TAOYUAN, TAIWAN – Overshadowed by the home runs hit by Sho Nakata and Nobuhiro Matsuda, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo was something of an unsung hero in Japan’s 10-2 victory over the United States on Saturday night in the Premier 12.
Tsutsugo didn’t blast a homer like his two teammates. But without his earlier offensive efforts, the game at Taoyuan International Stadium could’ve been a lot tighter.
Tsutsugo drove in a run with a double to cut a 2-0 deficit to one in the fourth. And in his next plate appearance, he again came up with an RBI double to pull Samurai Japan even before Nakata belted a three-run homer in the sixth.
Tsutsugo coolly had another RBI hit in the seventh to set the table for Matsuda, who smacked a grand slam.
Among Samurai Japan’s many heroes, Kokubo gave credit to Tsutsugo for turning the tide in Japan’s favor.
“Tsutsugo had RBI hits in two at-bats in a row. It gave us some momentum,” Kokubo said after Saturday’s games. “After that, Nakata hit the homer, but it was Tsutsugo’s RBI hit that gave us the momentum today.”
Tsutsugo, who has gone 6-for-14 with four RBIs hitting in the 5 hole for Japan, humbly said that because Nakata hits right after him, he has been able to relax more when he is hitting.
“Because Nakata is right behind me, I’ve tried to set the table for him and that’s paid off so far,” Tsutsugo said.
Tsutsugo, 23, usually hits in the cleanup spot for the Yokohama BayStars and had a banner year in 2015. He had a .317 batting average, 24 home runs and 93 RBIS, all career-highs.
Tsutsugo had a costly fielding mistake in Thursday’s game against the Dominican Republic, and the Caribbean country capitalized on it to tie the game.
But Tsutsugo quickly worked off his frustration in the next game against the U.S.
“After he had the mistake, he quickly bounced back,” Kokubo said of Tsutsugo. “He has mental strength and I was impressed by that.”
Tsutsugo has noticed his own improvement as well.
“I think that I’ve been able to grow,” Tsutsugo said. “But I still have room to grow further.”
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