Messenger’s 7 Shutout Innings & 12th Win Put Him Back on Top!
As the crowd roared jubilantly, Messenger’s eyes were glued on the ball. The Tiger faithful were ecstatic, and Messenger grinned. He jumped off the bench to greet the hero of the moment. With Fukudome’s game-winning hit, his strong pitching would be rewarded with a win and a tie atop the leader board (with 12, against 9 losses).
“With the score tied, Fukudome did his job well. All the fielders played well, but Fukudome’s contribution was especially huge. He always mans his position in the field well, and when the game is on the line, he delivers key hits. He’s definitely a reliable teammate, one we all count on.”
He stood up on the hero’s podium expressing his gratitude, but it was the righty’s hard work on the mound that led the team to victory. In seven innings, he allowed just three hits, no runs, and struck out eight. In the sixth inning with two outs and runners on first and third, he made Kimura swing at a low-and-out 142 kph (89 mph) forkball. He pumped his fist as he trotted off the field. He walked five batters, but he also tempted the Carp hitters to swing zealously at his pitches.
It was his quick thinking on the mound that enabled him to pick up the win. He took note of the Carp hitters’ tendencies and changed up his pitches well. He started mixing speeds as he threw a lot more curves — a pitch he normally doesn’t use a lot — in the 110 kph (70 mph) range. Even pitching coach Nakanishi grinned, saying, “He used his curve well. It brought us a win, so it was worth playing him on four days’ rest.” All of his pitches make his 150+ kph (93 mph+) fastball more effective. That has not changed since his days in America. He doesn’t even need to use the two-seamer that so many pitchers in the majors rely on.
“I don’t think [the two seamer] works for me. My style is to throw a four-seamer with good spin. Just go straight at the hitters.”
He now has a personal best 12 wins, tied for the league lead with DeNA’s Kubo. He also extended his strikeout lead to 212, giving him the lead in two of the three triple-crown categories. But what he wants more than anything is a title for the team.
“Individual awards are all fine and good, but the final goal is to win the championship. That’s what I want to focus on the rest of the season.” Looks like he’s going to keep it in top gear until he reaches the top.