Hideki Okajima talks about homesickness, loneliness, and his poor relationship with Boston media

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Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima is taking a lot of heat from the Boston media after refusing to speak to reporters following a recent poor outing, to the point that some beat writers are openly calling for his release.
Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com got Okajima to talk to him, not about the bad outing but about his increasingly poor relationship with the local media and overall state of mind in what has been a career-worst season.
Edes writes that Okajima “admitted to homesickness for his native land and a language-driven loneliness in which he says he has only two real confidants, his wife and his interpreter.”
Here’s more from Okajima, presumably via his interpreter:

Especially in the bullpen. I’m kind of alone in there. There’s time to think too much, especially inside the bullpen. It’s hard to maintain a strong mentality, especially when you’ve been hit hard the previous day. There’s too much time to think in the bullpen. It would be easier to maintain if there was someone who spoke the same language and you could talk to, but that’s not the reality right now.

Beyond those issues, Okajima talked about how “no comment” was far more accepted from the media in Japan following a rough performance in part because reporters aren’t allowed in the clubhouse. Asked specifically about refusing to speak following Sunday’s game, Okajima said:

I could not talk about the game. Mentally, I was down after the loss. I felt it was better to have some time in between to talk, not immediately. From the players’ standpoint, rather than try to put it in words in that moment, it would be better to get a fresh mind and talk about how you really felt in that situation, but not on that day.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I understand reporters have a job to do and very much value their work. On the other hand, having to answer questions about what a bad job you just did makes Okajima’s life more difficult than it already is and ultimately how important is it for the newspapers in Boston to have a quote from him anyway? (And none of this would be an issue if Okajima didn’t have a 5.81 ERA.)
It bothers me when players who love to provide reporters with good quotes get treated favorably when those same reporters discuss on-field performance and it also bothers me when the opposite is true. Okajima deserves plenty of criticism for his performance this season, but he was a very good player for the Red Sox in the previous three seasons and doesn’t deserve any more or less criticism for his pitching based on how willing he is to give some quotes in the clubhouse after games.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.