After yesterday’s heartbreaking disappointing loss, the Tigers had no choice but to take games 2 and 3 in order to advance. The task for Randy Messenger would be a tall one, as his record at Tokyo Dome this year was 1-2 in four starts and his average run support on the year was just 2.25. Still, the show must go on. Here’s an inning-by-inning summary of the action.
Top 1: Takashi Toritani walked on six pitches and was sacrifice bunted over to second by Hiroki Uemoto. Kosuke Fukudome struck out swinging. Mauro Gomez hit an 0-1 breaking ball over the wall in left center. Matt Murton hit the very next pitch over the left field wall. (Video here) Ryota Imanari popped up to right to end the Tigers first. For a team that has struggled to hit home runs, score off Sugano and give Messenger run support, this was about as good as start as we could have hoped for. I still don’t like the first inning sacrifice bunt, though. 2 hits, 1 walk. SCORE: Tigers 3, Giants 0.
Bottom 1: Tateoka hit a ball to the right-center gap which bounced high and was misplayed by Taiga Egoshi. He advanced to third on the bobble. Kataoka grounded out to third, but Tateoka scored on the play. Chono struck out looking. Abe and Kamei hit back-to-back singles, but Messenger caught Ibata looking at a fastball on the outside corner. 3 hits. Score: Tigers 3, Giants 1.
Top 2: Egoshi doubled down the right field line, Akihito Fujii advanced him to third on a grounder to first. Messenger hit a broken-bat grounder to third, and the throw home was on time. Egoshi out. Toritani struck out swinging, three outs. Glad Fujii didn’t bunt as he showed signs of doing on the first pitch. Messenger’s hit was unfortunately right at their fielder, who was drawn in, and the play at home wasn’t even close. Not sure Egoshi should have left the base at all. Oh well. On the bright side, Sugano is already at 42 pitches. 1 hit, 0 runs.
Bottom 2: Sakamoto walked on five pitches. Kobayashi flied out to left, Sugano tried to bunt Sakamoto over to second but the Tigers were able to turn two. Great fielding decision by Messenger. Sugano not enjoying his 26th birthday too much so far. 0 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs.
Top 3: Uemoto struck out swinging, Fukudome pop-fouled to third. Gomez walked on six pitches. Murton grounded out to short, three outs. The only good news this inning is that Sugano needed 20 pitches to complete it. 0 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs.
Bottom 3: Messenger caught Tateoka looking at a high fastball, one out. Kataoka singled to left. Chono flied out to center. Abe singled to right. Kamei flied out to left, three outs. Neither hit was terribly solid, just seeing-eye singles through the infield. Messenger looks in control. 2 hits, 0 runs.
Top 4: Imanari looked at strike three, sat down. Egoshi singled to center. Fujii sends the next pitch to left field. Messenger tried to bunt the runners over, and Sugano threw to
third left field and Egoshi made it home. (Video here) Fujii was thrown out at third on the play, while Messenger stayed on first. Toritani singled to right center, advancing Messenger to third. Uemoto struck out swinging, three outs. The score could have been run up even higher had Fujii not been thrown out trying for the extra base. Still, the insurance run helps a lot. 3 hits, 1 error. SCORE: Tigers 4, Giants 1.
Bottom 4: Ibata lined out to center, Sakamoto struck out swinging at a sweet curve, Kobayashi grounded out to second. First clean inning of the game for either ace. Better ours than theirs! 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, nothing.
Top 5: Sugano heads to the locker room. His line: 4 IP, 81 pitches, 6 hits, 2 walks, 2 HRs, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 K. At the plate: 1 AB, 1 DP. In the field: 1 error. Happy birthday indeed! Southpaw Ryosuke Takagi on the mound. Fukudome struck out swinging at low junk. Gomez flied out to deep left. Murton walked on four straight pitches. He then got thrown out at second on a stolen base attempt, three outs. Perhaps he was hoping for a hit-and-run situation, which would have worked well had Imanari swung his bat. Tigers hitters wearing out Giants pitchers – 102 pitches through five. 0 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs.
Bottom 5: Donoue (pinch hitter) walked. Tateoka struck out swinging. Kataoka grounded into a fielder’s choice, Donoue out at second. Chono chopped a grounder into center. Abe pop fouled out to third, three outs. Scary to think that a home run there would have tied the game. Messenger hasn’t been his best so far but he has gotten outs in the most crucial situations. 1 hit, 1 walk, 0 runs.
Top 6: Miyaguni on the mound. Imanari stroked a double to the gap in right center. About time! He’s looked really shaky at the plate until now. Egoshi pop fouled out to third. Fujii walked on 7 pitches. Messenger tried to advance the runners on a bunt, Imanari forced out at third. Toritani singled to right, bases loaded. Uemoto flied out to center, three outs. I heard in an interview that Messenger likes hitting and doesn’t seem to care for all the bunting he is asked to do. Obviously he’s not awesome at it because this is the second straight time the play went to third on his bunt. This team either needs to give their pitchers a lot more bunting practice or else let them swing the bats. The only thing worse than bunts is failed bunts! Tiger bats really making the Giants pitchers work. A combined 128 pitches for three pitchers so far. 2 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs.
Bottom 6: Kamei singled to left, Ibata and Sakamoto flied out to center, Kobayashi looked at a looping curve strike three, three outs. Boy, Messenger is getting it done on the mound today. At 98 pitches, he should be good for a couple more innings if all goes well. 1 hit, 0 runs.
Top 7: Fukudome popped out to second. Gomez struck out swinging. Murton singled to left. This is the second time he has saved us from our first 3-up 3-down inning. Imanari popped out to shallow right, 3 outs. Imanari really has not looked good at the dish this series. Unfortunately we have no good alternate at third, and his glove is indispensable. 1 hit, 0 runs.
Bottom 7: Anderson (pinch hitter) cleared the left field wall for a solo shot. Tateoka looked at strike three. Kataoka with a broken bat single to center. Chono flied out to right. Abe flied out to deep right, three outs. Again, nervous situation with Abe representing the tying run. Fortunately Messenger learned his lesson from September 10th when Abe hit a home run against him at Koshien. 2 hits, 0 walks. SCORE: Tigers 4, Giants 2.
Top 8: Tahara on the mound. Egoshi gets plunked, takes first base. Fujii advanced him to second with a grounder to second. Tone replaces Tahara on the mound. Tsuyoshi Nishioka (pinch hitter) grounded out to short, Egoshi advanced to third. Toritani looked at strike three, three outs. Still no clean innings for Giants pitchers and they have now combined to throw 160 pitches! 0 hits, 1 HBP, 0 runs.
Bottom 8: Kazuya Takamiya on the mound. Messenger’s line on the night: 7 IP, 121 pitches, 9 hits, 2 walks, 2 ER, 7 strikeouts. Well done! Kamei flied out to center. Yuya Andoh replaced Takamiya. Ibata lined out to right. Sakamoto doubled to the left field corner. Murata (pinch hitter) grounded out to short, three outs. Whew, that was another nerve-wrecking inning. How many times will the tying run come up to bat for them and happen to be a home run hitter? Fortunately, Andoh and Takamiya atoned for yesterday’s 10th inning meltdown. 1 hit, 0 runs.
Top 9: Uemoto flied out to shallow center. Nice hustle and sliding catch by Chono. Fukudome doubled to the left field corner. Mathieson replaced Tone on the mound. Gomez singled to left, Fukudome to third. Yamato replaced Gomez on the base paths, stole second. Murton walked on four pitches. Shunsuke replaced Murton on the base paths. Imanari struck out swinging. Egoshi popped up to center, three outs. What a wasted opportunity. Imanari looked lost again. They should have tried something fun like a squeeze play… no one would have expected it, and Fukudome could have made it home quite easily. Bright side: we spent their bullpen today – 5 innings, 5 pitchers, 105 pitches from their relievers. 2 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs.
Bottom 9: Shinobu Fukuhara in to close. Anderson grounded out to first on the first pitch. Takahashi (pinch hitter) doubled to right center. Kataoka popped up to first. Chono grounded out to second. Sounds so simple but an amazing diving grab by Yamato and quick throw to first to end the game. (Video clip here) Three outs. 1 hit, 0 runs.
FINAL SCORE: TIGERS 4, Giants 2.
Winning Pitcher: Messenger. Losing Pitcher: Sugano
Series tied, 1-1
Game 3 on Monday at 2pm Japan time. Stay tuned for an exciting finish to this series!