Hanshin pitcher Randy Messenger (33) earned his seventh win on the 26th by throwing 7 innings of 5-hit shutout ball against the DeNA Baystars at Koshien. He showed no signs of fatigue despite going on 4 days’ rest. His contributions to the team’s jump into second place, one game over .500, have not gone unnoticed, but a different sort of “evolution” in his game has also stood out.
Pitching just four short rest days after his start against the Giants (21st, Koshien), Messenger didn’t show one iota of tiredness, throwing 7 shutout innings on 97 pitches. He also held the DeNA lineup to just 5 hits and no walks, earning his seventh win of the season. Standing on the hero’s podium and asked about whether or not he felt tired, he quickly answered in Japanese, “Nai, nai, daijobu (No, no, I’m fine),” showing his toughness to the crowd. “I just want to be given the ball, and I’ll get the job done. Just keep giving me the ball. I love summer, I’m used to the heat,” he said confidently.
Despite this, Messenger has recorded very few strikeouts these past two games. He had just two last time out, and four [yesterday]. Two seasons ago he had 183, last season 226, both of which won him the Strikeout King title, but this new and sudden “change” in the big righty’s approach has rival teams shaking in their boots. “He’s changed his game. He used to just be an overpowering pitcher, but now he learned to throw to contact and get guys out that way. It’s unbearable,” said one Central League scout.
On the Hanshin side, one of the coaches spoke of his reliability. “Messenger came to camp prepared to work on pitching to contact. It didn’t go very well at first and caused some frustration. He went back to power pitching and got his form back, but now he’s able to use his experience from camp and it shows in the numbers. His curveball has gotten a lot better. We could call his pitching to contact (which he learned in Japan) ‘Japanese Style’ and his (original game of) power pitching ‘Western Style.’ He’s found a way to make both work well for him.”
On four days’ rest he threw a great “Japanese Style” game, but according to another team spokesman, “Messenger is able to go into games thinking, ‘Today I’m throwing to contact’ or ‘Today I’m power pitching,’ but at some point he’s going to be able to do it within a single game.” That i what we like to call “East-West Fusion Pitching.” Looks like our big righty import is clicking on all cylinders in the midst of a muddled up Central League.