Series Preview: Hanshin Tigers 4/29-5/1

Koshien legend Yoshinori Sato...too bad he's not pitching this series.
Three times we took the field against the Yomiuri Giants. Three times we walked off as the victors. Three times at roughly 8am (when the games end here on the east coast) I was too excited to go back to sleep. Don't ask me if we're actually this good, because I'm not prepared to answer. I can say it's been pretty damn fun.

The fun continues at 5am EST against another high profile NPB team, the Hanshin Tigers. I marked these two series as a big test for us, and halfway through, we've passed with flying colors. Hanshin has not played particularly well this year, but they are always dangerous. Their bats are going to wake up at some point, and with the bottom of our rotation set to take the hill in the series, it could very well happen in the next few games. Takahiro Arai and Shunsuke are carrying their offense with amazing batting averages, but every other player is having a miserable time at the plate. Their pitching, while nothing to write home about, has not been atrocious. The Tigers as a team, have been very average to this point in the season. They are ranked 3rd in pitching and 4th in the CL in pitching and hitting, respectively.

The importance of playing in Koshien cannot be overestimated. It will be the first hostile environment that the Swallows play in this year, and it will be interesting to see how they react.

3 Players to watch:

Shunsuke Fujikawa, CF: The 24 year old who goes by "Shunsuke" is hitting .381 so far. He is also known for being caught stealing while the ancient artifact Tomoaki Kanemoto was at the plate. Since Kanemoto wasn't credited with an at-bat and he didn't take the field, his consecutive games streak was broken. I was never a fan of Kanemoto so I like Shunsuke by default.

Arai, 3B: Hitting .353 and having a さよなら hit to boot, Arai has been a bright spot on a mostly anemic offense.

Kyuji Fujikawa, CP: He only has three saves, but everyone knows and fears this man for good reason. Behind his intimidating intro music is an even more intimidating face. No but really, his fastball is actually really, really intimidating. If they get a lead late, it will be tough to come back.

The Swallows didn't miss a beat, even after the day off earlier in the week. They continue to play great defense, pitch spectacularly, and get timely hit after timely hit. If they can keep this up, they will get out of Koshien holding their brooms. However, this is no place to get complacent. With a Tiger's offense that can blow up at any time, they must be especially careful. Playing on the road isn't fun either.

Prediction: Predicting 2 out of 3 last time seemed to work out pretty well so let's stick with that formula. Also, Yasushi Iihara gets a hit...? Uhh...right.

© 2011, copyright Julian Jowise


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