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Abe does it all for Giants despite taxing role

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Catcher Shinnosuke Abe has a pivotal role offensively and defensively for the Yomiuri Giants.

And he was indicating how demanding that position is.

Game 3 of the ongoing Japan Series was a prime example.

Abe hit with a game-tying solo home run in the second inning and ensured the 7-4 win over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters with an eighth-inning two-run RBI single with his phenomenal bat.

He stood on the podium along with teammate Michihiro Ogasawara, who also made a huge contribution in the game, for the post-game hero interview.

“I was able to come up with (the timely hit) with the push from the fans,” Abe said loudly about the two-run single before a jam-packed crowd of 45,150 at Tokyo Dome. “I felt so great and had goose bumps.”

Later, he came off the field to give interviews for the hordes of reporters.

Abe sank heavily into a chair, dripping with sweat. There was no smile on his face despite the team’s victory, despite his big night, because he poured so much energy mentally and physically as a backstop.

“It’s not fun,” Abe responded, when asked if he was enjoying sitting behind the plate. “Well, when you win like today, it certainly is fun. But (the Fighters) have great batters who are so tenacious at the plate, it feels like they can score from anywhere.”

Another reason that catching made him tired was Wirfin Obispo, the starting pitcher for Yomiuri.

Abe said that the right-hander was not capitalizing on his good traits and that allowed the Fighters to take an early lead.

“He wouldn’t listen to me,” Abe said. “His good point is (throwing unpredictable,) rough balls. He was too settled.”

Then Abe half-angrily used a gesture to tell Obispo to pitch as he had before.

“It meant, ‘You can pitch to anywhere, but swing your arm.’ “

Because of Abe’s instruction, Obispo eventually regained his usual stuff and left the mound giving up three runs on three solo homers over six innings.

Giants closer Marc Kroon summarized how much Abe means to the team and himself.

“He’s probably the best catcher in the league. His defense is amazing,” Kroon said before Wednesday’s Game 4.

“My forkball probably isn’t the easiest ball to catch. It comes 90 miles per hour (150 kph), it comes with a lot of bite, too. I have 100 percent confidence throwing the pitch with a runner on third base. I don’t even think about the ball going to the back side.”

Abe’s action was limited in last year’s Japan Series, in which Yomiuri fell to the Saitama Seibu Lions in seven games, due to a right shoulder injury.

But with him behind the plate, the Giants certainly have a better chance to clinch the Japan Series title.