Just like with the Mets I don’t really have any expectations for the Hanshin Tigers this season. As far as I can see they don’t have the pieces to make a run at the championship. Still, just like the Mets they have players I really look forward to seeing them perform. And with the first game of the season in the books it looks like they got things going. For now.
I am really looking forward to watching 1st round draft pick Shintaro Fujinami pitch. Up until now I’ve only read about him and it looks like everybody around the Tigers is pretty excited about him. Also, it’s nice to have a local boy on the team. Whether he’ll turn out to be “Naniwa’s Darvish” nobody knows and it might be too big a weight to carry. But with a fastball topping out at 153 km/h he looks like the potential is there. For more on him just browse through the posts at Yakyu Baka.
I also expect Murton to return to his 1st season form when he set a new single season hit record with 214 hits, surpassing Ichiro’s 211. While I don&t expect him to duplicate his line from 2010 (.349, 17 HR, 91 RBI), he should bounce back from his pedestrian 2012 campaign (.260, 5 HR, 38 RBI).
Brooks Conrad brings back cruel memories of butchered ground balls for the Braves, but maybe he can thrive in a new environment and help replacing the bat of Craig Brazell. Not on his own, but maybe with the other players.
Hanshin played their first game at Yakult and got a great pitching performance by opening day starter Randy Messenger, who was cruising until he hit a road block in the fith, when he loaded the bases and allowed the Swallows to tie the game. For someone living in Germany it’s pretty tough to follow the action in NPB, so when the TV broadcast ended (in the 7th inning with two on and Arai at the plate) I had to rely on the Tigers radio guys. If I’m not mistaken they picked it up from there and put a few more runs on the board.
In the end it was a 17 hit, 9 run barrage in a 9-3 win. Yamato had 4 hits, Murton had 3, newcomers Nishioka and Fukudome had 3 and 1 repectively. Messenger’s line reads 6IP, 5H, 6K, 2BB, 3ER. Kubo was a bit wobbly in the 9th, allowing runners on 1st and 3rd with only one out, but he got out of it with two strikeouts.
So all in all it’s a good start to the season. とらほー！