The Dragons took on Yomiuri Giants, in what I am now choosing to dub the “Mr Baseball Classic,” for three whopper games at the Tokyo Dome. Somewhat mixed feeling for Dragons fans as the Giants have the potential to punish, the Dragons line-up hasn’t been firing and our away form hasn’t been too hot. I certainly wasn’t expecting much out of the series but who knows. It’s baseball and in the current state of the Central League, there’s really no such thing as an upset as all the teams are pretty inconsistent and no one team is showing any particular dominance so far this season.
Game 34 of the season would see Shunta Wakamatsu up against the young Jun Hasegawa for the first face off at the Tokyo dome this season between the two teams.
Takeshi Kaneko would come in for the injured Ryosuke Oguma for the only team change.
The opening blow would come off the bat of Soichiro Tateoka in the third as he drove home Seiji Kobayashi two make it 1-0 to the Giants. Hasegawa’s first outing of the season looked to be progressing until the Dragons made their comeback in 5th inning as a Hirata sac-fly allowed Ohshima to come home to score, 1-1. Ricardo Nanita would push the Dragons into a winning position with a hit into the right sending Masahiro Araki into score, 1-2. With that Makoto Tahara was brought in to relieve for Hasegawa and his first contribution to the game was an awful baulk to third which allowed Viciedo to trot home to open the deficit to 1-3. Truly absent minded. Hernandez would make things worse for Tahara as he hit for two bases sending Nanita home to make it 1-4. Sakamoto would do his best to bring things back with his solo homer in the 6th.
However another Hirata hit would put Araki into score to keep the difference at three, 2-5. Hernandez would continue his run of RBIs to send his captain and Viciedo into score making it 2-7 on the night. A big win!
Hernandez hit 3 RBIs today to certainly stake his claim over the likes of Masahiko Morino and Tetsuya Tani for the spot at third-base. The only thing that will count against him is the foreign player limit of four on the roster. Araki absolutely raked as he hit four in five at-bats. Stunning from the veteran chasing his 2000th career hit. Hirata was the man of the moment though as he came through at important intervals to claim two RBIs with Ricardo Nanita claiming the final scoring hit.
Game 35 would see a return to the mound for Drew Naylor while Imamura, the pitcher responsible for the Giants loss against the Dragons in Nagoya earlier this season, would be Naylor’s rival on the night.
The night would start off on a sour note for Chunichi as, after one strikeout, Naylor was withdrawn from the mound after suffering from some elbow soreness. Not great for the starting rotation when you include Oguma’s injury against the Tigers. Hiroto Fuku was brought on for long-relief duties and had one scary moment against Sakamoto, as Fuku’s pitch was sent clanging into the fence and luckily not over it. Fuku however stayed calm and fanned Garett Jones to end the inning.
Scoring started for the Dragons at the top of the second as Viciedo opened his shoulders inhis first plate appearance of the night and swiftly sent Imamura’s pitch over the fence for a solo homer and the first run of the game, 0-1.
The party would continue for the Dragons attack as Katsura’s hit loaded the bases allowing the unlikely hero, Fuku, to bat home his first pro-RBI, 0-2. Imamura’s wayward pitching continued against Ohshima as a walk bumped in another run before Hirata hit home two to make it 0-5. With the batting line-up now coming full circle, Viciedo stepped up, addressed the situation, and with runners on 1st and 3rd, dispatched another pitch over the fence to claim a 3-run homer!
His second, in the same inning, in a consecutive at-bat! Crazy scenes! Hayato Sakamoto would claim one back through a solo homer in the 4th.
That would be all she wrote as the Dragons ran out 1-8 winners.
Viciedo was the man on the night to make a massive difference. 4 RBIs, two homeruns in 4 plate appearances. El Tank has been rolling along very nicely. Big wraps too for young Fuku who ran out as winning pitcher as well as achieving his first RBI in pro-ball. Another big win against the Giants, as good as it gets really. The injury to Naylor isn’t the best, but neither have his performances been in honesty. It will be interesting to see who fills the 6’5” peg in the starting rotation.
Game 36 would see the return of former Bluejay, Raul Valdes to the starter’s mound for his first appearance of the season. I must admit I was thinking the 38 year old would be lucky to make any type of appearance this year. Injuries have helped. Hayato Takagi would start for the Giants to try and claim his 3rd win of the season.
Yuu Satoh and Valdes were the only two addition to the squad while Drew Naylor's injury saw him de-registered from the roster for the time being.
The Dragons would be the ones to start the party as Naomichi Donoue launched one into the right stand to grab a solo homer.
Araki would take advantage of Valdes’ surprise good contact and send the Cuban pitcher home to score in the 5th. Hirata would then oblige Ohshima as his sac-fly allowed the number 8 speedster to score and make it 0-3. Donoue would however be in the midst of things again in the 6th as he sent Nanita and Hernandez home with timely single to make it 0-5. Kataoka hit back in the bottom of the inning with a 2-run homer into the left stand.
It would be Donoue again, with the bases loaded, hitting a high Mathieson pitch into the outfield to send 3 home and make it 2-8. Hirata would continue the damage in the 8th inning with a 3-run homer off Yamaguchi to firmly rub the salt into the wounds of the Giants to make it 2-11
The Giants would take a liking to Takeshi Kaneko in the 9th though as Kamei hit a 2-run homerun to make it 4-11.
The last laugh would be had by Kaneko however who closed out the game with no further loss.
You can take nothing away from Naomichi Donoue today as his performance with the bat was nothing short of outstanding. He claimed a personal best of 6 RBIs on the night while his captain, Ryosuke Hirata picked up 4. A season high of 17 hits marked a stark contrast to the batting line-up that failed to show up against Carp and the Tigers. Valdes also marked his return with a well-earned win where his unique throwing style picked up 7 strikeouts giving up 2 earned runs.
Three great wins for the Dragons and the first sweep of the Giants at the Tokyo Dome since 2006 when the Dragons won the Central League with a team studded with the likes of Tyrone Woods, Masahiko Morino and a certain Masahiro Araki (who is now 86 hits away from the magic 2000). Not much of an omen really with the up and down form of this team, but certainly a refreshing change in the breeze to send a buoyant Dragons into the day break with 3 big wins under their belt. The win would send the Dragons top of the league, but as Tanishige mentioned “there’s still about 100 games left…”