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.

Daily Update: NPB All-Star Game @ZoZo Marines Stadium, 15th July; A very Pacific sweep

Plenty of premier talent was once again on display this time in Chiba as the Central League team went in looking to keep the series level. Only two Dragons appeared in this game with Guerrero starting in left-field and Oshima coming on later in the game to replace his team-mate.

Home Run Derby

Unlike the US, as you may have noticed, Japan likes to do everything twice. This time the homerun derby would feature all the same participants with the exception of Guerrero being replaced by Seiya Suzuki.

Tsutsugo would beat out Shohei Otani with 4 bombs to Otani's 2, while Yuki Yanagita went through after equalling Suzuki's single homer with 4 balls left to go.

The final was this time Tsutsugo against Yanagita but it was to the Hawks man that would prevail for the second time hitting two dingers from his 10 balls to Tsutsugo's single. All in all, Guerrero would have given Yanagita a better run for his money, but hey, can't blame the fans for wanting to see Suzuki.

All-Star Game #2 in Chiba

WP: Manabu Mima (Eagles) 2IP 0ER 3SO              Despaigne (Hawks) 4-3, 1 HR 1 RBI
LP: Shoichi Ino (Stars) 2IP 0ER 1SO                       Kobayashi (Giants) 3-2, 1 HR 1 RBI

Starting pitchers Tomoyuki Sugano and Takayuki Norimoto represented the best that either league has to offer in starting pitchers this season. Both pitcher claimed 3 strikeouts a piece in their 2 innings. It was to be the Central that would strike first as the Giants catcher Seiji Kobayashi cleared the fences with a solo effort. 

His effort would however be cancelled out by former Chiba slugger, Alfredo Despaigne as his solo dinger evened up the scores in the 4th.

 In the 5th the Pacific would take the lead as a lead-off triple to Daiichi Suzuki of the Marines allowed Shogo Akiyama to knock him home to make it 2-1. It would be the Chiba captain Suzuki once more to haunt the Central League as his solo homer off Yasuhiro Ogawa in the 7th claimed another win for his team. 

Alfredo Despaigne was given the MVP and 3,000,000 yen for the evening for his equalising solo homer and 3 hits overall while Suzuki, Akiyama and Kobayashi were also awarded 1,000,000 yen for their contributions on the night.

Neither Oshima or Guerrero registered a hit tonight but we can be proud that two we have seen 4 Dragons players make appearances this year. Considering most years we usually only send about two players. 

Now that the first half is officially over, the Dragons play the Giants where Shinnosuke Ogasawara will be looking to keep his record against the Tokyo team untarnished. Yudai Ono and a returned Kazuki Yoshimi are slated for the other two starts in the series.

Dayan Viciedo also looks like he'll be returning to the team, as of yet however he hasn't been officially added to the roster.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Daily Update: NPB All-Star Game @Nagoya Dome, 14th July; Pacifically speaking...

Homerun Derby

Well, going over everyone will take time, so let's just go with Guerrero. 
Alex beat out the holder Shohei Otani in the first round as he hit 2 homers to Otani's one. The rules are a bit different in Japan where the players each get 10 balls to slug as many homers as they can get. Interesting little side note, you'll see that Casey McGehee is providing the throw downs for Guerrero.

Guerrero would then take on Yuki Yanagita of the Hawk to decide the winner. I'm not sure exactly what happened here, but Guerrero got 4 homers from his alotted 10 but Yanagita had 4 in 7 balls and I believe the win was ultimately given to him because he got there faster. Anyway, great achievement for Guerrero to make the final, but Yanagita has been on fire this year. He picks up his first derby win.

The All-Star Game #1

WP: Taisuke Yamaoka (Orix) 2IP 1ER 1SO                     Nishikawa 2-2, 2RHR, 2RBI       
LP: Marcos Mateo (Hanshin) 1IP 3ER 2SO                      Tsutsugo 3-1 1HR, 1RBI

It was to be the Pacific League boys to come out on top of the Central League as they mashed their way to victory slugging home 3 homeruns including a game winning 2-run homer from Haruki Nishikawa. 

The Pacific took the lead through Shogo Akiyama's lead-off solo homer of Raul Valdes. The Central would be back in the hunt however in the 4th as Yoshitomo Tsutsugo teed off against Seibu ace, Yusei Kikuchi. The Central would take the lead in the 6th through a Guerrero double but it was to be the Pacific who would have the last laugh as Fighters duo Sho Nakata and Haruki Nishikawa added 3RBI through their fence clearning heroics while Hawks duo Seiichi Uchikawa and Alfredo Despaigne added the extra runs to make it a clear victory for the Pacific League representatives. 

Raul Valdes struck out Otani as his highlight for the game, while Katsuki Matayoshi struck out two and gave up a run in his one inning of relief. Guerrero made a steady contribution with his RBI double while Yohei Oshima got on the board with a hit in his two plate appearances. 

Not the greatest result for the Dragons involved nor the Central League itself but these things happen.

Chiba awaits tomorrow and we'll see how many Dragons will get a run out. Another HR derby will be had, but this time Carp's Seiya Suzuki will be mashing with Tsutsugo to represent the Central League. Fully otherwise expect to see Tomoyuki Sugano on the mound to start for Central while Matayoshi and Valdes may not see any more time in this series. 

Daily Update: Fresh All-Stars (Western League v Eastern League) @Kusanagi , 13th July; Kasahara whiffs 3

For those unfamiliar with the farm system in Japan unlike the NPB, the two farm leagues are split in Eastern and Western conferences with the line being drawn at Nagoya. Any team West of Nagoya is part of the "Western League" any team east of it is part of the "Eastern League." 

Once a year there is an All-Star game for the farm teams held usually in a regional ground. This is more or less like the MLB Futures game and it's a way to showcase new talent. However, due to there not being as much depth to the farm systems in Japan as there are in the US, you don't always get the best farm-team players per se, but usually the best rookies or the blokes that haven't played in the game before. 

This year the representative from the Dragons were Shotaro Kasahara, Taisuke Maruyama, Hiroki Kondo and Ryota Ishioka. All four of the players have been involved with the first team at some stage this year and Kasahara only recently put in an innings worth of relief against the Tigers but this doesn't really matter as none of them have competed in the game before and there all Chunichi representatives. Masami Ishigaki, the high school rookie infielder was meant to play in place of Kondo, but due to a wild pitch from Shintaro Fujinami earlier in the month the copped him in the head, he was stood down from duty. 

SP: Taiki Ono (Tigers) 1IP 0ER 1SO       Kaisei Sone (Hawks) 3-2
SP: Tatsuya Imai (Lions) 1IP 0ER 0SO

For the first time in history the game ended in a 0-0 tie. Both sides only had 4 hits a piece and we saw a lot of different pitchers. Unfortunately there weren't a lot of highlights for this one so I'll just run down what the Chunichi boys did.

Ishioka and Kondo started in the line-up both in the outfield but only the latter was able to make contact. Kondo went 3-1 on the night while Ishioka was withdrawn after two hitless at-bats.

Taisuke Maruyama pitched the 3rd inning and gave up a hit but it was to be Shotaro Kasahara who would prove to be one of the most impressive whiffing 3 batters and giving up one hit in the 4th inning.
Seibu's Suzuki the first to fall.

Fighters' Moryama get punched out

DeNA's Sano goes down for the third.
The Western League all-stars on a whole struck out more but it was a very even game where neither team really created enough of the chances they were afforded. Kaisei Sone of the Hawks with his two hits captured the MVP award for the game.

Tonight and tomorrow we have the real deal, the NPB All-Stars games with Raul Valdes starting on the mound tonight in front of the home crowd. Kodai Senga of the Hawks will start of the Pacific League.

In other news, Dayan Viciedo has finally returned from the United States having completed his citizenship processing. He is hoping to be back for the series against the Giants starting on Monday. Whether or not the team will let him is another thing. Jordan Norberto however has been in the mean time be de-registered from the first team with media sources suggesting that Kazuki Yoshimi will be coming up to replace him. 

Shigekazu Mori has gotten solid backing from the Chunichi owner, Bungo Shirai as the businessman has been very happy with what Mori has done with the team so far. Shirai has said that he would like to see the Dragons finish in the top 3 this season. Mori has said that his first objective is hitting .500 which he thinks would see the Dragons well into the fight for a playoff spot. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Daily Update: Dragons v Tigers @Koshien, 12th July; Valdes start, bullpen loss.

Dragons 4-5 Tigers

WP: Rafael Dolis 1IP 0ER 0SO                                     Yamato 4-3, 4RBI
LP: Katsuki Matayoshi 1IP 1ER 1SO                            Alex Guerrero 4-2, 2RBI, 1HR

It was to be a game where the Dragons lost everything late in the game despite looking very good to start proceedings.

Alex Guerrero teed off in the 1st against Akiyama to notch a 2-run homer. His 23rd of the year and only the 5th that's registered more than one RBI.

Yamato's timely double in the in the second allowed Oyama to scuttle home. At the top of the 6th, Yota Kyoda would get on first and be helped along by a Kamezawa safety bunt. With the king of average with RISP at the plate, Yohei Oshima, and the Yota "Flash Gordon" Kyoda on second, an added run seemed a foregone conclusion, but Oshima helped Kyoda to save his legs by knocking in his 2nd homer of the year.
That was not to be all she wrote however as in the bottom of inning Nakatani and Yamato helped get the Tigers back on level terms in a 4-hit, 1 walk inning for Valdes.

Hitoki Iwase would do his thing and hold on in the 7th but Katsuki Matayoshi with 2 outs on the board gave up the game winning RBI to "Battleship" Yamato in the 8th. 
Left with little recourse, the Dragons were unable to get past Rafael Dolis to grasp a better result.

Two fairly disappointing games. Valdes hasn't been the same since he was lit up earlier in the year and sent down to the farm. This is particularly a shame when you consider he's going to the All-Star games on Friday and Saturday. The bats didn't produce quite enough either going down 6 hits to 10 today, but the pop was there today where it wasn't so much yesterday. 

Our next game won't be until the 17th against the Giants as we have the aforementioned All-Star game. I will cover both games in the similar report form that I do here. Yohei Oshima, Alex Guerrero, Raul Valdes and Katsuki Matayoshi are our participants this year. Guerrero will be participating in the home-run derby on Friday in Nagoya while Seiya Suzuki will take his place in Chiba on Saturday. 

In other news, owner Bungo Shirai has ordered the club go after Waseda Jikkyo slugger, Kotaro Kiyomiya at all costs in this years draft. He seems convinced that the capture of the 1st baseman currently receiving national attention would change the complexion of the team and more importantly bring in more spectators to Nagoya Dome. Kiyomiya has slugged over 100 homeruns in his high school career (including practice games) and is slated to be the number 1 pick for the majority of teams. Whether or not the high schooler will choose to go to the draft is still a matter of debate as he may go straight to college instead. With our heads scout Tsuneo Tanaka keen on Kiyomiya as well it seems like we already know who's going to be our first round pick. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Daily Update: Dragons v Tigers @Kurashiki, 11th July; I am Uemoto, destroyer of worlds

Dragons 1 - 10 Tigers

WP: Randy Messenger 7IP 1ER 6SO                              Uemoto 4-4. 3 RBI, 1HR    
LP: Jordan Norberto 3IP 3ER 1SO                                  Guerrero 4-2, 1 RBI

Both teams went ham on each other's pitching but it was the Tigers that took the initiative slamming home 10 runs to the Dragons one in Kurashiki, Okayama.

The Dragons took an early lead in the first through Alex Guerrero scoring Kyohei Kamezawa but a dubious balk call on Jordan in the bottom of the next inning put the Tigers on level terms. The call may well have thrown Jordan off as he then surrendered 2 homeruns in his third and final inning. One to Hiroki Uemoto, the star of the day, and 2-run homer to former Dragon Kosuke Fukudome.

The Dominican southpaw was withdrawn for Shota Suzuki who was enlisted for emergency long relief duties. The young starter had a torrid time however as he did worse than his rotation partner giving up 5 earned runs over his two innings including giving up an RBI double to Messenger. With the Tigers well and truly in the ascendancy, the Dragons gave the bullpen a run out with rookie Shotaro Kasahara continuing his scoreless streak with zero earned runs in 4 appearances. While Koji Fukutani and Ryuya Ogawa closed out.

The Dragons just didn't have it in them today. Although they managed 10 hits, there was no connection to turn them in to runs. One hopes the slated return of Dayan Viciedo in 2 weeks time will help improve things, but the team has suffered a bit recently.

Tomorrow the team lines up against the Tigers once again with Raul Valdes taking the mound despite being selected for the All-Stars games on Friday and Saturday. He'll be up against Takumi Akiyama at Koshien.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Writers Update and Apologies

Dear Readers,

I know you come here for fresh, up to date information on the Chunichi Dragons in English. I know that there comes an expectation when someone puts effort into producing something regularly and I'm sorry I haven't be able to keep up. As you may have picked up from earlier in the year my updates were getting less and less frequent as I kept falling behind. The fact is that this blog is a hobby of mine and whilst I love doing it, there are several other things that take priority in my life.  I desperately want to continue doing what I  love here and I am looking into more time efficient ways I can keep this blog updated regularly. One option I am exploring is daily updates given I can probably devote 1 hour a day to the blog, but not 3 hours in one day to do a weekly recap. This is something I will try to do.

I am also unhappy that I haven't been able to give you more than just match reports this year. There is much, much more I want to explore with you about the Dragons. I have had plans to do features on what I consider the Dragons best ever 12 along with the best ever foreign 12 but this is a plan I've continually had to shelf due to my work and family commitments. Perhaps this is something I can consider in the off-season.

In any case. I do apologise for not giving any notice up until this point. The blog has been inactive since the start of interleague. I don't like to leave gaps, but I think at this stage I have to consider that I've lagged too far behind now to catch up. My plan now is to attempt daily updates in a concise form starting from Tuesday the 11th. There's only a few games during that week due to the All-Star break so it might be a good way to test the waters. I will also endeavour to cover the All-Star games and if possible give a run down of how our first year players are doing and what the general state of the team is.

Some of you may have noticed that I am still pretty active on Twitter @chunichisoul and I have also done some updates with a Facebook page I set up, albeit not too much recently.

I once again apologise for my inconsistency as this is something that happened last year as well, but I will endeavour to find a sustainable way to keep this blog going and updated on a regular basis. For the time being, please follow me on Twitter as it is a simple way I can keep you up to date with Chunichi stats and news.

Thank you all for your understanding,



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Weekly Dragons Wrap: Mixed DeNA, Yakult imbibed (23th May - 28th May)

It was a mixed bag but ultimately a good ending to the week as the Dragons went down 2-1 to the DeNA Yokohama Baystars but picked up 2 wins against the cellar dwelling Yakult Swallows.

Game 44

Dragons 4 - 9 Baystars

WP: Koshiaki Fujioka 1IP 0ER 0SO                               Tsutsugo 3-3, Miyazaki 4-2
LP: Raul Valdes 5 2/3IP 3ER 5SO                                   Viciedo 3-2, Oshima 3-2
                                                                               HR: Viciedo (3rd), Tsutsugo (3rd)

Raul Valdes and Yu Sato were lit up by the Baystars as they cruised to a 4-9 victory over the Dragons in Yokohama. The Cuban veteran's added days of pitching seems to be catching up to him.

The Dragons took an early lead in the first through Viciedo while a poor throw allowed Oshima to score to make it 2-0. The Baystars would however match the Dragons pound for pound as in the bottom of the inning RBIs to Tsutsugo and Miyazaki put the 'Stars back on level terms.
The pendulum would however swing the Dragons way in the top of the 3rd as Viciedo's 8th homerun of the campaign put his team 2 clear.

But as with pendulum swings, they have to return eventually and a mirrored 2-run homer from Tsutsugo in the bottom of the inning put things back on level terms.

It would take until the 6th inning before the Stars would take the lead through former Yakult Swallow, Hiroyasu Tanaka while hits to Miyazaki and Tobashira with bases loaded in the 7th sent the Baystars clear at 9-4 and on their way to a healthy victory.

In the midst of all the runs, Yuya Yanagi made a quiet debut on the mound pitching a scoreless relief inning.

Game 45

Dragons 4 -2 Baystars

WP: Shota Suzuki 6IP 2ER 4SO                           Kyoda 4-4, Oshima 4-2
LP: Joe Wieland 8IP 3ER 7SO                              Kuwahara 4-2
                                                                         HR: Viciedo (9th)

Yota Kyoda stole the show with 4-4 a the top of the order while Shota Suzuki continued his fine run of form to notch his 2nd win of the season.

An in the park homerun, credited as a triple with a throwing error, from Kyoda would start the scoring as poor awareness from the DeNA fielders and electric legs from the rookie saw the Dragons 2-0 up in the third.

The 'Stars would reply though a Suzuki wild pitch in the bottom of the inning. In the 4th the Baystars would find themselves level after Suzuki loaded the based and allowed a walk to Wieland. It was not however to be fatal as Wileland returned the favour of a wild pitch in the 6th to allow the Dragons the lead and it was to be Dayan Viciedo for the second game in a row firing one over the fences in the 9th to give his team a comfortable cushion which Shinji Tajima used to grab the save.

Game 46

Dragons 5 - 13 Baystars

WP: Kento Kumabara 5IP 5ER 5SO                            Kamezawa 4-3, Kinoshita 2-2
LP: Jordan Norberto 5IP 5ER 5SO                              Miyazaki 5-4, Kuwahara 4-3
                                                                   HR: Hirata (2nd), Kamezawa (4th),  Viciedo (5th)

3 home runs from the Dragons lineup was not nearly enough as it was Jordan Norberto's turn to get caned as he gave up 5ER (10 in total under his pitching) in what can only be described as a dumpster fire of a performance from the pitchers and fielders.
Hirata's 2nd inning bomb

Kamezawa joins the action in the 4th
Araki's fielding error in the 3rd proved to be costly as the Baystars filled up the bases and sent them home to put themselves up 6-2 lickety split. The Dragons would come back within touching distance in the 5th with Viciedo's 10th homer of the season.

But the Yokohama team would pull away with gusto in the bottom of the inning with Tanaka, Kuramoto and Kuwahara batting in 4 more runs. The damage would continue this time with Yu Sato on the mound with 3 extra runs from Miyazaki, Tanaka and Shimozono.

Not a nice way to end the series but two fairly costly starts from the Latin aces didn't help the team much. The Dragons have struggled in Yokohama of late but at least the 3 homers in the final proved that there is potential pop in the bats still.

Viciedo's return to form has apparently coincided with the arrival of his family. The Cuban slugger has been tripping back and forth between Japan and the States, but is now with his wife and children which may well be helping him concentrate behind the plate and swing with more conviction.

Game 47

Swallows 2 - 3 Dragons

WP: Koji Fukutani 1IP 0ER 0SO                                    Guerrero 4-2, Fujii 4-2
LP: Ryo Akiyoshi 1IP 3ER 1SO                                     Sakaguchi 4-2
                                                                                 HR: Araki (4th)

A rally in the 9th and a former #1 draft pick relay in the bullpen secured a win for the Dragons in the final inning off a usually solid Ryo Akiyoshi.

2015 top pick, Shinnosuke Ogasawara did his best to keep the Swallows down through his 5 innings, but he wasn't able to stop Keiji Obiki's RBI single and Takahiro Araki's solo homer to give the Swallows a 2-0 lead.

Ogaswara was to be relieved by 2016's top draft pick, Yuya Yanagi who threw 2 scoreless innings before 2012's #1 pick, Koji Fukutani pitched out the 9th for no runs. The Dragons would rally in the bottom of the 9th however as with 2 outs on the board, Akiyoshi gave up consecutive hits to Oshima, Viciedo and Guerrero to put the Dragons level before a Fujii double secured a walk-off win.

There's nothing quite like walk off but it does typify a lot of the Swallows season this year. Akiyoshi capitulates for what has to be at least the 3rd time against the Dragons this year by memory. He has an ERA of 9.45 against the Dragons this year in 6 2/3 innings of work.

Game 48

Swallows 2 - 4 Dragons

WP: Hitoki Iwase 1IP 0ER 0SO                                    Guerrero 4-2, Fujii 4-2
LP: Taichi Ishiyama 1/3IP 1ER 0SO                             Yuhei 3-2, Omatsu 3-2

Hitoki Iwase picked up his first win in over 2 years as the Dragons left it late again after Katsuki Matayoshi pitched 7 for 2 runs.

The Swallows took the lead in the first as Matayoshi walked home Imanari after loading up the bases. Yuhei's timely RBI single into right field would give the Swallows a 2-0 lead in the 5th, but the Dragons would be back on level terms shortly after through Guerrero and Hirata in the 6th. With the wind blowing the Dragons way, Fujii's triple in the 8th allowed Alex Guerrero to score and a poor throwing error from Obiki on the same play allowed Fujii to score to put the Dragons 4-2 up.

Shinji Tajima would clean up in the 9th allowing one batter on base before wrapping up a series win and claiming his 13th save of the year.

Game 49

Swallows 7 - 1 Dragons

WP: Tomoya Hoshi 7IP 1ER 4SO                            Balentien 5-3, Yachi 4-2
LP: Raul Valdes 2IP 6ER 2SO                                  Hirata 4-3, Viciedo 4-2
                                                                            HR; Guerrero (6th)

Guerrero's 10th homer of the season was the only saving grace as Raul Valdes got lit up in the second inning by a Swallows line-up back with a vengeance.

The Swallows piled on the misery early on in the 2nd as a tired looking, frustrated Valdes gave up hit after hit and the away team nibbled there way to a 6-0 lead. Yuya Yanagi was given his first meaningful time on the mound as emergency long relief and he put in a respectable performance where he took 4 strikeouts in 3 innings for one earned run give up to Balentien in the 4th.

Guerrero's homer would come in the 6th, a solo shot over the left fence at the Nagoya Dome, but by then the team was already plenty deflated and looked no where near mounting a comeback.

In the fallout, Valdes was de-registered from the team to be given some rest on the farm team. The Cuban veteran has been pitching on short breaks and often for no reward. It must be tiring both mentally and physically despite the low velocity he throws at.

Overall, the Dragons appear to be hitting some kind of form but are still very prone to blowouts. Norberto's 5 runs against the 'Stars and Valdes 6 against the Swallows marked that inconsistency. The bats for the most part are producing which is more than we could say about last year.

The Dragons therefore head into the inter-league break in 5th place leading the Swallows, but how much change are they likely to get out of the Pacific League teams that are by an large supposed to be stronger than their Central League opponents.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Weekly Dragons Wrap: Crouching Dragon,Hidden Tiger; Payback time for Carp (16th May - 21st May)

A much more feel good vibe to this week as the Dragons matched the Tigers pound for pound in the first series at Koshien while the Dragons took out the brooms handling the league leaders, Hiroshima in front of the Nagoya faithful.

Game 38

Dragons 1 - 8 Tigers

WP: Takumi Akiyama 8IP 1ER 12SO                       Nakatani 3-2, Itoi 4-2
LP: Shota Suzuki 4 2/3IP 2ER 7SO                         Kyoda 4-3, Hirata 4-2
                                                                           HR: Nakatani (1st), Itoi (6th)

It was a strikeout festival at Koshien as both teams racked up a total 23 strikeouts between them. Nakatani would go to long in the first inning after a Viciedo fumble helped runners on base with one out to put the Tigers up 3-0.

Masahiro Araki would grab one back after scoring Kyoda but after Suzuki was withrawn after putting two runners on with one our remaining, Araujo loaded up the bases with a walk to give Itoi the chance to strike with a 3RBI double. Itoi would be the harbinger of death for the Dragons in the 6th as his 2-run homer put the Tigers out of sight at 8-1.

Try as the Dragons might to squeeze blood out of a stone but despite 6 hits a piece, it was the Tigers that got value out of their hit with 3 of 6 resulting in extra-base RBIs.

Game 39

Dragons 1 - 2 Tigers

WP: Marcos Mateo 1/3IP 0ER 0SO                     Haraguchi 2-1
LP: Raul Valdes 8IP 2ER 6SO                             Viciedo 4-2, Hirata 4-2
                                                                 HR: Haraguchi (5th)

The Dragons well out batted their opponents, but all it took was 3 hits from the Tigers to get the win despite 8 mustered by the Dragons. The Tigers would take the lead in the 5th through Haraguchi's solo homer.

Hirata's RBI in the 7th would get the teams back level but an 8th inning RBI double from Shun Takayama was unreturnable as the Dragons once again fell over when it was easier to stand up.

Raul Valdes marked his 9th quality start in a row since opening day. The man gets no support from his batting line-up when he pitches. He has a lone, single win to his name for his troubles.

Game 40

Dragons 2 - 1 Tigers

WP: Jordan Norberto 7 1/2IP 1ER 5SO                Araki 4-3
LP: Randy Messenger 8IP 2ER 12SO                    Haraguchi 3-2

Norberto would once again break another skid pitching a great outing to negate the effectiveness of Randy Messenger.

Nakatani would once again wreak havoc as his double gave the Tigers the lead in the 1st. It would take until the 5th for the Dragons to reply as a Kyoda at full flight manage to beat a throw in the infield to allow Masato Matsui to score. Ryosuke Hirata drove in the winning run in the 8th through a double to score Araki who picked up a modasho for his batting prowess on the evening.

The Dragons walked away with a win in the end but it certainly was a "what might have been" in the other two games which could have easily fallen the other way given some luck and perseverance.

Araki has show the Tigers he means business this season as he averages .400 against them despite having his highest whiff rate against them as well.

The league leading Carp would visit Nagoya and be given a lesson in humility as the Dragons claimed the sweep in revenge for their previous series away to Hiroshima 2 weeks previous.

Game 41

Carp 3 - 5 Dragons

WP: Yu Sato 1IP 0ER 1SO                              Hirata 2-2, Matsui 4-2
LP: Randy Jackson 2/3IP 2ER 1SO                  Kikuchi 4-3, Tanaka 4-2
                                                            HR: Guerrero (6th), Viciedo (10th)

Shinnosuke Ogaswara's second start of the year wouldn't result in a win for the 19 year old, but it would be a win for the team as the Dragons out-hit the Carp for the first time in a long time to claim back to back wins.

The home team took the lead in the second through Matsui and doubled their advantage through Matsui again in the 4th. Kikuchi and Ishihara would level things for the Carp in the 5th and 6th but Guerrero's 8th homer of the campaign in the bottom of the 6th would give the Dragons the lead once more.

It wasn't to last however as Kikuchi struck in the 9th to send the game into extras. Dayan Viciedo was to be the man of the moment however as his 2-run homer in the 10th sealed a walk-off win for the home side.

Game 42

Carp 1 - 2 Dragons

WP: Katsuki Matayoshi 7IP 1ER 3SO               Kamezawa 3-2, Fujii 3-2
LP: Aren Kuri 7IP 1ER 4SO                            Noma 3-1, Maru 3-1

Katsuki Matayoshi kept the Carp awfully quiet as he fished a win into existence on the back of a good batting display.

Atsushi Fujii would take the lead for the Dragons in the 2nd while Abe evened up things for the Carp in the 4th. It was however to be a Viciedo that broke the dead lock despite hitting into a double play to score Kamezawa.
The Dragons bullpen would hold strong as Mitsuma, Iwase and Tajima did their jobs to finish off a close win.

Game 43

Carp 4 - 7 Dragons

WP: Kazuki Yoshimi 5IP 1ER 2SO                Oshima 3-2, Viciedo 3-2
LP: Yuya Fukui 6IP 3ER 6SO                       Maru 5-3
                                                           HR: Tanaka (7th), Guerrero (8th)

Yuya Yanagi joined the first team for the first time this season replacing Yudai Ono but he was found not needed this time around as the Dragons held firm once more the claim a wonderful sweep over the Carp.

Viciedo would help grab the lead in the 1st before Seiya Suzuki returned fire in the 3rd. It was however to be Viciedo again who would push the Dragons into the lead in the third. A solo homer from Kosuke Tanaka would however prove to be an interruption.

However RBIs from Oshima and Viciedo put the Dragons on top once more.At 5-2 the Carp fought back through Abe and Nishikawa to put the Carp within one but Guerrero's blast followed by Kyoda's RBI single sealed an important win for the Dragons and finally give Kazuki Yoshimi his first win of the year.

This series was a fantastic moral boosting one that I hope teaches the rest of the Central League not to underestimate us. The bats have been hot this month and they are putting plenty together. With Viciedo and Guerrero starting to get it done at the plate, there's no end to what this side could accomplish with a bit more luck.