Nishinomiya, Hyogo Pref. – Shota Takeda stood at the center of a maelstrom during the sixth inning in Game 2 of the Japan Series. The Hanshin Tigers were rallying, and their fans, who in their home ballpark might be Japan’s loudest on a normal day, were practically roaring at the prospect of their team, which had a runner on second, turning a one-run deficit into a tie game or, even better, an outright lead.
Their screams reached Takeda on the mound at Koshien Stadium, the Tigers’ hallowed ground so full of history and ghosts of the past. The only postseason experience Takeda had to drawn upon was from the previous five innings on Sunday and a disastrous showing in the Pacific League Climax Series two seasons ago, and while he wasn’t alone on the field, he was the only one with the ball in his hands.