the lead. Tigers had folded and capitulated a bit too easy. The team looked very brittle but one learns from defeats and hopefully grows.
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