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Hanshin Tigers manager Senichi Hoshino’s stomach ulcer may be getting worse by the minute.

After dropping the first two games of the Japan Series to the Daiei Hawks, the Tigers skipper has all but avoided talk about the effect the announcement of his almost certain retirement due to health reasons may be having on a seemingly demoralized team.

After a 13-0 blowout in Game 2 on Sunday, the 56-year-old Hoshino is probably wishing he had held his tongue until after the fall classic, or at least made the news coincide with a Hanshin victory at the series for the first time in 18 years.

The Tigers, indeed, appear just a shell of the ferocious team which dominated during the regular season with a record of 87-51-2, 14.5 games ahead of the Chunichi Dragons.

Rather than point to his faux pas as one of the reasons for the team’s dreary performance, Hoshino has instead singled out his starting pitchers as the redeeming force that can turn things around in Game 3 at Koshien Stadium on Tuesday.

“Unless our starting pitchers do their jobs to perfection, we have no game plan,” Hoshino said after the pregame practice Monday.

The Hawks have outhit the Tigers 13-6 and 16-6 in the first two games.

Kei Igawa, who together with Daiei’s Kazumi Saito received the Sawamura Award for his exemplary 20-5 performance this season, was the first casualty in a head-to-head matchup with Saito in Game 1 in which the Tigers lost 5-4 after a seesaw contest.

Next up was former New York Yankee Hideki Irabu, who lasted just three-plus innings and gave up five runs on nine hits as the Hawks demolished the Tigers in Game 2.

Though he believes his starters are his bread and butter, Hoshino admitted something was a little off-kilter with his offense as well.

“Our batting lineup must also be in sync and hitting well. This is why we haven’t been able to create scoring opportunities in the series,” Hoshino said.

Players on the team apparently have said that Hoshino apologized for the media stir his announcement caused a day prior to the start of the series Saturday.

Either Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi or Trey Moore, who recently recovered from a right thigh injury, will start Tuesday. Whichever lefty it is, Hoshino hopes one of them will be able to stop the hemorrhaging against the mighty Hawks.

In their favor is the Tigers’ 46-15 record at Koshien this season.

Surgery for Nakamura

OSAKA (Kyodo) Kintetsu Buffaloes slugger Norihiro Nakamura underwent endoscopic surgery on his right knee Friday and is expected to need around three months to make a full recovery, officials of the Pacific League club said Monday.

Igawa, Saito share prize

OSAKA (Kyodo) Kei Igawa of the Hanshin Tigers and the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks’ Kazumi Saito received the Sawamura Award on Monday, the first time in 37 years that two pitchers have received the honor in the same year.

Both pitchers posted 20 wins this season for the Central League and Pacific League champions, respectively, and won the award for the first time in a unanimous vote by baseball officials.

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