FULL COUNT: Playoffs and tidbits

columnist-logo_DrewmoritaThe quest for a World Series ring is in full swing and several players of Japanese descent have contributed to their teams’ efforts. Here is a recap of the 2012 postseason thus far.

In the best-of-seven American League Championship Series the Yankees trail Detroit 3-0 and their title hopes have gravely diminished. In Game 1 on Oct. 13, the Tigers took a 4-0 lead into the ninth when Ichiro Suzuki, playing in October for the first time in 11 years, slapped a two-run homer that sparked a rally which ultimately fell short as New York lost 6-4 in extra innings. In Game 3 on Oct. 16, Suzuki went 2-for-4 in the Yankees’ 2-1 loss. Suzuki came to New York in July batting .261 with 4 homeruns and 28 RBI in 95 games, but his numbers increased with the Yankees, posting a .322 average with 5 homeruns and 27 RBIs in 67 games.

Pitching on short rest, Game 2 starter Hiroki Kuroda was perfect through five innings on Oct. 14 for the Yankees, but the lack of offense and a blown call by umpire Jeff Nelson proved costly as the Tigers won 3-0. Kuroda has a 2.81 ERA with 14 strikeouts in two postseason starts. If necessary he could start Game 5 or 6, and may be available earlier out of the bullpen.

Catcher Kurt Suzuki and the Nationals will be watching the rest of the playoffs from home following their 9-7 loss to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. After a slow start with Oakland, Suzuki was traded to Washington in August and quickly found his stroke, batting .267 with 5 homeruns and 25 RBIs in 43 games (he only hit one homerun, with just 18 RBI and a .218 average in 75 games with the Oakland A’s this season). His clutch hitting and superb defense helped a Washington team reach the playoffs for the first time since 1933.

Texas pitchers Yu Darvish, Koji Uehara, and Yoshinori Tateyama all made the wildcard roster with Darvish getting the start in the one-game wildcard playoff against the Orioles on Oct. 5. The 26-year-old gave up three runs on five hits while striking out seven in 6.2 innings of work in the Rangers’ 5-1 loss.

Ever wondered who wears number 99 for the San Francisco Giants? That’s assistant trainer and bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu, who started with the Giants’ Triple-A Fresno team in 2006 and joined the big league squad in 2008 as Keiichi Yabu’s translator. During the introductions for Game 1 of the NLDS, Uematsu received a huge ovation from the fans at AT&T Park.

Third-year Cubs’ second baseman Darwin Barney may be in line for a Gold Glove after his amazing streak of 141 errorless games. Winners will be announced following the World Series. The Oregon native is of Japanese, Korean and Hawaiian descent.

The Royals are looking to resign starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, who posted a 3.16 ERA in 14 Kansa City starts. Kansas City traded struggling left-hander and ex-Giant Jonathan Sanchez for Guthrie in June. The former Stanford ace is half-Japanese from his mother’s side.

High School pitching sensation Shohei Otani has been in signing talks with several major league teams including the Red Sox, Rangers and Dodgers. The 18-year-old has a fastball clocked at 99 miles per hour.

Drew Morita, a Yonsei from the island of Kaua‘i, grew up rooting for the Oakland A’s but is now a loyal San Francisco Giants fan. He writes from San Francisco.

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