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Friday, Sept. 10, 2010

NPB NOTEBOOK

Standridge key figure for Tigers down stretch


Staff writer

Good pitching trumps good hitting. That's usually the rule of thumb come playoff time.

But in the postseason, good pitching means having more than one good pitcher. After all, the ace can't throw every game.

The Hanshin Tigers already had a great pitcher in Yasutomo Kubo. Now they know they have a second in Jason Standridge.

Standridge stared down Chunichi's Chen Wei-yen in a huge game on Tuesday, leading the Tigers to a 1-0 victory with seven shutout innings.

The Alabama native is 10-2 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 104 1/3 innings. He gives the Tigers a reliable arm to follow Kubo (12-5 3.83) during the Central League Climax Series this fall.

Among Hanshin pitchers, Standridge has the lowest ERA, and trails only Kubo in wins and strikeouts (83).

Standridge has been on top of his game in recent weeks, likely giving Tigers fans a lot to feel good about as the wins continue to pile up.

Since July 19, Standridge is 5-1 with a 1.62 ERA and 32 strikeouts in six starts. He's allowed seven runs in his last 39 innings.

Hanshin is currently in a tight race for the CL pennant, entering Thursday leading the second-place Dragons by half a game and the third-place Yomiuri Giants by 2 1/2 games.

Whether they win the pennant and especially if they don't — and are forced into a three-game series in the first stage of the Climax Series — it'll take at least two good pitchers to advance to and win the Japan Series.

The Tigers have known Kubo was one of those guys all season. Manager Akinobu Mayumi can breathe a bit easier now that he has someone else to turn to on the mound in Standridge.

Still going: Orix Buffaloes pitcher Chihiro Kaneko is still winning. The Orix hurler recently beat the Chiba Lotte Marines to record his 11th consecutive victory in as many starts.

Dating back to July, Kaneko is 11-0 with a 1.96 ERA. He finished August 5-0 with a 2.77 ERA and won the Pacific League's Monthly MVP award for pitchers in August, claiming the honor for the second straight month.

Time's up: Aging Hiroshima Carp pitcher Ken Takahashi has decided to retire at the end of the season. At 41 years old, Takahashi has not been effective in 2010 and he's been on the decline in recent years. In 25 appearances this season, Takahashi is 4-5 with a 9.40 ERA.

Takahashi is in his 15th season and is 70-92 with a career 4.34 ERA. He left Japan in 2009 to play for the New York Mets, before returning to the Carp, the team he first joined in 1995.

On the way back?: The Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday waived infielder Akinori Iwamura after a disappointing season. Iwamura appeared in 54 games for the Pirates in 2010, hitting ,182 with two home runs and nine RBIs. Iwamura had been designated for assignment in June, when the team sent him to the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.

There has been little interest from other clubs about acquiring him in a trade, making it likely Iwamura will enter the open market.

Iwamura has not ruled out a possible return to the NPB and could be in line to follow in the footsteps of Hiroshima's Ken Takahashi, Orix's So Taguchi, Yokohama's Tomokazu Ohka and Hanshin's Kenji Johjima, who each returned to Japan this year after stints in the majors.

Iwamura was an infielder for the Yakult Swallows from 1998-2006 prior to leaving for the U.S to join the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (since renamed the Tampa Bay Rays). He was a career .300 hitter in Japan, hitting 188 home runs and recording 570 RBIs.



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