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Japan Series - Game 3 - Fujinami v Ohtonari

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Japan Series - Game 3 - Fujinami v Ohtonari

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Answering a question about the green armbands worn by the starters in Game 1 of the series - I have no idea and haven't been able to find out yet. Onto Game 3 which took place in Yahoo Dome, Fukuoka in front of a crowd of rabid Hawks fans. Actually there were a lot of Tigers fans there but it didn't help the visitors. Fujinami was quite simply a disgrace; his pitching wasn't anywhere near good enough for this series. Like Nohmi his Hawks counterpart out pitched him comprehensively. Even so Hawks struggled to score until the addition of Fujii to the mix. Tigers other 'experienced' catcher rapidly set about putting the game beyond Tigers reach showing a lack of perception that was stunning. But Tigers batting do have to pick up the pace a bit. Whilst you could see where Takada dominated (the curve) with Ohtonari it was difficult to see and one has to also attribute the loss to poor performance by the offense. Scores


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 5 0
Hawks 1 0 0 1 0 3 0 0 X 5 10 0


Starting Lineups

Tigers
1. Nishioka (Third)
2. Uemoto (Second)
3. Toritani (Short)
4. Gomez (First)
5. Murton (Left)
6. Fukudome (Right)
7. Ryota Arai (DH)
8. Yamato (Centre)
9. Tsuruoka (Catcher)

Starting pitcher was Fujinami

Hawks
1. Yanagita (Centre)
2. Akashi (Second)
3. Uchikawa (Left)
4. Lee (First)
5. Matsuda (Third)
6. Nakamura (Right)
7. Yoshimura (DH)
8. Imamiya (Short)
9. Hosokawa (Catcher)

Starting pitcher was Ohtonari

A more sensible arrangement saw Tigers put their catcher in at No. 9. However, Ryota didn't fire at No. 7 and this undoubtedly helped Tigers struggle. Tigers first was a disappointment. Unlike the Hawks they didn't attack the pitching enough and Ohtonari started well. No one reached base. Hawks first saw the second Tigers pitcher in a row start in a lazy and insufficiently tight way. Hawks batters attacked Fujinami from the start and he never recovered from it. Only the home side's general ineptness in bringing in runners saved him from an even greater embarrassment than his abysmal pitching deserved. Yanagita started the affair with a double off his second pitch. He was bunted to third by Akashi which brought up Uchikawa. The Hawks left blasted the ball deep into centre over the head of Yamato. It must be said here that Yamato was pretty lazy in trying to chase back and catch the ball and could have done more. However, it was a timely double to Uchikawa 1-0 Hawks, runner on second. Fujinami was reeling and it didn't get any better with Lee singling right to put runners on the corners. Here though Hawks ran out of batters. Matsuda struck out swinging and then Yoshimura popped up to Tsuruoka. Given what had threatened Tigers had done well to be only one run down. Tigers second saw Murton single to centre with one out. He reached second on Fukudome's ground out. Once again he mistimed his swing and hit weakly to second. Ryota hit right but flew out to centre - an easy catch. With one out in Hawks second Imamiya singled to right. Hosokawa managed to move him round to second on his ground out but Yanagita couldn't repeat his heroics of the first and struck out swinging. Tigers third was quiet with two of the batters striking out swinging. Akashi led Hawks third off with a single to right. The ease with which Fujinami was being hit was worrying. Next was Uchikawa who Fujinami struck out swinging. He was so pleased with this bit of revenge that he broke into a smile and forgot he still had two more outs to get. His pitching to Lee, the next batter, did not meet the required standard and Lee drove him to left. Once again runners on the corners. Matsuda came to the rescue flying out to Gomez in foul ground and then Nakamura flew out to centre to end the innings.

Tigers fourth was quiet with no one reaching base. Fujinami started Hawks fourth by walking Yoshimura. This was not encouraging especially as Imamiya bunted him to second. Normally, one wouldn't be worried about this but Tigers pitchers have demonstrated a singular inability to deal with Hawk's (it must be said) rather standard bunts. Fujinami demonstrated this trait in full facing Hosokawa. The Hawks catcher isn't really much of a batting threat but he really did give Fujinami trouble. Eventually with the count at 2-2 and a sensible pitch needed for the strike out. Hosokawa swung at a pitch and missed. However, the plate umpire judged that he had fouled the ball off the bottom off his bat (the replay certainly didn't support that interpretation). An even more unsettled Fujinami let fly a wild pitch which bounced in front of an astonished Tsuruoka and cannoned off him; rolling away into dead ground. Yoshimura raced round the bases and slid in to beat Fujinami's tag easily 2-0 Hawks, runner on first - Hosokawa having run to first. Tsuruoka was furious and gave Fujinami a mouthfull but one wonders if his anger was also to hide his poor attempt to block the pitch. Next was Yanagita who struck out but then Fujinami walked Akashi - runners on first and second. Uchikawa was next and Fujinami who was by now a quivering bag of jelly let go another wild pitch which moved the runners round to second and third. Uchikawa latched onto a loose pitch and drove it hard into centre. Yamato saw it and raced in diving to intercept the catch for the run saving out and the end of the innings. Uchikawa looked astonished and then broke into a smile - there was no dishonour in being out to a piece of fielding like that. Tigers fifth and no one reached base which seemed to be the story of the night. Surprisingly in Hawks fifth no one reached base either but Fujinami's pitch count was really high. In Tigers sixth no one could get past Ohtonari either. Here Wada decided to change catchers which struck one as a disaster in the making as soon as on knew about it. The Hawks sixth fully justified this interpretation. Yoshimura led off with a single to centre. Imamiya shaped to bunt but then swung and bounced the ball high which functioned as an effective bunt taking Yoshimura to second. Hosokawa struck out and then Wada and Nakanishi (it is wonderful news that he won't be back as pitching coach next season) switched pitchers bringing on Takamiya in relief. A wise move but the choice of pitcher was not. Takamiya started nervously by dead balling Yanagita and generally throwing the ball anywhere but where is catcher expected it. Then Akashi singled to load the bases. Time for another pitching change with Andoh taking over. Uchikawa hit a weak dribbler to third where Nishioka uncharacteristically hesitated and couldn't make up his mind where to throw. By the time he did another runner had crossed the plate 3-0 Hawks, bases loaded. Then Lee singled to centre to bring in two more runs and deliver the coup de grace to Tigers hopes 5-0 Hawks, runners on first and second. Matsuda finished the innings striking out - it had been a perfect example of how to engineer your own downfall from that Tigers.

Tigers seventh saw a faint glimmer of light with Uemoto singling to lead off the innings. Probably the first time he has done anything useful this series. Toritani spoiled it all by hitting into a double play. Next Gomez singled - Ohtonari was tiring and was there for the taking. However, Murton managed to sky one to first ending the innings. Hawks seventh was quiet - no one got on base but then they didn't really need base runners and could cruise. Tigers eighth was pitched by Igarashi who this game had no problems retiring the three batters he faced in order. Saiuchi took over for Hawks eighth and also retired the batters 1-2-3. Sarfate pitched Tigers ninth and with two out Uemoto who had woken up doubled left. Next was Toritani who hit his first pitch to centre to bring in Uemoto 5-1 Hawks, runner on first. It was nothing more than a consolation run though and Gomez popped up to second to end the game. Hawks victory.

Once again Hawks had, now they have woken up, shown more commitment and drive. Tigers pitching had been exposed as lazy especially in the first innings and this has to be laid at the door of the worthless Nakanishi. The relief had also failed miserably but given they were paired with Fujii this is not surprising. The difference though really is the amount of effort the Hawks pitchers have put into their game. Tigers should take note and copy this. After all this is a special series not a post season friendly. Hawks lead the series 2-1 but I do suspect Tigers to bounce back and take Game 4. These teams are still evenly matched and Tigers haven't really been playing well the last two games. Hopefully this will serve as a much needed wake up call.
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