Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Double Update: Dragons v Baystars @Nagoya Dome, 30th - 31st August; Pain, pleasure and a series win

Just to catch up so we can move on a bit, I'll post up reports for Wednesday and Thursday's game in the same post.

Dragons 3 - 6 Baystars

WP: Satoshi Iizuka (1W 2L) 5 2/3IP 1ER 3SO            Lopes 4-2, 4RBI, 1BB, 1HR
LP: Yudai Ono (5W, 7L)  5IP 5ER 4SO                       Fukuda 4-1, 1RBI, 1HR
SV: Yasuaki Yamasaki (23)

The Dragons couldn't get the bats working today. 3 solo home runs were to be the only runs scored by the home team while Miyazaki and Lopes wreaked havoc for the 'Stars.

The damage started in the 3rd inning through consecutive doubles from the aforementioned pair to put 3 on the board. Lopes' 2 run homer in the 5th would further add the damage and remove Ono from the game as the lead was stretched to 5.

Yota Kyoda would go yard in the 6th on a 3-1 pitch to put one on the board and Fukuda's 14th homer of the 7th saw the Dragons creep ever so gradually toward the Baystars score.

Shuhei Takahashi would also get on the board in the 7th as he scored an inside the park homerun. Shuhei is by no means a speedster but he rounded the bases after a bit of a lucky bounce and some lax fielding. To make it even more special, this was the first inside the park homer ever scored at Nagoya Dome dating back to 1997 when the venue was first opened. There's been plenty of speedsters and grace the stadium in these 20 years, but the medium-paced Shuhei was the one to take the honours first.
Hiroki Minei would push the 'Stars lead further in the top of the 9th against Taisuke Maruyama as his single scored Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. This would round at the scoring as the Dragons failed to muster in the bottom of the inning.

Dragons 4 - 2 Baystars

WP: Daisuke Yamai (1W 0L) 6IP 1ER 2SO                      Yamai 2-1, 1RBI, 1HR
LP: Shota Imanaga (10W 6L) 5IP 2ER 5SO                      Kajitani 3-2, 1RBI, 1HR
SV: Shinji Tajima (30)

Daisuke Yamai's spot start proved to be a stroke of genius as the 39 year old with the 7+ ERA on the farm claimed a famous victory over the Baystars to claim the series in a battle against Baystars ace, Shota Imanaga.

Guerrero would help get the game off to a good start as his 2 base hit drove in the first run in the bottom of the first inning. Yamai would keep the Baystars eerily quiet through 5 innings before he himself came up to bat and swiped an Imanaga pitch over the fences to claim his first career homerun.
Yamai would pitch up until the 7th where he gave up a lead-off homer to Yoshitomo Tsutsugo.

Having seen enough, Dragons management sent in Katsuki Matayoshi to finish of the inning for no further score. A series of errors in the bottom of the 7th would see the Dragons extend their lead to 3 while another homer from Kajitani vs Tanimoto in the top of the 8th put the pressure on the home team to see the game out.

At the bottom of the 8th the unmentionable would happen as Yohei Oshima took a dead ball to his right leg which saw his removal from the field of play but Shinji Tajima would come out in the 9th and close out the inning and the game to secure the win.

Oshima's involvement in the rest of the season is now in doubt as it was later revealed that the ball broke bones in his right leg. This leaves a big hole in the lineup and a big hole in centre-field for the rest of the year, but apart from individual glory this doesn't seem to be like a massive black mark on a team that isn't going to challenge. It does however add to the injury list populated already but Viciedo, Hirata, Yanagi and a handful of other. We can only hope for their speedy recoveries.

Next up, Tigers at Koshien.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Daily Update: Dragons v Baystars @Nagoya Dome, 29th August; Yoshimi lit up, Super Araki to the rescue

Hello Dragons fans, after a long, largely unexplained hiatus, I have returned to the blog to hopefully see out the rest of the season. Due largely to work commitments over the July/August period it has been very difficult for me to get time away from my desk to work on the blog, but I'm back for the forseeable future now.

Some of you may have noticed that I'm back to being active on twitter and I will be looking to get the Facebook page a little better updated in the near future too.

Before we get into the write-up for last nights's game, I'll fill in on some of the more major turning points that have come out of camp in the last month in a bit.

Talking Points

* Ryosuke Hirata has been considering surgery on a meniscus injury that has troubled him for sometime. Recovery time would put him out for another 12 months.
* Dayan Viciedo has a broken arm and will play no further part this season. Nobumasa Fukuda has taked over 1st on a full-time basis after filling it at 3rd for a while. He's whacked 13 homers so far this year and seems to be finally breaking out. Shuhei has been playing third the last few games.
* Yota Kyoda continues to go on a tear and has broken the Chunichi record for rookie triples in the post-war era (7) which was previously held by legendary slugger, Kenichi Yazawa in 1970. Kyoda also looks set to equal or top Yoshinobu Takahashi's record (1998 Giants) of 140 hits in a "Heisei era" rookie season. The Heisei era in this case refers to after 1988 when the current Emperor began his reign. The overall NPB record is 180 hits set by Shinya Sasaki of the then Takahashi Unions (later Mainichi Orions and now Lotte Marines) in 1956. Chunichi's record amount of hits in a rookie season belongs to Shinichi Endo who thumped 139 hits in 1959. Kyoda looks on pace to take rookie of the year honours which would be the first time in 29 years that a Chunichi outfielder has claimed the prize. Strangely enough, it was Kyoda's idol, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, also a short stop, that last captured the honour in 1988. Kyoda also looks set to top Tatsunami's Chunichi rookie stolen base record as well as he only has one more base to steal before equaling.
* Alex Guerrero leads the NPB homerun tables with 32 and has slotted in nicely to 4th in the order after Viciedo's injury. His average is up to the .270s now. That's the most homers by a Dragon since Kazuhiro Wada's MVP season in 2010 where he slugged 37. Tony Blanco is otherwise the last foreign power bat to hit over 30 homers in a season for Chunichi when he hit 32 in 2010 as well. If Guerrero can reach as far as 39 homeruns, he'll equal Blanco's team rookie/first year record.
* Hitoki Iwase broke the NPB record for mound appearances (950) previously held by Masaichi Kaneda on the 6th of August against the Giants. On August 16th Iwase also broke the record for season mound appearances by a pitcher in their 40's (48) which was set way back in 1948 by Hanshin's Tadashi Wakabayashi. This adds to a long list of achievements by the legendary closer who also holds the NPB record for career saves (by quite a large margin). Iwase however was not pleased by his performances after achieving these benchmarks and asked to be sent down to the farm team to tune up again which was granted.
*Yuya Yanagi the first draft pick last year is, as far as I know, out of action with an injury which has prevented his development in the first team. As it is, I don't know when he'll be back or what kind of injury he has. Sometimes this information is a bit hard to get to hand.

Dragons 7 - 6 Baystars

WP: Katsuki Matayoshi (6W 1L) 1IP 0ER 1SO                Guerrero 4-2, 3RBIs, 1HR
LP:  Edwin Escobar (1W 2L) 1IP 2ER 1SO                      Miyazaki 4-1 4RBIs, 1HR

Kazuki Yoshimi lasted only one inning as he received a belting giving up 2 walks and 2 hits including a grand slam to Toshiro Miyazaki.

 The Dragons would fight back immediately as a rally at the top of the order ended with a Guerrero 3-run dinger, his 32nd of the season to put the Dragons back within touching distance.

The 'Stars however took a liking to Junki Ito and added another two through an Ishikawa sac-fly and a Tsutsugo grounder. 3 runs to the good, the 'Stars looked in control as Scott Wieland continued to deal but a Masato Matsui triple in the 4th scored Fujii and Shuhei Takahashi to put the home team within one. The Dragons gave the bullpen a good run out as Daisuke Sobue, Keisuke Tanimoto and Katsuki Matayoshi took 4 scoreless innings and it was at the bottom of the 8th that the Dragons took the lead as a pinch hitting Araki drove home Nobumasa Fukuda to level up and provided a stunning dive to home plate to clinch the winning run.

Shinji Tajima exited the bullpen to secure his 29th save of the season and to secure a Dragons win in the first game of the series.

With this win the Dragons maintain there spot at 5th on the table with only the awfulness of the Swallows keeping them from sliding further. It's a bit strange given how much individual brilliance has come out of this season, but the pitching has been beyond disappointing. The bats have produced fairly well this year, but the pitchers have just had far too many issues. Very much a contrast to last year where the line-up was disjointed and failed to get going on many occasions. This is also in contrast to the woes experienced at the beginning of the year where pitchers like Raul Valdes weren't getting the support they needed when they were pitching well.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Daily Update: Dragons v Giants @Nagoya Dome, 19th July; Mr McGehee strikes again

Dragons 5-6 Giants

WP: Shoichiro Hatake 7 1/3IP 2ER 6SO            McGehee 5-5 1HR, 2RBI
LP: Yudai Ono 6IP 5ER 5SO                             Araki 4-2, 2RBI

The Dragons fought back to within a whisker of winning this but the only thing that was taken away from the game was a darkening pessimism over Yudai Ono's future.

Ono started his first game after the All-Star break by loading up the bases in the first inning. Shinnosuke Abe's sac-fly allowed McGehee to score, while off-season FA acquisition Dai-Kang Yang went yard knocking in a 3-run homer to put the Giants 4-0 up in the blink of an eye.
Hatake, the 2nd pick rookie at the 2016 draft, kept the Dragons quiet until Casey McGehee took his 3rd hit of the night in only the 4th inning through a stunning solo homer nailed into the left stands off Ono.
The Dragons looked down and out by the 8th inning as McGehee once again raked an RBI to make it 6-0 and claim his 5th hit from 5, but little were we to know that a comeback was around the corner. 
With Canadian Scott Mathieson on the mound for the Giants, the pinch-hitting Tani's single followed by Kyoda's double put two runners in scoring position with Araki up to bat. The veteran duly obliged his colleagues as his single was enough to score Tani and the fleet-footed Kyoda. Hits to Oshima and Guerrero would load up the bases but both Viciedo and Fujii failed to take profit from Mathieson's mistakes falling to end the inning. 

Koji Fukutani would take out the 9th for the Dragons and Arquimedes Caminero was called up by Yomiuri. Caminero would give up consecutive hits to Fukuda and Matsui before Tani found himself once more in the midst of the action as his RBI single put the Dragons to 3-6. Naomichi Donoue would rake 2 more RBIs in the 9th before Caminero was helped out of a jam by a Guerrero strikeout and an over optimistic run for third base by recent call-up and pinch-runner Taiki Mitsumata to end the inning.

What we learned from this game is that Ono isn't the same pitcher he was two years ago. He's not even the same pitcher he was last year. Something is going wrong and he needs to get some very special guidance to get out of his funk. We also learned that Casey McGehee loves facing us (averaging .386 with 12 RBIs) and that the team can show a bit of heart to make a comeback. Viciedo's inability to convert in a clutch situation is very worrying however as this is what we really need him to be able to do. I'll still allow him to attribute to blowing out some cobwebs, but if he wants to stay up, he's going to have to start doing more.

In other news, Kyohei Kamezawa has come down with a knee injury after Tuesday's game. He has since been deregged which is why we saw Taiki Mitsumata tonight.

On the farm, Daisuke Yamai got lit up again after giving up 5 runs in his second inning to the Carp. Jorge Rondon joined in the dumpster fire giving up 6. Neither are likely to see the light of the first team again this season in all likelihood. Yamai has already been seen tutoring younger pitchers on the farm and has reportedly taken Kento Fujishima under his wing.

Friday's slated pitchers for possibly another gory trip to Mazda Stadium are lefties Kris Johnson and Raul Valdes.

Daily Update: Dragons v Giants @Nagoya Dome, 18th July; Double dingers on the back of Yoshimi QS

Dragons 6 - 1 Giants

WP: Kazuki Yoshimi 6 2/3IP 1ER 3SO                         Fukuda 4-2, 2RBI, 1RHR
LP: Hayato Takagi 4 2/3IP 1ER 3SO                             Chono 3-2, 1BB

Before the game even started there was big news as slated Giants starting pitcher, Shun Yamaguchi was pulled after apparently going on a bender the previous week and picking a fight with a security guard which had apparently only just come to light. The former Yokohama pitcher who moved as a FA to the Giants this season, apparently injured his shoulder in the scuffle which scuttled his start and has put him in trouble with just about everyone concerned.

Hayato Takagi was hastened into an emergency start (or maybe it was planned all along?) and the Dragons took advantage of the momentum that swung their way. Kamezawa got the rub on a error from Seiji Kobayashi advancing to second while Yota Kyoda ran into score. Masato Matsui would return the favour to the Giants in the bottom of the inning as his fumble allowed Takagi to score.
The Dragons would soon again be in the ascendance however as Nobumasa Fukuda went yard for his second homer of the year.
Alex Guerrero would become bash brothers with Fukuda as he too threw his bat at an errant pitch to great effect scoring Oshima in the process for a 2-run homer, his 24th of the season.
The Dragons would continue to add insult to injury in the 8th inning as Oshima scored on a Vicedo groundout while Fukuda chipped in with another double base hit to put the Dragons in cruise control at 6-1. 

A great win for the Dragons on the back of a bad defeat. Yoshimi gets his second win of the year after pitching a good game while the bullpen had a decent run our as well. Hitoki Iwase in this game equalled another Aichi native and legend Masaichi Kaneda's record for appearances on the mound at 944. Iwase only has six more appearances to go to break the all-time record. 

Tomorrow's game will be a match up between Yudai Ono and Giants rookie Seisho Hatake. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Daily Update: Dragons v Giants @Nagoya Dome, 17th July; Ogasawara, where for art thou?

Dragons 1 - 5 Giants

WP: Miles Mikolas 7IP 1ER 6SO                           McGehee 4-2 2DBLs
LP: Shinnosuke Ogasawara 5 1/3IP 4ER 4SO        Kamezawa 4-2

Shinnosuke Ogasawara lost his 3rd in a row to hand a resurgent Giants a 5-1 win in Tokyo while Dayan Viciedo made his long awaited return to the team following a lengthy absence for his US citizenship application.

Hisashi Chono set the tone with a lead-off home run, his 9th of the year,  to immediately put pressure on the Dragons batting line-up.
The Giants would then go 3 up in the 6th after a Miles Mikolas' hit sent two runners homes after Ogasawara completely lost all command of his weaponry to load the bases with 3 consecutive walks. The Dragons would hit back in the bottom of the inning through a small rally of Kamezawa, Oshima and Guerrero which saw the Cuban slugger notch his only RBI and hit of the game. Junki Ito would surrender the last run of the game to Shinnosuke Abe whose single sent in the pinch-running Tateoka to score. Yuya Yanagi threw one inning of relief otherwise to blow off some ASG cobwebs while Koji Fukutani made a rare appearance in the 9th inning keeping things scoreless.

A disappointing loss but it is hard to ignore the trend following Ogasawara's starts. The 19 year old has bulked up a lot this year, but the command just isn't there at the moment. A tune-up on the farm might be around the corner. Viciedo went 4-0 (sometimes called a tako in Japanese) to mark a pretty disappointing return. One can only think he is a bit under cooked. He also played a full game on the farm in the afternoon which possibly wasn't the best preparation ever.

Other news: In a bit of fun for "Araki Day" at the Nagoya dome to celebrate the second baseman's 2000 hits, the team trained in #2 Araki jerseys. Before the game, the team combined with the Giants to collect aid money for flood disaster relief in northern Kyushu, a common event when disasters strike.

Tomorrow's starters are Shun Yamaguchi, the FA man the Dragons were after in the off-season and the returned Kazuki Yoshimi.