Saturday, April 30, 2016

On the Farm: Chunichi Dragons v Softbank Hawks (April 26th-27th)

Hee-haw what a hootenanny we had down on the farm this week!  We was down on the ranch in NAH-GOE-YAH spitting tobacky and throwing curve balls as the Dragons faced off against the Softbank Hawks in another rain affected series. We had two games with the third being called off because of the weather and it would be a win a piece to each side but Softbank inflicted the larger of the damage.

Game 1 of the series was a cricket score in favour of the Hawks as they ran out 10-0 winners after a 6 run blow-out by Yudai in the second inning marked particularly painfully by a three run homerun to Go Kamamoto. Yuu Sato would also be dealt the same punishment in the 3rd inning by Takuya Kai to put the Hawks up to 9-0 in 3 innings. The game was also showed a return for Asao who has been worried with niggling injuries since sometime last year. He would unfortunately be the last to give up a run as Takuya struck a double  to put the game to rest at 10-0 in the 7th inning.

Pitching
As mentioned,  it was a bit of a disaster for Yudai who pitched 1 1/3 innings, including 4
deliveries, and gave up 5 hit, 6 runs and 2 walks. Awful.  Yuu Sato faired a bit better  as he was given a long relief role despite being battered in his first full inning. Sato pitched 4 2/3 innings, striking out 5 and walking two for 3 runs.  Asao was tidy in his only inning despite giving up a run. He fanned two and conceded 3 hits. Mituma was even more impressive in his inning as he struckout two batters and gave up a walk for no loss. Ogawa and Kaneko finished out the last inning with no particular stats to worry the scorers.

One of those days I guess, but giving up 9 runs in the first two isn’t exactly forgivable. Then again, neither is not mounting a meaningful counter-attack.

Here's Asao's return to the mound: 



Batting
Kei Nomoto just keeps doing what he needs to and surely he isn’t too far away from replacing the likes of Fukuda or Morino in the first-team squad. The first-baseman raked 3 hits in his 4 plate-appearances on a day where his team-mates didn’t really help him out. The only other hits went to Watanabe, Tomonaga, Tamura and Kato who all scored singles. Pretty damning assessment. One does have to assume that the Softbank pitchers were on point, or the boys were swinging at everything as no walks were issued in the game. That really just makes Nomoto's form all the more impressive.

Some Nomoto highlights: 


A pretty bad game for the Dragons but well, you win some you lose some.

Game 2 of the series was a much closer affair and much nicer result for the Dragons. After going up 3 runs early against Daisuke Matsuzaka, Chunichi were able to keep a hold of their lead and add one more to their total in the 9th inning to seal a 4-1 win.

Shinji Iwata got his third win of the Western League season while Matsuzaka sits with two losses from three games.

Pitching
Iwata done good.
Shinji Iwata has pitched really well in his last start and did it again today as he pitched out 6 innings taking a whopping 9 strikeouts while only conceding 2 walks, 4 hits and a run against 23 batters. You have to be impressed with the strikeout column. For 6 innings that’s some decent pitching. Ryuya Ogawa took 2 and 2/3 innings of perfect relief pitching, striking out two and avoiding giving an inch to the batters with a mini no-no. Sobue took his man out in 2 balls while Takeshi Kaneko got the save with another inning of no hits and no walks.

Quite exciting numbers coming from the pitching today but it does make one curious as to how good the Hawks batters were on the day.

Tamura lightly tapping the accelerator
Batting
Well, the man making all the 2-gun highlights was at it again today. Kei Nomoto once again put his firm foot down to state his case to be an 1-gun call-up. 3 hits and a walk in 4 plate appearances. Honestly, the guy is untouchable at the moment. Nomoto averages .438 in the Western League. If those kinds of numbers don’t deserve a call-up I will never understand what will. Tomonaga and Ishikawa both had two hits to their names and it was the latter and Watanabe that picked up the only RBIs of the game. Anderson Hernandez also picked up a single while Hitoshi Tamura got himself a walk and a hit for his hard work on the day.

Overall a much improved performance on the previous day in all aspects. The pitching was much better and the batting line-up did what it was supposed to do. Kei Nomoto might have to knock a bit harder to get Tanishige’s attention. Lord knows what’s keeping him in the reserves at the moment. He’s certainly doing all he can.

Here's some more Nomoto highlights from Wednesday:




That’s all for the Western League at the moment as there will be a recess until the 6th when the Dragons play the Carp. There will however be a small Cup tournament at the Nagaragawa ball park in Gifu called the “Bay Blues Cup” during the Golden Week holidays.(May 1st, 2nd & 3rd) I don’t really know too many details but it seems to be 3 games against industrial league teams; Nishino Transportation, Mitsubishi-Hitachi Power Systems Yokohama and 77 Bank.  I will try and report on the games if I can find some info! 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Regular Season: Dragons vs Baystars @Yokohama, April 26th – 28th; Who wants to see some dingers?!


After a good couple of series at home it was time for the Dragons to make the trip back to Kanto to face off against the DeNA Yokohama Baystars. The Dragons made quick work of the Baystars in Nagoya earlier this season, and apart from a bore 0-0 draw, it was all positive for the Chunichi boys. Now, away from home, how would the team face up?

This was actually a series I had tickets to due to my fan club membership but due to the stadium being about an hour away from my workplace and a good 2 hours away from home, I decided against attending this time around. Regret it already. Nevermind!

Game 24 of our season would be a battle of the recently retired managers and Tanishige, a legend for the Baystars and the Dragons, came up against the only foreign manager in the league, Alex Ramirez. Tanishige started his career in Yokohama and if you look at the league finishes before and after he left, well, maybe there was a bit of correlation between Tanishige and success.

Jordan was brought up to take on the Baystars in his 3rd start for the Dragons this year. Kenta Ishida would be his opposing number, starting for Yokohama.

The action would start with the Baystars today. Kuwahara lead-off with a single while Ishikawa was fanned by Jordan. Shotaro Ide hit what looked like it was going to be a single into the left-field, but a fumble from Nanita allowed Kuwahara to get on to third base. The dangerman Tsutsugo would step up next for the ‘stars and a sac fly into the right would be enough to score Kuwahara and open the scores, 1-0. Jamie Romak was walked the next ball, but a hit into foul territory from Kuramoto resulted in an easy catch to end the innings.

The Baystars would continue the scoring in 2nd inning as Yanagida (not the good one) lead off with a walk. Tobashira was induced into a ground out before Ishida was fanned by Jordan to leave a runner on second with two outs. Kuwahara, the scorer in the first inning would be the next to step-up and it would be a handy hit into left field to send Tobashira on his way, 2-0.

A quiet few innings followed before the DeNA men had another breakthrough in the 4th. Kuramoto would get a hit but the poor man’s Yanagida would fly out to a Jordan change-up. Tobashira took a liking to another pitch as he moved Kuramoto to 3rd and put himself on 1st. up would come the pitcher, Ishida and from a hit in the infield, he was able to safely score Kuramoto and put himself on 1st base, 3-0. Kuwahara and Ishikawa would subsequently fall victim to consecutive fly-outs to end the inning.

With batting looking a bit dire, it was time for the Dragons to turn it on and get back into the game. At the top of the 5th the magic would start with a Viciedo double. Nanita would oblige his Hispanic compatriot with a hit of his own into the centre to allow Viciedo to score, 3-1. The rally cry was there, but with Hirata hitting into a double play and Donoue being struckout by Ishida, the innings was over in quick fashion.

A personnel change would come for Yokohama in the 6th as Shibata was brought in for Ide, but the new defensive shift couldn’t stop Shota Sugiyama from clearing the fence to rake a solo homer, 3-2. 

Fukuda was brought in to pinch-hit for Jordan but a ground out was all that would result. A bit worrying for a guy who was absolutely mashing it in the 2-gun team earlier in the year. Ohshima would be the next at the plate and the centre-fielder would treat the visiting fans to a rare occurrence. On a count of 1-2, Ohshima opened up his shoulders and whacked one into the right stand. 3-3. 

Back to even terms in no time at all. Araki and Takahashi would try to push the score to a winning margin, but it wasn’t to be with both grounding out to end the inning.

With the Baystars now on the back foot, Fujioka was brought to the mound to change the flow after a scoreless batting stanza. While he would find success removing Viciedo, a hit and a walk to Nanita and Hirata put the pressure on. While Fujioka fanned Donoue, Ramirez was happy to take him off and replace him with Tanaka. It wouldn’t prove to be the most astute of decisions as Sugiyama continued to fire as Romak mis-fielded a hit into the right allowing Nanita and Hirata to score to put the Dragons into a winning position for the first time of the day. 3-5.


 Tani continued the mayhem as he scored Sugiyama with his double to make it 3-6. Ohshima finished off the inning as he was struckout by Tanaka.

The force was definitely with the Dragons at this point as they sought to put the game well out of reach in the 8th. After Araki and Takahashi failed to put up any resistance, up stepped the big Cuba, the man, the moment, the dude, Dayan Viciedo. Squaring up his foe, allowing the count to go to full, El Tank saw his moment and connected sweetly with a delivery in the middle of the plate. Sensing the homerun immediately, Viciedo dropped his bat in the “to hell with you bat” style and pumped up as ever jogged the diamond, 3-7.


 It would be the last of the scoring as Tajima closed out the 9th for no score to cap off an exciting come from behind victory.
3 big dingers in a great turn around win for the Dragons and yet another poor showing from the Baystars. 

Highlights



Game 25 would be a different affair all together with the ever predictably unpredictable Daisuke Yamai on the mound. Yasutomo Kubo would pull the strings with the ball for the Baystars. Both pitchers were winless going into this game. Who would be the first to break their streak if either?
The scoring would start early in the bottom of the first. Yamai induced Aranami into a ground out to start things off. Ishikawa now stepped up to the plate and on a count of 2-1, launched Yamai into the stands to grab a solo home run to rattle the Dragons early, 1-0.



Otosaka fell victim to a change up while Tsusugo got to base. Ide would however give Yamai one of his only 2 strikeouts of the game to end the inning.

The Baystars continued their assault in the third. Aranami flew out to centre but Ishikawa took a sneaky bunt option which caught all by surprise and beat Yamai on the bounce as he ran through first base.  Otosaka next up hit a double to move runners onto 2nd and 3rd. With Tsutsugo next up and more than a few worries adding up over Yamai’s pitching, it was no surprise that the big Yokohama hitter would make something happen.  A hit to the short-stop would see Tsutsugo out at first, but it allowed Ishikawa to run home and score to make it, 2-0. Ide would be the last batter of the inning as his foul ball was caught by Viciedo.

Still showing dangerous signs, something that couldn’t be said of the Dragons line-up, the ‘stars took to the 4th inning. It would be a near carbon copy of the 1st inning as Kuramoto ground out at second allowing Hyuma to walk-up. Then, on a count of 1-0, Hyuma dispatched Yamai into the stands just right of the backscreen to make it 3-0.  Yamai was visibly disappointed as he should be. He hadn’t thrown too bad stuff up to this point but, well, it only takes one bad ball.

Yamai would unfortunately be at the end of another dinger in the 6th as after a strike, Tsutsugo  got his 8th homer of the season in almost the exact same spot as Hyuma. A change-up delivery in the outside track was punished with authority to put the Baystars 4-0 to the good.


 Yamai would close out the inning with no further messy situations, but conceding 3 homeruns in 6 innings musn’t be a great feeling.

The Dragons would mount a counter-attack of sorts in the top of the 7th inning with Nanita leading off with a double. Hirata then managed a single to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Donoue now stepped up to survey the situation and the infielder would continue his good form with the bat as he hit a single to let Nanita run home, 4-1. Sugiyama’s single would then load up the bases with Morino coming in to pinch-hit for Yamai. The veteran would read his pitches well and elect to walk to take the score to 4-2. Kubo, who had pitched well, was withdrawn for Tanaka who up until today had a 0.00 ERA for the season. Ohshima was able to hit a sack fly off Tanaka to allow Hirata to score to make it 4-3. Kamezawa was withdrawn for Tani to pinch-hit, but the man in form couldn’t make anything happen as he ground into a double play to end the inning.

The bottom of the 7th inning brought Iwase to the mound and Tani onto second base to replace Kamezawa who had a fantastic game defensively showing his speed when ground fielding.
Tobashira started off the proceedings with a single. Kuwahara was brought in to pinch-hit for Tanaka but couldn’t make the best of his chance as he flew out. Aranami was then withdrawn for Jamie Romak who was given a walk by Iwase to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Thanks to a rare mis-field from Donoue, Ishikawa then helped load the bases with what probably should have been the start of a double play. Otosaka would be the hero as his single scored two batters to move the score to 6-3. Tsusugo would not let up as he also singled to send Ishikawa home, 7-3. Iwase, not doing his job, was taken off for Achira, the man doing the work in the 2-gun. And while he loaded the bases after fanning Yanagida, he escaped by inducing a ground out from Hyuma to end the inning.

The final nail in the coffin came in the top of the 8th as after Achira dismissed Tobashira, Kuwahara took a liking to tasty looking middle of the box straight ball and scored the 4th Baystars homerun of the night, 8-3.

The Dragons tried their hardest to fight back in the 9th but it would be to no avail as Gifu native, Tomoya Mikami shut the Chunichi batting line-up down to end the game.

Not a great start lead to a minor comeback but Iwase not hitting his straps meant that the game was taken away from the Dragons despite turning the tide. Had it been a different pitcher maybe it would have been a different story but we’ll never know.  There were some good performances with the bat with Ohshima, Nanita, Hirata, Donoue and Sugiyama all registering two hits a piece, but it wasn’t a line-up that combined well enough together today. Credit goes to Kubo for crafting good game at the start of the game to set-up the win for the Baystars. Major questions still over Yamai’s head with some wondering why a younger starter isn’t given a chance ahead of him, but as a stop-gap while Ohno is out, Yamai appears to be the man that Tanishige wants. Credit I think needs to go to Achira who made his first appearance this season for the first team and did well despite conceding a homerun. Hopefully he will be considered for long-relief duties in future.

Highlights:


Into Game 26 of the season and it was to be Oguma, who was one hit away from a no-hitter in his last start against the Baystars took the mound against the Baystars. Yoshiki Sunada, yet to claim a win this season was his opponent in the final game of the series before the Dragons moved to Hiroshima for the weekend games.

Iwase removed from the first team as the only change in registration following his less than average performance. 

It was an unusually cagey opening that would be broken in the third inning by the Baystars. A double from Tobashira started things before Sunada failed in his attempt to bunt. It wouldn’t matter however as one of yesterday’s homerun heroes, Masayuki Kuwahara continued where he left off hitting another one into the bleachers to open the scores at 2-0. Ishikawa and Otosaka could not add to the bracket and left the lead at two.

It would be an immediate reply from the Dragons as Sunada walked Viciedo to begin the innings. Nanita was beaten by a changeup, but the ever influential Ryosuke Hirata was brought to the plate. The captain has made his presence known since returning from injury at the outfielder would add to his homerun tally for the season with a lovely strike into the left stand, 2-2.  


Donoue would be walked to follow up, but Katsura fly-out and Donoue’s failed steal ended the inning prematurely.

Oguma kept up his good job as he kept the Baystars quiet. An error made by Takahashi in the 5th was the only black mark on an otherwise good defensive performance.

The 6th inning would be opened up by Takahashi and the young star would well make up for his mistake in the field, slamming another homerun into the left stand. 2-3 the score!


Viciedo would continue things with a single and Nanita would add to that with a single that allowed the Cuban to move to third base.

Obviously sensing danger, Ramirez decided to substitute in Zach Petrick for Sunada. It wouldn’t stop a thing as Hirata made another telling contribution by singling Viciedo on his way home.


Donoue was caught at second to tally the first out of the inning bringing Iori Katsura to the plate. Katsura has shown a penchant for homers and today would be no different as he whalloped a 3-run homerun to send the scores to 2-7! 


It was a magnificent bat-flip to follow as Katsura hit a fantastic no-doubter to continue the heated competition for the catcher’s spot between he and Sugiyama and had Tanishige grinning ear to ear.

 Oguma continued the mayhem as he hit a double but Ohshima and Araki couldn’t take advantage.

The last of the scoring would come in the 7th inning. Nogawa would replace Petrick, and start things off by walking Shuhei. Lack of control was noticeable as he also walked Viciedo. Now correcting, Nogawa struck out Nanita and induced a ground out from Hirata but it was a timely triple from Donoue that sent Shuhei and Viciedo home to score and make it 2-9.

Hiroto Fuku was given the ball for the last 2 innings and the young lefty did well to close out the remaining innings under little pressure. He was able to strike out Romak and Tobashira in a row while inducing a ground out from Yamashita to end the inning and a fantastic hard hitting display.

All things went to plan for the Dragons today and Oguma gained a little more confidence after being battered by the Carp a week ago. No one can underestimate the influence of Hirata though as it seemed the whole team took a lift when he started doing his thing.

Overall a very positive series for the Dragons where we saw plenty of dingers and most importantly a series win. 

On the Farm: Chunichi Dragons v Orix Buffaloes (April 22nd - 24th)

ODELAY-HI-HOOO

It's time for a slightly delayed, but another, farm report! For the first time in a while the 2-gun team was able to have a 3 game series and it was up against the Buffaloes again, this time in Nagoya. The Buffaloes have been pretty bad in the Pacific League and the Western League with the Dragons having the best of most of the match-ups in the latter.

It wouldn't be all that straightforward for the Dragons this time around as they recorded a win and two losses. There would however be a couple of rare homers through this series to give me a little bit more to write about.

Game 1 was to mark the return of Raul Valdes who has been out of reckoning since sustaining an injury either early this year or late last year. The 38 year-old Cuban and former Phillie, is probably not going to see a whole lot of first team action this year, but looked very good on his return. 23 year old Hiroki Kondo would however go some way to taking the limelight away from Valdes with his key performance with the bat.

Pitching
Valdes back in business.


Valdes threw down a strong 5 innings where he only gave up 2 hits and a walk while fanning 3 to keep things scoreless. A strong comeback. Yuu Satoh took up a relief inning and also kept things scoreless, giving up 2 hits and fanning 1. Achira continued his great form with a scoreless inning while Ogawa took two strikeouts in 2/3 of an inning. Kaneko fanned 3 in his full inning and Yamamoto, also coming back from injury, threw out his one batter to end the game.

Kondo in fine form.
Batting

Kei Nomoto would be the first to tee off against Umida in the 5th, sending one of two Dragons homeruns over the fence. As mentioned, Hiroki Kondo continued his great form in the 2-gun as he hit a marvelous homerun in the 7th against Tsukada and grabbed a hit to continue building up his burgeoning reputation. Akasaka would also raise some eyebrows as he made the best two at-bats as he scored 3 from 2 hits. Hitoshi Tamura, the veteran, also picked up a hit and a walk in his 4 at-bats.

A 5-0 win were the spoils in a fairly dominant performance from the bullpen and a some good hitting from some key batters. Nomoto and Kondo have certainly been pushing for first team selection and I wouldn't be surprised if the latter is offered a full-time contract before the year is out.

Game 2 marked another return to a man on the comeback trail as Tomoya Yagi, a former Buffalo, made his first start of the year. This was also a game where Shinnosuke Ogasawara was given a relief role for the first time in his 2-gun career. It is worth mentioning that Hikaru Itoh, the starting catcher for Orix last year and Takahiro Okada another usual starter were in the line-up for the Buffaloes. Kondo would rock some worlds again, but it would the Orix who would leave victorious.

Yagi, more goat than man.
Pitching

Yagi didn't cover himself in glory as he gave up 4 runs, including a 2-run homerun to Okada, and 6 hits in only 3 innings. Ogaswara didn't do much better as the youngster continues to adjust. The lefty gave up 3 runs including a home run to Sugimoto plus 5 hits and a walk in 4 innings. Nomura would be another returning from injury as he saw off 3 batters taking one strikeout as Ohba finished things as he gave up one hit but kept things scoreless in the final inning.


Batting
Kamezawa promoted


The only real positive and scoring moment was from Kondo as he hit a 2-run homerun in the 4th against Matsuba. Kondo also managed to milk a walk as he did just about all he could to try and push the Dragons along. Kamezawa hit two and stole a base to help build his case for a return while no other batters really stood out in an unfortunate loss.

Not a great game for the team as a whole but Kamezawa and Kondo ensured it wasn't an amazing embarrassment, 2-7.

In Game 3 the ball would be put in the safe hands of Junki Ito who is 2-0 this season in the Western League so far. It would however end up being a bit of a massacre as Orix ran out 4-11 winners. Things would start well for the Dragons as they put up 2 runs on the board in the first two inning, but a 3-run homerun from Hikaru Ito in the 3rd off Ito's pitching gave the Buffaloes the lead. A Tamura double would put the Dragons ahead in the 4th. In the 5th Hamada gave up 2 runs and a Nishikawa blow-out in the 7th, where he leaked 5 runs, ensured a pretty bad loss.

Nishikawa a bust?
Pitching

Junki Ito would only throw three innings as he gave up 4 hits and 2 walks along with Itoh's homer to finish off very shakily. Considering how good he has been of late, it's a surprise that he was taken apart so quickly. Hamada picked up where Ito left off as he gave up two runs in his 2 innings. Yamamoto would keep things quiet in his 1 inning as he struckout one and gave up a single hit. Nishikawa however would face 7 batters however and only manage to take two outs as he haemorraged  5 runs. Ohba took the last out of the inning and kept the Buffaloes quiet in the 8th as he took 2 strikouts but gave away 3 walks and a hit. Nomura pitched out the 9th inning in 11 balls taking 3 straight outs.

Batting

Nomoto continues to impress
Kei Nomoto picked up 3 hits today including an RBI and a walk in a fantastic display at the number 5 batting spot. Kondo only managed a walk today despite his consecutive homers. Tamura picked up 2 RBIs and a walk to add to his good performance in the previous game. Kamezawa grabbed another 2 hits and a walk in his 4 at-bats in what would be enough to earn himself a recall to for the series against the Baystars. Abe would be one of the worst of the day as he made an error and struck out three times.

A big 4-11 win for the Orix and a pretty disappointing loss for the Dragons. Some good performances from Tamura, Kondo and Kamezawa in there however helped alleviate some of the heavy feelings about the series.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Regular Season: Dragons vs Swallows @Nagoya Dome, April 22nd-24th; Duels decided at the death.


The Dragons and Swallows shared 38 runs in the three game series at Nagoya Dome in some big scoring, big hitting innings that included 7 home runs. The two teams made a joke of the "pitcher paradise" tag the Nagoya dome has to serve up a great meal of baseball fit for an Italian extended family visit. The Swallows have been very up and down this year but they are still an outfit not to be trifled with. We lost two games fairly convincingly at Jingu early this year and only sweet revenge would do in the first reverse fixture. 

As there is so much action in these games, I'm going to save my sanity a little bit and only talk about the scoring innings. I've already put this report off for too long as it is! 

Game 21 of the season would be marked with the new bluish alternate "Shoryu" uniforms given out to all members of the crowd and worn by the team. The dome was a wonderous wash of blue as Shunta Wakamatsu took to the mound in the first. Unfortunately Manager Tanishige was out of the game with the flu. The addition of the day was the return of Ryosuke Hirata. Would he be able to make an instant impact on his return?

The batting didn't go to plan for the Swallows in the first, but it certainly did for the Dragons. Ohshima would lead off in the regular way and hit a single to start things off positively. Araki's hit into left would allow Ohshima to skip to third while the veteran approaching (slowly) 2000 hits sat on first. With Ohshima now in a scoring position, Takahashi would oblige and smack a single into the left field to make it 1-0.


 Now with runners on 1st and 2nd, Ishikawa on the mound for the Swallows must have got the nerves coming up against Viciedo as he walked the big man to load bases. In the purplest of patches, Ricardo Nanita stood up to the plate to single to make it 2-0. 


Hirata's first plate appearance back from injury would be an easy one as he too was walked to allow Takahashi to score, 3-0. Donoue would then connect with one to nick a single to allow Viciedo in to make it 4-0 in the first. 


With bases still loaded, Sugiyama, Wakamatsu and once again, Ohshima, couldn't inflict any further damage. 

Yakult would get back into the game in the 3rd as after a Sakaguchi single, Wakamatsu gave up consecutive walks to Kawabata and Yamada to load the bases. Vladimir Balentien wouldn't waste time putting his stamp on the game as he hit a single to send two home, 4-2. The scoring would continue with a center sacrifice fly from Yuhei to allow Yamada to score to make it 4-3. Imanami would fall victim to Wakamatsu to put two outs on the board but a single from Ohbiki would even up the scores at 4-4. Nakamura would be the last to fall to end the inning and begin the sucking of teeth among the Dragons staff. 

The batting line-up and Ishikawa would help save Wakamatsu's blushes in the next batting stanza. Nanita would start things off with a double while a ground out for Hirata allowed the Dominican to move to third. Donoue took a walk to put runners on 1st and 3rd and it would be Sugiyama who would restore the lead with a single of his own to send Nanita home and make it 5-4. A sac bunt from Wakamatsu allowed runners to 2nd and 3rd while another walk to Ohshima loaded up the bases once again. That was enough for the Swallows skipper, Manaka, as he pulled Ishikawa from the mound to be replaced by Matsuoka. It wouldn't stop Araki though, as he hit to put two runners home but found himself out as he overreached in bizarre fashion getting tagged out on the way to second base, 7-4. 

Chunichi's attack would continue in the 5th as Hirata got straight to work, teeing off on Kazahari, sending him over the fence to make it 8-4. 


Donoue's single would take him to first before Sugiyama obliged once again with a triple to send the short-stop home to make it 9-4. 


Wakamatsu, Ohshima and Araki would unfortunately leave the catcher hanging on third base as they all failed to register a hit. 

Yakult made a return in the 6th as Ohbiki started things off with a double. Nakamura would be given a walk and that was enough for Shigekazu Mori, the head coach and stand-in for Tanishige tonight, to replace Wakamatsu with Takuya Okada. A fly out from Tanaka would allow Ohbiki to third and a sacrifice fly from Sakaguchi would allow him to score to make it 9-5. Okada would then help Kawabata on his way as he ground out to end the inning. 

Perez would take the next inning for the Swallows, but the reliever would face a stiff start. After dismissing Takahashi, Viciedo took a walk before Nanita went out to a short-liner. With Viciedo on second Hirata made his next big contribution with a double to send the big Cuban into score to make it 10-5. Donoue would then fly out to end the inning. 

Yakult would score once more in the 8th as Sobue started off the inning for the Dragons. The former Toyota man allowed two runners to base before he was replaced by Hitoki Iwase. The veteran ground out Takeuchi, but with a runner now on third, Sakaguchi made contact with a hit at the second baseman to allow Ohbiki to score for the second time on the night, 10-6. Kawabata would end the inning once again as he holed out to second. 

It would not be the end of the story as the Dragons immediately replied. A triple from Takahashi to lead-off the inning made it easy work for Viciedo, as he sent the youngster from Kanagawa home to make the scores 11-6.



Fukutani would have some nerves in closing out the game but ultimately ended things without issue. 

A fantastic return for Hirata including a homer, 2 RBIs and a walk that lead to a team mate scoring capped off a great night for the captain. Wakamatsu would barely walk away with the win, but you would normally expect a better performance. His radar was off a bit today but his team bailed him out this time.  

Game 22 of the season was once again highly contested. The Swallows bat well when on song, but their pitching doesn’t run too deep. The opposite could probably be said for the Dragons who have a pretty good bullpen and a decent starting rotation with an on/off batting line-up but given some recent form there has been room for optimism.

Another Saturday night back at the Nagoya dome and the team was back in their regular jerseys. Yoshimi was thrown back into the rotation following his rest after last pitching against the Giants and it would be Swallows ace Ogawa who would start things off for the Tokyo side.

The Dragons would draw first blood in the bottom of the first. Donoue, batting at 2 today, scored a double after Ohshima grounded out at short stop. Shuhei’s ground out to first base would then allow Donoue to move into a scoring position at third. With Viciedo now up to bat, the odds of a scoring play increased but the big Cuban was given a walk by Ogawa to put runners on 1st and 3rd. It would however be the in-form, all round good guy, Ricardo Nanita that would send home Donoue on a 2-2 count with a hit into left-field,1-0.


 Hirata would unfortunately strikeout to end thing, stranding Viciedo on third.

Yakult would get one back in the top of the third as Yoshimi gave up a homerun to none other than last year’s “Triple-Three” man, Tetsuto Yamada, 1-1.



The scores would not remain the same for long as at the bottom of the same inning, Ohshima tripled to move to third which allowed Donoue to score him with a single to make the scores 2-1. Things wouldn’t stop there as after Shuhei struck-out, Viciedo took a liking to an Ogawa pitch to slam a double and send Donoue home, 3-1 runner on second. Nanita would once again prove decisive as he clobbered his first homer in Chunichi colours into the right stand to make it 5-1. 


Hirata would hit to get on base to follow, but Hernandez ground out into a double play to end the inning.

Life would be sucked out of the game for a short while but it would rev back into the swing of things in the top of the 6th with Yoshimi pitching to Balentien. While the wiley pitcher removed the Netherlands international, he gave up consecutive hits to Yuhei and Ohibiki to put runners on 1st and 2nd, 5-2. Takeuchi would step up and his hit combined with Ohshima’s poor return allowed Yuhei to step home. Nakamura would now step up to the plate with Ohbiki on 3rd and Takeuchi on 2nd and the catcher hit a sacrifice fly to Hirata in right-field to allow Ohbiki to score., 5-3. Ogawa would be switched out for Tanaka and Yoshimi allowed the pinch-hitter a walk to first. A consecutive walk to Sakaguchi led to Yoshimi’s replacement by Takuya Okada who coaxed a strikeout from Kawabata to end the inning. 

Still in control, the Chunichi bullpen kept things quiet going into the final inning. So too the Yakult pitchers.

Into the top of the 9th and Fukutani would be given responsibility to clean up and seal another win. A strikeout of Yamada set things to a good rhythm to start off, but a very nonchalant solo homer from Balentien put a bee in the bonnet as the score crept up to 5-4. 


 Yuhei would be the next batter up, and with a fly out, the count was at two outs. Only one more to go; a walk to Ohbiki however convinced Tanishige that this was the moment for an experience arm as he called Iwase up to the mound to relieve the encumbent closer. Things wouldn’t improve however as Iwase gave up a hit to Araki to put 2 runners on base. Still good. All calm, only one more. Nakamura would be the next to walk up to bat. A big swing from the catcher rose, and rose and rose….finally into the right hand stands to nestle with the green-clad Yakult supporters.  A homerun to turn things around in the 9th, 5-7.  Iwase, in complete disbelief, finished off the inning but was obviously shell-shocked.


Ondrusek would be the saviour for the Swallows in the bottom of the 9th however as despite valiant efforts to get back into the game from Morino and Kudo, the big American closed out what was to be an unlikely win as he struck out Takahashi with a fork-ball to end the game.

What a game. The Dragons have won in similar circumstances this season a few times already and it’s never fun being on the wrong end of it. Viciedo took two walks and an RBI today to end another good performances and the 2 RBIs for Nanita, including his first homer in Japan, was a delightful takeaway from the game as well. Yoshimi looked okay coming back but will be obviously a little disappointed with the result, but the most disappointed will be Iwase who has the NPB record for saves, who blew his chance to close out the game and add to his legendary tally.  Peres would be the winning pitcher for the Swallows with Ondrusek claiming the save.

Game 23 would see the likes of Drew Naylor, the Swallow destroyer, to the mound for the final game of the series. The Aussie has never lost to the Swallows in 5 outings, would he be able to maintain that record?  Rookie, Hara, who came up against Naylor at Jingu earlier this season started for the Swallows.

The only change for the Dragons today was the addition of Achira as a long-term reliever to replace Yoshimi. 

Things would not start well for Naylor as after removing Sakaguchi, he gave up a hit through centre to hit leader, Kawabata. With the ever dangerous Yamada up at the plate, it would take only a mild lapse in control to see the ball sail over the fence. With the count at 2-2, Naylor would be the less happier of the duellers as Yamada sent the Australian’s pitch into the stand to make things 0-2. 

Naylor would strike back against Balentien with a strikeout, but gave a walk to Yuhei. Ohbiki couldn’t make it count this time as he had in previous games as he struck out as well to end the inning.

It wouldn’t be long for the Dragons to reply as in the bottom of the first Ohshima struck a triple to move into a scoring position at third. Donoue took a walk to bring Shuhei to the plate. The youngster would unfortunately ground out at short stop, but Yohei “Speedy Gonzalez” Ohshima took off home to make it 1-2. Viciedo would however ground out into a double play to prematurely end the innings. 

Yakult would take the initiative again in the 3rd inning as after striking out Kawabata, Naylor, now wary of Yamada, walked the Yakult 2nd baseman. A wild pitch from Naylor would however allow Yamada to move to 2nd. Imanari, in to replace Balentien who went off with an injury, would not profit from the situation, but Yuhei would as he hit Yamada home. However, underestimating the outfield arm, he found himself out at second to end the inning. Naylor seems to have good spurts, but his penchant for giving up early runs isn’t an endearing quality. Naylor would however see out 7 innings in the end as Takuya Okada once again came into to relieve in the 8th inning and duly took 3 straight outs.

Akiyoshi would be brought to the mound for the Swallows in the 8th inning and Fujii would be brought in to pinch hit for Okada. Fujii won the first battle of the inning as he managed an infield hit to get to first base. Ohshima would not endear himself to Fujii as a ground ball to short stop saw the latter out at second base. Donoue elected to walk to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Shuhei would then follow Donoue’s lead and take a walk of his own to load the bases with Viciedo coming in to bat.  One can only hope for the best with Viciedo. He leads the team in RBIs, homers and average. When he steps up to bat, you know something special will happen. Reasonably fresh off a walk-off homerun against Hanshin, could he work some similar magic against the Swallows? The answer? Yes. With a 3-1 count, Viciedo lunged into a tasty looking pitch and sent that little white spherical good thing into the centre-right stand to claim a game turning, grandslam homerun, 5-3.




The ball was once again thrown to Fukutani to make the save. Thankfully, the closer would find his range tonight as he ended the inning to complete the save and claim a fantastic 5-3 turn around win.

Viciedo was the hero once again and his only telling contribution with the bat today was the big one. Hirata was the best of the batter today as he picked up 2 hits and a walk in his 4 plate appearances.

Another win eluded Naylor, but it was a win 2 years in waiting for Okada. Most importantly, or least, depending on your perspective, was the loss-less streak against the Swallows for Naylor. 6 straight games against the Tokyo team for no loss. Not a bad record to have!

We had three fantastic games this week with a lot of drama, a lot of runs and some good heroes. Hirata’s comeback series was superb and the line-up looks all the more impressive with him in it. Yoshimi continues his return to full fitness but he’ll be unhappy with the loss, albeit not going against him.

Now perched at 2nd on the table, things are looking good from up on high. If some key personnel, namely Yudai Ohno, can make a comeback quick smart, there will be not much wrong with the team that’s supposedly in transition. A very unpredictable Central league has helped things, but so far so good early on! 




Sunday, April 24, 2016

On the Farm: Chunichi Dragons v Softbank Hawks (April 19th & 20th)

Keep  movin' movin' movin', though Hawks be disapprovin' keep those runners movin', home side! Don't try to understand em' just mash, crash and slam 'em, soon we'll be smilin' side by side. Our pitchers are frustratin' those Ks will be waiting, if we don't get that control down right. HOME SIDE!

Ahem, yes, the Western theme continues as we continue to follow the Dragons farm team and their adventures in the Western League. Things have been going remarkably well for the team with the losses few and far between. A lot of the good performers have so far gone up to the first team and done well, most noticeably Tetsuya Tani has carried on his superb form.

Michihiro Ogaswara's team headed down to the Hawks Baseball Park Chikugo where the Softbank team normally plays it's 2-gun and 3-gun games. We had another incidence where a 3-game series was turned into a 2-game series because of rain on the 21st. This also hampered recovery efforts in Kumamoto so a called off game was really the least of the worries.

2 games and another two wins to follow. Some good batting on the 19th and some good pitching on the 20th ensured a series win once more for our talented 2-gun players.

Game 1 of the series would see a return to the mound for Yudai Kawai while Yosuke Shimabukuro took up duties for the Hawks. Yudai had a typical blow out after a few innings, but it wasn't to be too detrimental to the team's overall success. The Dragons opened the scoring in the 1st with Hirata hitting home Kondo and the lead was extended to 0-4 in the 4th. One run given up in the 4th and then 4 runs given away in the 5th made it a 5-4 scoreline in favour of the Hawks. With things scoreless until the 9th, Ishikawa scored 2 runners to put the Dragons ahead and secure the win.

Pitching
Kaneko with the save.


Yudai Kawai as mentioned did reasonably well but 4 conceded runs in his 5th inning meant that he was yoinked from the mound fairly early on. Yudai did however take 5 strikeouts but threw 2 walks and allowed 7 hits off his 4 2/3 innings. 93 balls in his spell meant that he probably is lacking a bit of stamina. Yuu Sato would take 1 2/3 innings to strike out and walk two out of his 7 batters faced, helping stem the tide of runs. Ryuya Ogawa, who was in the opening day squad for the big leagues, took 1/3 of an inning and took 4 balls to strikeout his only batter. Achira would walk away as the winning pitcher as he threw down 1 1/3 innings giving up a hit and walk but taking a strikeout to stay scoreless. Takeshi Kaneko took the last inning and got the save taking two strikeouts despite giving up two hits.

Kondo showing the good
stuff
Batting

Young Kondo would be in the midst of all the good things about the batting today as he put in a superb 4 at-bats. The youngster notched 2 hits, a walk and a sacrifice hit. A great contribution. Ryosuke Hirata continued his rehabilitation as he hit 2 including an RBA to go with a walk in his 4 plate appearances. Infielder, Abe started to show signs of settling in as he scored twice and hit two RBIs to go with a walk in a very good appearance with the bat. Ishikawa would be another to carve up the Hawks pitching as he made a telling contribution with 3 hits including 2 RBIs and a walk in his 4 at-bats. Special mention too goes to Ryuichiro Akada who made his comeback as a pinch-hitter after being sidelined with a broken thumb. The catcher with an American grandfather hit two from two to end a good days work. There were plenty of good contributions with the bat, maybe too many to list.

A good performance from the batters and relievers saved the game after some shoddy pitching from Yudai early on. A 5-8 win were the spoils. Credit goes to Abe and Mizowaki, particularly the former, for their fantastic displays in the field.

Here's some highlights from the 9th inning:



Game 2 would prove to be a much closer affair as Chunichi managed to hold on to a 0-2 lead that was achieved in the second inning to close out what would end up being a series sweep. Shinji Iwata would be the man on the mound for the Dragons as a recovering former Major Leaguer, Daisuke Matuzaka would be the Hawks starter for the day. Takuma Kato, and Mizowaki would start things for the Dragons in the second inning to get on base and it was successive RBIs from Watanabe and Kamezawa that ultimately sealed the win.


Iwata with his 1st win
Pitching

Iwata defied his critics today as he pitched out 6 1/3 innings to out-pitch his opposite number. Iwata gave up only 4 hits and a walk as he claimed 6 strikeouts. Ryuya Ogawa had an easy task in his one inning as he gave up one hit against 4 batters. Achira took 2/3 of an inning and took 2 strikeouts against his two batters to continue to stifle the Hawks batting. Takeshi Kaneko finished things up with the save as he conceded one hit but struck out two to finish the game.

It was a really good start from Iwata that got things going. If he can keep his up who knows what might be around the corner, but he still has a lot to prove.

Batting
Tamura made his first full
appearance for the 2nds.

Veterans Hirata and Tamura would be the only one to walk away without a hit as the lineup all
had at least one to their name. Tamura made his full debut since his move from the Baystars and only managed to get on base once through a walk. Kamezawa would have the best performance of the game with an RBI, two walks and 3 stolen bases. Not bad! Nomoto would be the only other to walk away with more than a single approach to base as he got a hit and a walk for his troubles.

Against the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Edison Barrios, it is no real surprise it was a low-scoring game but a fantastic performance from Kamezawa with the bat a and a solid performance form Iwata with the ball ensured an unspectacular but well worked win.

Here's some of Kamezawa's highlights from the game:


Two wins in two games to take away from Fukuoka with plenty of positives. 

Lastly, if you have a Pac-TV account, you can watch the Softbank 2-gun games which means you can watch the Dragons team play live when they go up against the Hawks at home.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Regular Season: Dragons vs Tigers @Nagoya Dome, April 15th-17th; Viciedo the Tiger Killer; It's a walk off!


Before I get into the report I would just like to thank all of you, my readers, for doing what you do best, read. Since I started this blog a little under a month ago, I have received over 1000 views. That's a big complement to me and I really appreciate those of you reading what I write. I enjoy writing and I love talking about the Dragons so it's great to have so many to share with. Thank you all. I hope I can continue to keep the updates as frequent as I can, and maybe with a bit of luck, I might be able to make some improvements and throw up some feature articles when I get a bit of time off work.



Anyway, enough with the pleasantries. Lets get to the naughty bits. A big 3 games against Hanshin in our glorious home in Nagoya. The Tigers gave us a good match-up a the Kyocera dome in the opening series and 3 closely fought games lead to the Dragons walking way as 2-1 series losers. Dayan Viciedo announced himself to the NPB in those three games with 3 magnificent dongs. Would he be able to replicate the magic in Nagoya Dome? Let's see if the Tiger terror strikes fear into Hanshin hearts and turn them into the veritable kawaii kitties they can be.

Game 18 of the Dragons season started on a fine Friday night in the Nagoya Dome. Dominican Jordan Norberto made his second start in the rotation as Atsushi Nohmi started on the mound for the Tigers. Jordan wasn't able to grab a win in his starting debut as a draw against the Baystars was all the team could muster, but the lefty pitcher looked good in that outing and if the batting fired, he would get a win.

It was a solemn night however as Japan was rocked with a series of earthquakes in the southern island of Kyushu where the prefecture of Kumamoto was particularly affected. Masahiro Araki is a native of the area and it is possible that he was left out of the side on compassionate grounds. His family is okay for the time being as the prefecture continues to be rocked. Hiroto Fuku as well, a member of JR Kyushu last year, sent out his regards and well wishes to his former teammates and co-workers.

As for team changes; Toshiya Okada and Daisuke Sobue came in for an injured Yudai Ohno and a misfiring Ryuya Ogawa. The blow to Ohno is a big one as the Chunichi injury list grows, but the team would have to do without him as it was planned to move Daisuke Yamai back to the starting rotation to replace the influential lefty.

Now for the action:

Jordan worked through the first of the Tigers batting line-up grounding out two. The final out would come from a greedy Egoshi who was gunned down at second base by Katsura as he tried to steal.

The bottom of the second inning would bring the Dragons out for the first attack. Yohei Ohshima would start off well as he hit into the left to pick up a single. Taiki Mitumata, the former Buffalo, took one for the cause as he bunted to allow the speedster, Ohshima to get to second. Takahashi struck-out for what would not be the first time tonight to bring Viciedo to the plate with 2 outs and a runner on second base. The big Cuban rarely disappoints in these situations as he hit a single to put Ohshima into a scoring position at third base. Ricardo Nanita would step up to the plate as the 5th batter. I've become a bit of a Nanita fan as I really like his swing. It has a quick action and he uses a short bat, but it looks cool. That swing would come in handy as the 34 y/o outfielder knocked one into right field to allow Ohshima to score, 1-0.


Tetsuya Tani would come in behind the Dominican and the infielder would take to the first pitch served at him as he knocked it into a gap in the right field to allow Viciedo to score, 2-0.


 Akasaka would however not be able to continue the scoring as he grounded out to second to end the inning.

Jordan would continue his own assault on the Tigers batting lineup as he went through three batters very quickly to turn over the reigns to the Chunichi attack once more. The innings would start of similarly to the last with two quick outs to begin the inning. Katsura struck-out while Jordan lackadaisically tried to put his bat in the general zone as he struck-out as well. Ohshima came up to bat once more and it was the same result as his previous at-bat, as the outfielder nicked another single through left-field. Mitsumata, this time without the luxury of an out up the sleeve to move Ohshima around again, grabbed a single of his own to put runners on first and second. Nohmi, still unable to get that last out, then faced young Shuhei Takahashi. Another pinch moment player, Shuhei took advantage of the off-tempo Nohmi and thrust his bat to guide the ball to the centre field to help Ohshima on his way home, 3-0.


 With runners in front of him, Dayan Viciedo walked in to the situation he is made for. The tank did not disappoint as he whalloped a high and straight one into left field bleachers to rest triumphantly among the deflated Tigers fans, 6-0.


Nanita would add to his collection of hits but Tani couldn't recreate his first inning magic as he flew out to Egoshi in right field.

With the game all but won in the first two innings, Jordan could afford to be a bit more relaxed in his approach but still put in a great shift to lock the Tigers out of the game.


 Nohmi found himself knocked out of the game after two innings as the Tigers went through 5 pitchers to finish out the game. For Jordan's first win, he served up only a single strike, gave up two walks and two hits in his 7 innings. Daisuke Sobue and Katsuki Matayoshi would fill in the last 2 innings to close out a big 6-0 win.

Ohshima had a great game with the bat and apart from scoring twice, he picked up 3 hits and a walk from his 5 plate appearances. Viciedo did similarly well. Aside from his 3-run homerun, he also added 2 hits to his 4 plate appearances. The lack of strikeouts for Viciedo so far is very impressive as he has been making contact extremely frequently. While he seems to excel at hitting the higher balls, his ability to dig out the lower ones has been a joy to behold. Special mentions too for Nanita (2H 1RBI 1W) and Tetsuya Tani (2H 1RBI 1W) who both added to the selection headaches for Tanishige. Tani and Mitsumata played well in the central infield positions which had been previously occupied by Araki and Donoue. The team looks good defensively at least. A massive 14 hits as well marked a watershed moment for the batting line-up that has struggled to put together anything substantial recently.

A great big win to start the series, and Viciedo showed that he likes the Tigers pitching, a lot, with his 4th homer against Hanshin in as many games.

Highlights:

Full game links on the Dragons Ustream. Innings 1-5 and 6-9.


Game 19 was to be another night to remember for all the right reasons. Daisuke Yamai stepped out of the bullpen tonight to start as he was called up to replace the injured Yudai Ohno. Yuta Iwasada would start on the mound for the Tigers.

Only one team change for the game as Jordan Norberto was put to rest and was de-registered from the team. Junki Ito, who has been regularly starting in the 2-gun, was added to the roster for the games against the Tigers. One interesting caveat to the line-up this game was the placement of Nobumasa Fukuda in left-field. Tanishige, obviously unimpressed with Akasaka's performance, decided he wanted to add kick to the line-up and place someone who is normally a first or third baseman out in the great deep green of the outfield. Mitsumata and Tani would retain their positions after their good performances.

Yamai started things on the Saturday afternoon and looked uncharacteristically in control of things as he only gave up 3 walks in his scoreless first 4 innings. Conversely, the Dragons batting line up looked uncharacteristically dire as Iwasada kept the line-up to only one hit (to Nanita) in the opening 4 innings.

Nanita's first double in the 2nd
 It was however at the top of the 5th that things would start to get interesting.

Umeno, the Tigers catcher, latched onto one to register the first Tigers hit and the second hit of the day. Iwasada was brought to the plate but failed to trouble anyone as he went out bunting. Umeno would steal his way to second base while Toritani was walked by Yamai to put runners on first and second base. Up stepped former Minnesota Twin, Tsuyoshi Nishioka to assess the situation. Nishioka hit a double to bring Umeno home, 1-0.  Egoshi would follow and he continued the scoring as he hit a sacrifice fly to allow Toritani to score, 2-0. Mauro Gomez would end the scoring stanza with a single of his own to put Nishioka through home base, 3-0. It all changed very quickly as the Tigers took advantage of some average pitching with some good hitting to set a good platform moving forward.

A counter-attack was launched in the bottom of the 5th as Tani and Sugiyama both hit singles, but another disappointing at-bat from Akasaka, pinch-hitting for Yamai, ended any hopes to immediately pin back the Tigers.

Okada would take over from Yamai and pitch well to keep the scoreline at 3-0. The counter-attack from the Dragons would continue to struggle as only one hit, a double from Nanita, could be mustered until the bottom of the 8th.

Nanita's 2nd double of the night in the 7th

While Tajima continued Okada's good work of keeping the Tigers out at the top of the inning, it was now getting to crunch time. Many times have the Dragons faded out toward the end of the game, but it wouldn't be the case this time. As Iwasada was withdrawn for Fukuhara, the pressure seemed to lift as Sugiyama started the stanza with a single. Tajima was then withdrawn for Atsushi Fujii. The much maligned outfielder has been nothing short of awful this season. The strikeouts, the very little production, the everything. Fujii just hasn't been with it. It was then a surprise when the same man hit a triple to score Sugiyama and bring the scores to 1-3.


 Fukuhara was then quickly exchange for former Dragon, Akifumi Takahashi as the Tigers went into damage control. It worked momentarily with the dismissal of Ohshima but it would be Morino, pinch-hitting for Mitsumata, The veteran would ground out to second, but it would be enough to allow Fujii to slink into home to make it 2-3. Shuhei would unfortunately strikeout to end the inning. The game now in the balance, Iwase was brought to the mound and after claiming two victims, Koji Fukutani took over for one batter who he also sent on his way with an outer course change-up.

Now, at the bottom of the 9th inning with 2 runs to get to claim the win, it would be Mateo charged with saving the game from the hungry looking Dragons. Viciedo would take the first at bat and continue his great run of contact with a double.


 Nanita would take a walk to get runners onto first and third. Tomonaga came on as a pinch-runner for Nanita to end the Dominican's night. Tetsuya Tani would unfortunately blow a bunting opportunity to be declared out. Next, up stepped Donoue, who had been subbed in earlier in the previous fielding innings. The #63 was given order to take a stroll to load the bases with 1 out. Mateo was reportedly having trouble getting his slider to work properly and the closer now had his work cut out for him. It was now Sugiyama's turn to step up to the plate to see if he could force a win or at least a draw out of the game. The catcher caught a hold of one to send it over the centre-fielders head, Viciedo came to home plate, scoring and now beckoning Tomonaga to come in for the win and it was the pinch-runner who would seal the victory 4-3 thanks to a walk-off double from the always reliable Sugiyama. Scenes. Tanishige had the biggest grin on his face as his team pulled of a momentous victory in the closing moments of the game.





Fukutani would be credited with the win for his 1/3 of an inning (baseball is weird isn't it?) and Mateo was credited with the loss and probably rightly so.

One would struggle to say this was a "deserved" victory. I certainly felt we got away with it but it speaks volumes that the team was willing to dig deep and try and bail Yamai out. 3 runs is a very chaseable total and it was great to have the batting lineup respond. It helped that the pitching wasn't on point either. The unlikely hero was Atsuhi Fujii who has looked like he couldn't hit the broadside of a heifer with a banjo recently, but it was a telling contribution from the Toyohashi native to get the ball rolling on the comeback trail.

Sugiyama and Nanita had the pick of the statistics with 2 hits and a walk a piece.

You can watch the 9th inning here:


Game 20 would prove to be another nail-biter as the game would once again be decided in the 9th inning. Drew Naylor took the mound for the Dragons while it was Minoru Iwata for the Tigers looking to help his team avoid the sweep.

Anderson Hernandez made his return to the team following Jordan's de-registering as Akasaka dropped from the first team to spend some time with the seconds after his average performances so far in the series.

Naylor opened proceedings in the first inning showing good pace and allowing one hit and striking out one to end his inning.

The Dragons attack started early as while Ohshima failed to get off the mark, Donoue, restored to the starting line-up, cracked a double to start things off. Shuhei, coming in at now his trademark 3rd spot in the line-up joined in the fun and smashed a double of his own that reached the right field fence and maybe should have been caught by Egoshi. But nonetheless, the Dragons were on the board, 1-0.


Viciedo's ground out would allow Shuhei to get on third, but Nanita couldn't make it count as he struck-out to end the inning.

Lots of action early on! The parries and thrusts would continue until the top of the fourth inning as Egoshi picked off a single to start things off. Gomez grounded out but that allowed Egoshi to gain ground and move to second base. Now, here's where it gets interesting. With Hague now up to bat, Egoshi had the guile to make a play to steal third base. While Sugiyama picked up on the run, a poor throw that Takahashi couldn't deal with allowed Egoshi to safely get into third and with ball passing the 3rd baseman and floating into the crowd, the Hanshin man took order to walk off to the home plate to even up the scores at 1-1. Naylor had been watching his man, but 9 times out of 10 a catcher will pick off a steal at third. Credit to Egoshi for having the courage to give it a go and for succeeding.


The next scoring play would come in the 6th inning and it was to be the Dragons to take the lead for a second time. Takahashi and Viciedo both took singles to begin the innings and who else but Nanita was there to hit a double to send home the big Cuban to take a 2-1 lead. It would spell the end of the night for Iwata to bring Ando to the mound. Tani would mess up another bunt as a mishit from Fukuda ended up grounding into a double play to end the inning. 

The Dragons would come close to extending their lead in the 7th inning as Daiki Enokida replaced Ando and immediately allowed Sugiyama a single. Tomonaga came in as a pinch-bunter for Naylor to allow Sugiyama to second. Ohshima then took a dead ball to walk onto first while Donoue topped one to send the ball into the catchers hand. Takahashi would however take a scenic walk down the dirt road to load up the bases but uncharacteristically, Viciedo failed to make the best of the situation as he foul fly ball was caught to end the inning. A very tense ending was to be upon us. Tajima took down Nishioka, Egoshi and Gomez while the Dragons batters once again tried to push through to no avail as the former Dragon, Akifumi Takahashi took Fujii and Sugiyama out of the game with consecutive strikeouts following a sacrifice bunt from Araki earlier on to end the inning. 

At the top of the 9th, it was the Tigers last chance to get something out of the game. Either a leveler to take it into extra time or a winner to snatch an unlikely victory. Koji Fukutani would once again take up closing duties. Things started well for the pitcher as he ground out Hague to start things. Toritani would hit a single before Yokota forced his captain into a ground out at second while moving to first base. This brought out Imanari to pinch-hit for Takahashi. Imanari hit into right field giving time for the speedy Yokota to get to third. Kanemoto, the Hanshin skipper then decided to go for broke as he brought in Kosuke Fukudome, who had been under an injury cloud, to pinch-hit for his last catcher, Okazaki. Whether it was the stature of the former Dragons star, the heat of the moment or just general nerves, Fukutani was sweating buckets for what was a mild, early Spring evening. The young closer stepped up, threw down his pitch and there was a sound of wood on ball as Fukudome somewhat miraculously split first and second to register a hit and even up the scores at 2-2. 


Naylor was now denied a win in any case and Fukutani had blown his save. Amazingly, Fukutani was one of 4 pitchers on the day in the NPB to blow their saves. A poor day for closers!
The inning would end with a ground out on Takayama. Now without a recognized catcher, the Tigers threw the gear on Imanari to see out what was left of the game.

Takamiya took over from Takahashi in the bottom of the 9th and he was able to rip through Hernandez, Ohshima and Donoue to ensure that we would need extra innings to decide the game. 

Matayoshi would have the honours to take the 10th inning and the man who looks a lot like Lupin III, dismissed Nishioka and Egoshi, gave a hit to Gomez and took credit for the centre-fly out of Matt Hague. 

Takahashi would be at the head the bottom of the 10th inning and the prodigal son would keep doing what he does best, finding a way to base, as he elected to walk to first. Takamiya was then withdrawn to allow Fukuhara to try and restore parity. Viciedo would be the man to take guard. At a count of 3 balls and 1 strike the eyes of the Cuban glistened like sunlight reflecting off a cube of ice in a glass of Havana Club Reserva, it was coming. Here it was. a 140km straight ball on outer path. A big, hearty swing from the Tank and a longful gaze after the ball as it sailed into the right outfield bleachers to end the game with a walk-off homerun. 4-2. Who says baseball isn't exciting? A point to the dugout and a bit ol' smile on Dayan's face capped off another brilliant end to a game that honestly looked like it was getting away from us.





Tanishige apparently wasn't all that optimistic going into the final innings. He commented that "Whatever (Viciedo) did, he was going to be forgiven. It wasn't thought he'd get the excitement up, but he done did it."

Highlights:



A 3-game sweep of the Tigers would be a just reward for the fighting spirit of the team. They took advantage of poor pitching when it was presented and they backed up those that didn't perform. Ricardo Nanita has to be close to the player of the series as no one could stop his hitting. He has looked much improved this year and is certainly a valuable player with his present form.


In other news, due to the earthquakes in Kumamoto and Oita prefecture, the regional games scheduled against the Giants in Kumamoto and Kagoshima have been cancelled. All NPB teams have been collecting donations for the disaster stricken region and my heart goes out to them as well. The team has already decided on helping things with a 2 million yen donation ($20,000ish).

Tanishige has been ruled out of the weekend games with the Swallows after he was diagnosed with type-A influenza. Shigekazu Mori, the head coach, is expected to stand in his place. That's about all he needs to do anyway. Stand and watch. I wish Tanishige a speedy recovery.


As of Monday, Junki Ito has been de-registered by the team which makes one wonder why he was registered at all as he failed to play any part in the two games he was available for.

It has also been announced that June 18th will be "Girls Day" at the Nagoya dome and all the ladies will receive a snazzy jersey for turning up.

There's also something else that I picked up on twitter that I thought that I would translate and share. It's the Dragons injury list. It's quite a long one when compared to the other teams and it is worrying in particular the amount of pitchers we have missing.

Chunichi Dragons Injury List
NumberPositionNameInjury/Illness
6OFRyosuke HirataLeft groin/pelvic pain
18PShota SuzukiSide pain
20PRyosuke NomuraRight shoulder pain
22PYudai OhnoLeft elbow discomfort
23IFIssei EndoRight shoulder inflammation
26OFMastaka IryoBody pain (unspecified)
36IFRyota IshiokaSlipped disc hernia
41PTakuya AsaoRight shoulder inflammation
42PJuan JaimeRight shoulder pain
44PRaul ValdesLeft shoulder pain
51PMasashi YamamotoBack pain
58PTomoya YagiLeft elbow pain
68CRyuichiro AkasakaFractured right thumb
203PSeiya NakagawaRight calf pain
210PKaito GoyaLeft shoulder pain

I can say however that Ryuichiro Akasaka appears to be on the mend as he appeared as a pinch-hitter against the Hawks in Tuesday's farm game, as did Ryosuke Hirata. Still, the amount of pitchers out injured is a worry with Endo and Asao in particular leaving holes. Jaime was very unlucky to get injured in his Spring training and is still recovering. He was brought in as a closer to cover for Fukutani, but with Iwase now back in action it looks unlikely that he'll be needed. Still a pitcher that can supposedly hit over 160km/h might be worth looking at if he can get back on his feet. 

That's it for a big day of news and big 3 wins for the Dragons!